Alex Whitebirch

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Comments & conversations

186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Can urban beehives increase food production?
It's also interesting that commercially managed honeybee colonies really cannot compensate for the loss of native pollinator communities.... Carvalheiro et al (2011) showed that the productivity of sunflower field was very much dependent on the proximity of natural habitat and on the diversity of the pollinating insects... but totally independent from the distance to managed colonies! Ann brought up a good point in discussion yesterday, which is that displaced and commercially managed honeybees may just be inherently less effective pollinators when introduced to an unfamiliar ecosystem.
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Can urban beehives increase food production?
That's definitely a good point. It's not as though we have a choice about whether to produce more food, global population is continuing to grow steadily. We'll need to do everything we can to produce adequate food, so by helping the bees we can really help ourselves!
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Can urban beehives increase food production?
That makes a lot of sense.. we could provide "stepping stones" to help the bees move and pollinate, while simple planting vegetation that people could have in their gardens anyway! That's also why I like the idea of green roofs and rooftop gardens... it's space that already exists, we just need to utilize it better.
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Will the Belo Monte Dam project on the Amazon River cause more harm to the environment or will it be a good source of energy for Brazil?
I think you bring up a really good point... "for society as we know it to continue," we must figure how to get reliable and abundant energy in some way that is renewable. However, I think we need to ask ourselves if our current pattern of energy use is something we should strive to sustain. The fundamental problem with energy use and environmental degradation isn't just how we get our resources, but how MUCH we consume. The overconsumption of energy and resources by developed nations is what really needs to change; if we really want to preserve ecosystems like the Amazon, we need to admit that we simply cannot continue to live as we have. Of course, that's easy for us to say in the first world, where we already have well-developing infrastructure and whatnot. Developing nations are struggling to establish themselves and sustain themselves economically, just as we are realizing that the methods they must use to develop are unsustainable. I'm not sure how we as a global society need to go about solving this problem, but it needs to start with the recognition that the overconsumption is the real problem. But I don't know how Brazil can sustainably get the energy it needs!
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Will the Belo Monte Dam project on the Amazon River cause more harm to the environment or will it be a good source of energy for Brazil?
An interesting question was posed in class today: Does Brazil have the "right" to build dams on the Amazon? This question is incredibly complicated to answer, because in my opinion there is no correct answer. Does a nation have a right to develop the infrastructure it feels it needs to provide electricity to its citizens? Most people would probably say yes. At the same time, it seems undeniably tragic that an incredible ecosystem that is unequaled on our planet would face such destruction. I wonder what influence other nations or organizations could exert on Brazil? Geopolitics is typically subject to the idea of sovereignty, and the believe that nations can do what they will with the land and natural resources within their borders. That said, I do not know how we can ignore the construction of a dam that would flood the homeland of numerous indigenous tribes. Brazil is a nation that has been really emerging in recent decades as a major economic and political entity on the global stage, and its development has understandably led to rising demands for the cheapest electricity possible. Many people have brought up great points about the possible alternatives (e.g. wind, solar, etc) but what motivation is there for Brazil to invest in these more expensive technologies? We need to remember that every decision made by the government of a developing nation will be guided by economic realities. If we want to protect the Amazon, we need to figure out how alternative sources of energy can be made equally economically feasible.
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Cats pose a serious threat to biodiversity: Why do we accept it? What should be done?
Your idea would definitely reduce the impact cats have on biodiversity, but it could never actually be implemented, at least in the United States. Most of the public would consider making cats full-on illegal an infringement on their rights. I mean, I don't think the "right to bear cats" is explicitly written in the constitution, but cat and dog ownership are pretty big aspects of American culture. And as Mary said, the issue is compounded by a lack of awareness. Few people realize how many animals cats kill, and fewer people care. Very few would accept the prohibition and euthanasia of a bunch of cats to save some random species of bird they've never hear of. I would suggest that we make cat owners more responsible by requiring the same kind of registration process as for dogs, mandating spaying/neutering, and increasing our efforts to catch and destroy feral cats. Of course all this requires money, and I don't know how it would work out in terms of economic feasibility.
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Purell now, Bacteri-ell later?
Wow Anna that is really interesting, I want to look into that study! It's crazy to think that exposure during gestation can actually have a significant impact. I wonder if visiting farms and a wide variety of other ecosystems / natural environments is currently a practice that's advocated for pregnant women... if not, maybe it should be!
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Purell now, Bacteri-ell later?
That's a really good point... It is really difficult for us to predict how our current microbiomes would respond to regular probiotic exposure! I'm not even sure how we would go about studying that kind of interaction... in vitro research could never replicate the complexity of a complete, functioning microbiome, and there is so much diversity (beta diversity??) amongst people, let alone between species, that the applicability of animal models would be questionable.
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
Purell now, Bacteri-ell later?
I suppose that it is possible for a probiotic product to be developing that would artificially inoculate our microbiome with the right microbes. My main concern is, how do we know what the right microbes are? We currently know so very little about microbial biodiversity. Even though thousands of species of microbes live in and on our bodies, even though we ARE part microbe in a sense, there is a lot we do not know. Is there a possibility that someone will attempt to develop a probiotic product (aka Bacteriell) and that without adequate knowledge of microbial ecology, it will be woefully ineffective, or even detrimental to our health? We have to tread carefully here.... there's a lot of potential in this idea, provided some pharmaceutical company isn't too hasty.
186886
Alex Whitebirch
Posted over 1 year ago
What form of renewable energy has or will have the lowest impact on biodiversity?
That's a good point Breena.. even if an certain technology seemed like a good choice in theory, its a very different situation when we try to actually put it in practice! Theoretically the byproduct of that solar panel could be disposed of safely, but prohibitive costs change everything. We always need to keep in mind that whatever alternative energy sources we choose to exploit must be economically feasible, even for developing nations that may not have the resources or money to properly implement the necessary infrastructure or dispose of the waste. In the next few decades we will witness a substantial increase in energy consumption in parts of the world that have been historically underdeveloped, such as South East Asia. Many of these nations are currently dependent on coal, and have begun to turn toward nuclear as their economic development and population growth raise demands for electricity. If we want to truly move towards a more sustainable future, we'll need to place as much emphasis on economic realities as we do technological possibilities.