Carson Viles

Eugene, OR, United States

About Carson

Universities

University of Oregon

Comments & conversations

186989
Carson Viles
Posted about 2 years ago
Can urban beehives increase food production?
Partially in response to Don, I think it would be great to focus on increasing the number of pollinators in the urban environment. It is important to note that honey bees are not the only pollinator, and that focusing on only one species is a limited solution. Why not take a biodiverse approach to revitalizing pollinator populations? It seems like the CCD epidemic is such a problem precisely because we are too dependent on one species of bee. Also, in order for urban honey bees or other pollinators to have a significant impact on food production, we will have to re-imagine urban food production. While there are cities that feature good urban gardening programs, many cities are ill-equipped. This can be a scientific and social justice issue. For example, South-Central Los Angeles has serious pollution problems that make me skeptical about the safety of farming there. Don't people there deserve to urban farm just as much as someone in a wealthy suburb outside LA? Introducing pollinators into the urban environment is likely to be good for urban forests and other ecosystems, and has potential to help our urban food production. The second point is only true, however, if we make an effort to develop urban food production.
186989
Carson Viles
Posted about 2 years 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?
When viewing the environmental impacts of the Belo Monte project, especially those relating to biodiversity, I think it's important to remember that this project is not occurring in a vacuum. Estimating how much water the dams will displace, and how many people and ecosystems will be displaced or otherwise harmed by the construction does not take into account holistic or cumulative effects. Would it be possible for us to look at dam construction in Brazil as if dams were a species, and apply to concept of beta diversity to better understand how "dam populations" correlate with biodiversity loss, displacement of indigenous and rural people, and the proliferation of mines? That is to say, could we adapt a tool from biology which accounts for the relationships of populations across space and time to gain a broader perspective of how dams will impact surrounding people and ecosystems? While the individual impacts of Belo Monte sound awful for the majority of people in the area, and for local ecosystems, it seems likely that they impacts of the dam, when viewed in context of increasing mine and dam construction, would be even worse. This type of research might be able to give a new and strong voice to indigenous rights advocates and conservationists in Brazil.
186989
Carson Viles
Posted about 2 years ago
Cats pose a serious threat to biodiversity: Why do we accept it? What should be done?
I think outdated attitudes around pets are a major part of the problem. HIstorically, cats served a very important function in some communities: controlling rodent functions. However, it doesn't take a cat in every household to do this. Cats for individual households is the result, I would argue, of the shift in thinking toward nuclear families and an individual-centered society. Maybe a significant part of reducing the high number of cats is to re-imagine pet ownership as a community activity. Although anecdotal, I have noticed that many of the cats in my neighborhood hang around lots of different houses in the neighborhood; they are already communal. Sharing cats would reduce the amount of cats dramatically! Moving from cars to public transportation has been hampered by cultural priorities around car ownership as much as by infrastructure and scientific difficulties. Are pets an analogous situation, in which it is our ideas of pet ownership, not necessarily our technical solutions to pet over population, that need re-imagined?
186989
Carson Viles
Posted over 2 years ago
Purell now, Bacteri-ell later?
While it is disturbing that microbes are so under appreciated in globalized society, it is heartening to see microbiology reversing that trend. Given the historical aversion to germs and the strong cultural association that we have with things we can't see and sickness, I am happy to see more research into positive aspects of microbes. As far as a product to help ensure a healthy microbiome on our bodies, I would be concerned about the leaving curve of the product. An earlier comment mentions Johnathon Eisner's talk on microbiomes in which he attributes his development of type-1 diabetes to having a compromised microbiome. He also notes how the human microbiome influences our health and resiliency in other ways. With that in mind, my concern is that by developing a creme or lotion for promote microbe growth, we could disrupt peoples' microbiomes further. Just as early ecology (think introduced species) has had disastrous effects, I think adding a bunch of new microbes to a complex ecosystem could potentially do more harm than good (in some cases, anyway). So, while the idea of appreciation one's microbiome as another organ of our body (I think Eisner said that in his talk, too) is a really important step to take, I don't think that means that we should necessary slather ourselves in bacteria lotion without first better understanding how our microbiome works, and what it needs to be healthy. Is more bacteria always better? How can we nourish the microbiome we already have?