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EU agrees on total ban of bee-harming pesticides (theguardian.com)
1022 points by YeGoblynQueenne 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 314 comments



I must admit I find the EU pretty progressive and thought-leading lately - ironically using the tool progressives despise the most: Regulation.

When they banned all filament lightbulbs, everyone was saying how bad it would be for the economy, but the industry was just forced to innovate and just a couple years later everyone is 95% on LEDs.

Farmers will cope - and the demand they create for new solutions will accelerate supply much faster than any voluntary solution.


> ironically using the tool progressives despise the most: Regulation

"Progressives" are in the US most often characterized as proposing an overreach in regulation, so I find it weird that you call it something they don't want.

Political terms are hard.

I for one, as an EU citizen, strongly support and am proud of the pro-human (often by being pro-environment and limiting companies) politics of the EU (GDPR, bans of overly toxic substances, USB for smartphones ...).


> Political terms are hard.

It ain't helping that the definition of these terms often hinges on where you are talking about something because the local context can be very different for these terms, like American Libertarianism vs European Libertarianism [0]

Add to that how most people still only use the traditional left vs right axis, while imho something like the Nolan chart which also accounts for an authoritarian/libertarian axis for left and right, is a way superior model to account for the finer differences of political movements and especially parties.

I guess "progressivism" suffers from a similar issue. In Germany, it's pretty much never used to describe a particular political movement, German Wiki describes it as a "countermovement to conservatism", but in very broad terms. I guess it's a synonym for "the left"? Which in the US traditionally has been mostly defined/associated with regulation, at least by US conservatives.

[0] https://greyenlightenment.com/american-libertrianism-vs-euro...


USB for smartphones? How is the government telling people what kind of ports to have a good thing? The market should make that decision, not a regulator. Toxins kill stuff, a lack of USB could be considered and annoyance if you think USB is important.

USB regulation is precisely the definition of “progressive” overreach. I don’t want any government dictating my device specifications (unless those specs are designed to reduce health risks or radio interference.)


Someone chime in and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but here's how I understand the "regulation".

The EU decided that having a single standard port to charge a smartphone was a good idea and in the long run, save a little bit of money and a little bit on electronic waste since people would be able to go to any store and purchase for sale 1 Standard Smartphone Charger™ and 1 Standard Smartphone Cable™.

Then they conferred their preference to the Smartphone Industry™ and said "Okay, you guys sort it out. Pick a standard, incorporate it going forward, or we will bring down the regulatory hammer and not even we want to do that."

At that point USB was proving to be more or less a de facto standard anyway, so the industry said okay, settled on that, and somehow Apple got away with being able to just bundle in an adapter for the Standard Smartphone Cable™. The benefit of this approach rather than the EU swinging the regulatory hammer is it leaves the industry free to update it, say from micro-USB to USB-C, as improvements come along, rather than the EU decreeing that all smartphones use micro-USB which would be Terrible. Thus we have a Standard by Agreement, rather than a Standard by Law and life goes on pretty okay.

For good or for ill, the EU has a massive amount of soft power in their lawmaking alone with repercussions that go beyond the 28 (soon to be 27 again) member states. Any smartphone designer is free to take their phone and go home, but that's a lot of money to leave on the table and its not like anybody particularly liked the old crappy connectors of the past.


The recommendation is also for the port on the charger, which even on Apple chargers is standard USB-A.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_external_power_supply


Your description is pretty much on the spot (IIRC)

> soon to be 27 again

My bet is still on a Norway-like solution, which saves (some) face for the Tories and has minimal consequences.

But I am known to be an optimist from time to time.


The regulation was because the companies were NOT competing in the market for phone chargers through vendor lock in. I don’t know about you but I’m glad I no longer have to keep a box with 30 different chargers anymore. More electronics jumped on the USB charging bandwagon and phone recharging stations are suddenly a thing. Apple somehow seems to have escaped the regulation, sadly.


In addition to competition, there were also safety issues with proprietary chargers. I personally experienced this, when I had an emergency and my LG Lotus was dead. I tried using a borrowed microUSB charger at the hospital, only to be presented with the message, "Please use an LG-branded charger."

The power rating was identical; but, they had some kind of crazy, DRM-like scheme in place.

I'm very glad that I can now use or buy a cable anywhere and use pretty much any block, even an inefficient one.


Apple's charger is compliant since it has an USB-A port and phone side you can use an adapter, which explicitly was allowed in the deal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_external_power_supply#R...


Apple categorises the iphone as a mini portable compute device - and thereby skirts the whole phone charger thing


USB regulation imposed by the EU is a fantastic idea (in theory, at least). The amount of waste in the form of old proprietary device chargers is quite staggering and it poses an environmental problem. If all devices use USB, then this waste is somewhat reduced.

