The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Nature... what a nasty bitch she can be.

A recent Barry Link column in the Vancouver Courier shows one take on the West Nile Virus situation. While the West Nile virus hasn'tt yet made its appearance in Vancouver yet, it's just a matter of time.

His argument is that when WNV comes, we should either spray, or some of us die. Link seems to indicate that, in the end, public opinion will be firmly in favour of spraying if most peoples' concerns about its effects on human health. Besides, he makes this point: we humans have a tendency to stand up for the protection of feathered creatures, cute furry things, and majestic trees...

"To the best of my knowledge, there is no Friends of Virus-Carrying Bloodsuckers." he writes. Well, I suppose that mosquitoes have some purpose in the environment. Maybe you should ask E.O. Wilson, the renowned entomologist and author.

On the other hand, we'd have little worry about the effects of a West Nile-like plague upon an animal population. Hell, the members of the species that are most at risk are the old, the very young, and the infirm. When it's our species, though, attitudes change. Of course, we do not show the same enthusiasm for thinning the human herd that we would for a herd of elk or caribou. I guess that for most of us, the concern for our own species even over-rides that for cute furry animals.

But I'm still not sure what to do. Perhaps in the year or two before West Nile finds its way to the West Coast, I'll come to an opinion. Tell me what you really think.

West Nile's spread in the U.S.A and in Canada.

There's a different exotic disease in British Columbia, and it has caused the death of one British Columbia woman. Unlike West Nile, Cryptococcus neoformans gattii isn't spread by mosquitoes; it lives on trees instead. I suspect that that'll give more fuel to deride "tree-huggers," although, on the bright side, there's no need to cover Vancouver Island in Malathion. However, we should not be too hasty to worry about this fungus -- one is far more likely to die in an auto collision on Vancouver Island than from cryptococcosis.

In a sort of related field...

I've describled myself as a "bacterial-rights activist," however. Let's face it, our prokaryotic pals have gotten a bad rap due to paranoia, one story too many about Eschericia coli O157:H7, and extensive marketing for germicidal products. So someone's got to stand up for our one-celled friends; with only a small few strains causing any human ills, and many giving our species a great benefit.

Besides, it's ultimately their world. We just live here.

Don't get me wrong, though. I want surgeons to operate in a sterile field and with sterilized instruments and supplies, and I think that regular hand-washing is a good habit to prevent disease. What I'm against is the indiscriminate use of antibacterial cleansers, antibiotics (in medicine and agriculture), and the desite to totally sterilize the environment, even when there's no rationale to do so. There's no need to use antibacterial hand soap -- the regular stuff will do.

Pass the Camembert, eh.
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