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Micah Leinbach

Asian Carp: Invasives, economies, ecologies, etc... - 0 views

    I plug this one a lot, and the Monitor has great coverage on it, but I'll put it out there again. First, because the news that the Supreme Court is not hearing a case on the issue is pertinent both to this issue, and to the chance to have established some sense of precedent for similar environmental cases in the future, as that becomes a bigger and bulkier part of society (and therefore the law). Second, because it really highlights the destructive capabilities of things causing environmental change, even in real time.

    I think one of the most interesting parts comes in here:

    "If the Asian carp does take hold in the Great Lakes, the ecosystem will no doubt do what ecosystems do best: adapt. After all the term "invasive species" is, by definition, relative, often marking a transitional phase as a species establishes itself in a new ecosystem. ...Whether the economy adapts to the Asian carp, however, remains to be seen."

    That highlights the real reason there is so much concern. These lakes are damned important to the well-being of the states around them. And its not just the Great Lakes, once in place Asian Carp readily move into wetlands, river ways, and even other lakes. Minnesota calls itself the land of 10,000 lakes, Wisconsin has more in its "Lakes District", and Michigan follows suit. The economies built around them have covered most of my summer pay over the past few years, so this is a very personal issue as well.
Micah Leinbach

Got Invasives? Eat them. - 0 views

    This article highlights the efforts to make Asian Carp, the next big threat to the Great Lakes (and the multi-million dollar fishing and tourism industries there) the next big food hit (or at least big enough to get people to fish them out). After all, as one expert says, "there's a worldwide need for cheap protein, and I think it's one of those things that fit the bill."

    But I have to say, I'm a little concerned. One, I know this is not a new strategy - people tried to turn garlic mustard into the next major salad ingredient, without much luck. But I think it could end up creating even greater threats in the long run.

    For example, if the idea is to get rid of the fish, it isn't a sustainable model for a business to follow. Why build a plant for a fish we're trying to get rid of? When the plants are built, the question changes: why get rid of the fish? In Darwin's Nightmare we saw how an invasive fish became a boon and blessing to the local economy. The Midwest is different, but some of the same forces are at play.

    Second, in my eyes the most legitimate argument against invasive, non-native species is that they don't provide ecosystem function. The ecosystem concept is rooted in relationships that help carry out nutrient/energy flow, etc... and these species don't really relate to others. By giving them a functional role as a food source, we give them a little more function to a species we really care about - us. Again, the plan to actually get rid of them may backfire as their benefits appear to outweigh their costs.

    The question does remain, is that a bad thing?
Micah Leinbach

Me vs. Rachel Carson - 3 views

    After getting some fairly audible gasps in class after questioning Silent Spring today, I wanted to justify myself a little bit lest I be burned at the stake as some sort of heretic. The paper above is a brief and neat explanation of American academia's role in legitimizing ecology as a science, and touches on how Carson (and other's) pushed it back towards being a values-oriented natural history built heavily out of ideas that one could perhaps fit under the framework of "romanticism."

    Just to back myself up further, here ( is another article highlighting Carson's work as "subversive silence", i.e. very value/advocacy driven. Also highlights her focus on critiquing a certain type of laboratory science for being controlling - notably, one of romanticism's main tenants is a criticism of the rationalization of nature.

    Neither of this takes away from the fact that Carson was a) a decent scientist and b) wrote a book that did a lot of good. I'm not trying to dive into the "we could've stopped malaria" arguments she gets a lot, because I think that is a straw man argument. Nor do I think that it is bad to combine knowledge and values - quite the opposite. I simply think that a work that forced scientific depictions of its subject to change in response to public frameworks of thinking should be regarded as a great political work, not a great scientific one.

    I think it may be time to move beyond Silent Spring, certainly as a work of science, and perhaps even as a work of politics, and place it on the pedestal of history that it rightly deserves.
Micah Leinbach

Other planets supporting life? - 3 views

    The ramifications for biology and ecology of life on other planets is neat - a science until now fundamentally based in one overarching context finding a whole new one? That's crazy.

    But the question I always hear from folks concerned about environmental issues when something like this pops into the conversation is "shouldn't we figure out how not to destroy our own planet before we start looking into moving onto others?"

