Friday, October 31, 2008

Walden Pond and Malaria Threat

This is one of those stories that somewhat annoy me just because global warming is used as deus ex machima. A little more effort is surely warranted. Every researcher is pitching his favorite scheme as a crusade on global warming and we are getting these breathless pronouncements.

In this case a quick trip to Google maps quickly shows that this very modest kettle lake is and has been encroached on all sides at a modest distance with roads and freehold woodland.

Backyard biomes compete with local flora and the local flora that require rare conditions are obviously under pressure. A young boy walking through the woods can stomp a rare species out of existence when you do not have an adjacent reservoir of the plants in question. A glance at the map shows a sharply reduced ecology surrounding the pond and thus we understand the change in biodiversity. This has nothing to do with global warming.

The next story is about the threat of an expansion of biodiversity. Yes the SE USA is a prime prospect for malaria reinfestation. If it happens it will because we did not spray and did not move to irradiate the outbreak.

DDT is not a toxin of choice for dealing with a chronic situation but a DDT saturation of an affected area will eliminate the problem quickly at which point the environment can recover without that mosquito.

And surely we must now have an oil based insecticide that can do the job DDT did. DDT could be sprayed on water and the mosquito larvae would rise to the surface to breathe and be killed.

Global warming changing Walden Pond

Published: Oct. 29, 2008 at 2:13 AM

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Two-thirds of the plants writer
Henry David Thoreau chronicled at Walden Pond in Massachusetts have disappeared due to global warming, a U.S. study contends.

The Harvard University report said some of the hardest-hit plants include lilies, orchids, violets, roses and dogwoods. Plants that have thrived in the warmer temperatures include mustards, knotweeds and various non-native species.

"Some plants around Walden Pond have been quite resilient in the face of climate change, while others have fared far worse. Closely related species that are not able to adjust their flowering times in the face of rising temperatures are decreasing in abundance," Charles C. Davis, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said Monday in a news release.

The report said about 27 percent of all species Thoreau recorded in the 1850s around Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., are now locally extinct and another 36 percent are so sparse extinction may be imminent.

"The species harmed by climate change are among the most charismatic found in the New England landscape," Davis said.

King: Malaria may return with global warming

Malaria is the most fatal of infectious diseases. Its daily death toll tops the number of casualties on Sept. 11th, 2001 and dwarfs the combined mortalities from AIDS and Tuberculosis.

Americans are increasingly aware of the magnitude of this scourge. More and more elementary schools, church groups and bar mitzvahs are donating their collections to purchase malaria nets. The United Nations created its Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in 2001. The Gates Foundation invested $168.7 million in the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

But Americans are not yet fully cognizant of malaria’s relationship to climate change: A warming climate might facilitate the return of malaria to the world’s temperate regions.

History might help our nation once again appreciate the relationship between health and the environment. Malaria fell off the radar of many industrialized, wealthier nations as soon as they successfully eliminated the disease within their own borders. This neglect allowed malaria to not only resurge within endemic countries but also threaten nations long considered malaria-free.

For instance, malaria was successfully eradicated from the Southeastern United States in 1951. But since malaria remains endemic in most of the Southern Hemisphere, including places as close to the U.S. as southern Mexico, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that reintroduction of malaria into the United States remains a constant risk — one of the principal reasons that the CDC is located in Atlanta, Ga., not in Washington, D.C.

Now, warming global temperatures — which allow malaria-infected mosquitoes to survive in new areas and for longer periods — could endanger hundreds of millions in the coming decade.

American public opinion surveys reflect our inadequate comprehension of the effect of climate on health. The nation’s public health system has allowed for an unacceptable disconnect between climate change and human health. Information and recognition are the first steps to cure, and those first steps have already been taken by many countries. For instance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which co-won the 2007 Nobel Peace Price, warned the public in its acceptance speech of an altered distribution of infectious diseases due to rising temperatures.

In contrast to the
international community’s efforts on this front, the United States has performed relatively few health-climate studies. The paucity of federally-funded research on the links between climate change and human health reflects the ignorance of the American public.

Americans must now strive to avoid becoming victims of our own success. Sound scientific study will give individuals and businesses the necessary behavior modification tools to stem the resurgence of a malaria pandemic. When it comes to developing a better understanding of the relationship between malaria and climate change, ignorance is no longer an option.

Leslie P. King, M.D., M.P.H., is the founding director of Flying Physicians International. She currently is completing a one-year mid-career masters degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, focusing on communications of the impacts of climate change on human health.

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