Monday, August 22, 2005

Stewie Griffin: Code Red

According the the Washington Post, the TSA is still not only pulling large numbers of innocent civilians out of the airline boarding process because of watch list mixups, but has even been doing so to young children and infants who happen to have the same name as adults on the list. At least they're too young to have the ACLU's phone number memorized.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

The U.S. Military: Hunting Terrorists and Fostering Biodiversity

There's a fascinating article in this week's issue of Nature (reg. req'd.) on how parcels of land used for active U.S. military training in Germany contain more biodiversity and higher populations of endangered species than that nation's "pristine" national parks.

The logic is simple, really - some species, both plants and animals, require disruption in order to flourish. Some plant seeds won't open until they've been singed by a forest fire, and some animal species can't compete in a mature habitat where all the existing niches are filled by comfortable incumbents. Shaking up the habitat with a few live-fire artillery exercizes or mock tank battles seems to improve the overall habitat diversity and make places for species that wouldn't be able to find space in a national park where no one ever hunts, fells trees or paves a road.

Witness the reflection of one scientist, ecologist Steven Warren of Colorado State University in Fort Collins:

"Some people are very anti-military," Warren says. "They assume that there's nothing the military can do that will be beneficial, particularly with relation to ecology." Warren, who doesn't work for the army, used to assume the same himself. "Twenty years ago I looked at military activities as an ecologist and thought 'they need me'. But I guess that's not really so."

So if you love Mother Earth, forget the trees - hug a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The EU Breaks Eggs in sub-Saharan Africa

In what has become a depressingly frequent story, Western governments are again trying to dictate wildly inapropriate environmental and public health policies to poor countries whose citizens may very well end up paying with their lives. As Richard Tren and Marian Tupy explain, the EU is trying to pressure the Ugandan government into dropping DDT as part of their anti-malaria efforts, despite the hundres of millions of lives the insecticide has saved. DDT is, of course, unpopular in the U.S. and EU because of its legacy as an agricultural insecticide which allegedly caused eggshell thinning in some large predatory birds. The fact that its current use would be to save the lives of the poor and sick in Africa in small doses rather than kill agricultural pests in the U.S. in massive amounts seems to make very little difference to those currently in power.

Thanks to Kendra Okonski and The Commons Blog.