    And so, technologically unfeasible tasks aside, presuming we could do this, I'm curious as to whether or not others think we should. Should we?
Micah Leinbach

Great Lakes - Disaster and Opportunity - 4 views

    This one rings close to home for me. The Great Lakes have been described as one of mankind's greatest experiments in ecology, and perhaps that true - if you discount any need for routine study and management, control groups, or any semblance of a procedure. This article is about a classic environmentalist concept - restoring ecosystems. But it is forced, as those working with the Great Lakes often are, to look at things a little differently. I was impressed that those quoted in the article actually acknowledge that some things are simply changed forever, and probably cannot be reverted to earlier forms. The focus becomes instead a forward looking one: "What good are these efforts? Scien­tists caution that restoration in any strict sense is probably impossible...Nonetheless, they argue that restoration efforts can make the lakes ecologically healthier, more resilient, and better able to absorb new shocks, including climate change and invasion by more nonnative species."

    From doing some research on this for papers last year, I'm starting to think that the Great Lakes (and I am absolutely and clearly biased) are on the front edge of intentional ecology and ecological engineering, and have forced people to come at restoration in ways a lot of smaller scale projects haven't. Its a neat place to study if you're into that sort of thing.
Micah Leinbach

"Mother Nature's" Melting Pot - rethinking non-native species - 0 views

    Connecting immigration sentiments to the anti-invasive fervor of environmentalists (a stylistic, more than a substantive trick, I think) this writer questions the war against non-native species, citing the dynamic and evershifting nature of, well, "nature."

    I appreciate the sentiment and the focus more on the function of ecological systems, rather than its ever-shifting make up (species lists being as much a burden to ecological thought as a blessing), but its a hard line to tread when you start picking which non-natives and which natives to battle. Zebra mussels, for example, were cited in the piece as lake-cleaning food sources for many small fish and in turn birds. This is true, most research shows that the zebra mussel is becoming a major food source around the great lakes. But is it an improvement? It is a difference, certainly. From a human perspective, its much worse: even beyond the obvious decimation of fishing industries (note the author says it increases populations of SMALL fish), try walking barefoot on a beach cluttered with the remains of zebra mussels. No fun. Lots of blood. Whole generations forced to wear water shoes where bare feet once sufficed.

    So, if we're forced into acknowledging that we can't rely on the essences of stable-state ecosystems as our guide to how ecological systems should be, what do we use? And can we (should we?) get past anthropocentrism (maybe I should sacrifice my feet, the fishing industry, and the various non-human populations of organisms getting hit by zebra mussels for the zebra mussels, small fish, and birds) in doing so? This is a big question, and I definitely don't have any great answers. But its worth pondering.
Micah Leinbach

Where did the oil spill's methane go? - 0 views

    Some researches are claiming that a lot of methane disappeared very quickly after the oil spill. Their hypothesis? Bacteria did it. While clearly controversial, it is an impressive testement to ecosystems ability to respond to surprises (though hardly a reliable one). Could it also lend some new ideas to efforts to figure out how to deal with the next big oil spill? While I don't pretend to know whether or not its a good idea, one critic mentioned that other limiting factors may have inhibited population growth of presumably beneficial bacteria. Could intentional actions towards removing those limiting factors in other spills allow bacteria to consume methane more rapidly? And if we pluck that strand, what would we find it connected to?

    Of course, that all depends on the accuracy of the study.
Micah Leinbach

Reactions to invasive species - a range of models for dealing with environmental issues - 0 views

    This will probably be more interesting to me and other Midwesterners who live around the freshwater seas of the Great Lakes. But the article has a lot of value outside of that, for all the approaches to an invasive species it highlights (its also nice to have a bit of "traditional environmentalism" in terms of ecological issues, which has lost a lot of the spotlight to other valid environmental concerns).

    Plus its interesting to read about electric sting guns and high security, water-and-sledge-hammer-proof science laboratories, and australians cursing about fish.

    Of course, there are the initial question about why invasive species are seen as a problem, or if they should be. Then there is the classic "shoot first, ask questions later" versus the move to sacrifice action for the sake of a better solution later. I think that our campus tends to value rationality and reason, and there is a bit more of a critical thought first attitude (though this may be a sweeping and inaccurate generalization) so it was interesting to see where that approach didn't seem to work. Granted, these are case studies, not widespread truths. But the article may force us to question critical questioning, when it holds up action.

    A lot to glean from the various bits in here, depending how you read it.
Lu'ukia Nakanelua

Kauai luxury hotel settles seabird suit - 0 views

    St. Regis Princeville Resort settles endangered bird species law suit. They take steps towards maintaining laws.
Peter Vidito

BP Oil Spill: Has Environmental Damage Been Exaggerated? - 2 views

    Time article looks at some metrics in an attempt to quantify the relative extent of the BP spill. (Peter Vidito, Summer 2010)
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