‘Almost every household is believed to have gathered a number of old chargers – estimated to generate more than 51 000 tons of electronic waste per year in the EU.’ [1]

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/electrical-engineering/re...


Back when micro-usb was a thing, I accumulated an ungodly number of cables, way more than can be explained by obvious logic such as 'one per device'. At the time it was great because I never seemed to be more than ten feet from the cable I needed. Then came usb-c so I had to start all over, but I kept hold of all the old cables because of some weird hoarding instinct. A few weeks ago, I had to downgrade back from usb-c to micro and I am hugely relieved I kept all those old cables!

Moral of the story: never throw out old cables ... (maybe)


It is now probably safe to dispose of your old mfm and SCSI cables. Probably even your parallel port cables can go as well. ;)


Market tends to decide against the customers when it can. The market isn't the customers anyways, the market is those who live in their billion billion dollar bubbles and their employees. We the customers can not affect the decisions, but can only choose from the handful (curiously often two) viable options. And because the carging port is not the only variable, some people buy the iPhone, despite the inconvenience of presumably less luck in borrowing a charger...


This is a very myopic and short term perspective on the market. Localized inefficiencies like you are talking about certainly exist--and likely always will. Over time, the will be resolved by the market entrance of a third party offering consumers what they really want (defined as, willing to actually pay money for). Then the big players adapt or die.


Even if so, we live in the short term (and, define "short term": minutes, months, years, decades?) and among the inefficiencies localized in most of the possible "locations" if not all of them, and I'd rather have regulation protect me than wait an indefinite amount of time until some good-willing entreprise takes initiative, and then another indefinite amount of time until they are successful, and then another indefinite amount of time the big players adapt or die, a process which when listed like this seems to me to be at most as efficient as wishing upon a star.

What "market" is is a big bunch of entities trying to maximise the output and minimise the input (in a large large majority of cases). Everything else is a side effect. In order to impose upon those entities anything, the customer base needs to be diverse enough to include potential opposers to the company's policy, and the number of the opposers who decide to boycott or move away should be large enough that such action significantly affects the company's margins. And that's not so easy to happen, especially if the bad the "big players" are doing does not directly affect the customers (e.g. saying "guns are murderous and destructive" will not affect the gun owners all that much, or "your pesticides kill bees" the pesticide users, no?) and thus the vigilance of the market is triply-restricted: by time it takes to produce effects, by the amount of opposition actors it requires, and by the nature of commerce. Thus, it can not produce timely change, requires and is thus fallible to lots of rhetoric, and is only maybe-efficient in a small set of industries and cases.


A century of tremendous progress afforded by capitalism begs to differ. Anyway, I'm not saying free market capitalism is a panacea, but it's generated wealth and value for consumers in spades.


And I'm not saying it's evil, but that without regulation it will favour itself over the consumer all the time, except when interests happen to align (and it does not, in most cases).


The market doesn't favor "itself", that doesn't mean anything. There may be a paradigm you're missing here.

There's a confirmation bias at work. There are infinite examples of the market working suboptimally for one consumer, a group of consumers, or consumers as a whole. But the entire platform is built upon creating value for consumers. People choose to pay for goods and services they want. In another system, they could be assigned arbitrarily. Or even completely unavailable. Capitalism created things you'd never expect, like broadband internet access and social networking to name a couple.


Market is made up of selfish entities. The good that's done is a side effect. I do not mean that pejoratively.

It certainly is in the interest of enterprises to provide value to consumers. But so too is to do that as cheaply as possible, in order to have the largest margins possible. The one to sell for cheapest will prevail. Even if that means making people work for the bare minimum that'll keep them alive and poisoning them with murderous materials in subhuman working conditions. Even if that means starving an entire ecosystem to death to grow some grains or whatnot. That's where regulation kicks in. It sets the ground for competition without harming the rest of the world.

We do not disagree. But you're believing mistakenly that I am criticising capitalism. While I instead am telling that like every powerful resource, capital too needs to be heavily controlled and supervised. If you live somewhere where the market and capitalism is not doing shady things to cut costs and sell cheaper, tell me which utopian place/planet you are at, so that I can join you lot. But in the real world lots of starving hands touch everything we wear and tap and click. Regulation is necessary so that one's life don't cost many others' lives.


Yeah, I think we actually are pretty close to the same page. I just think, in light of the tremendous amount of progress over the past years, often discounted by a media audience that is fed a healthy diet of panic (this brought to you by capitalism, FTR!), capitalism has been an overall win. And I don't know of any other system that could have produced anything close to what we have.

I guess a lot of it comes down to whether we are satisfied with the state of humanity, and whether we recognize past progress as an overall good.


No, it was extremely good and cool that the EU told corporations to stick to one standard. The market is terrible in making things convenient for consumers if they want to switch phones, as it doesn't make them money.

Same with not creating bee-killing pesticides. The markets created them and never stopped despite them being extremely harmful to the environment. But who cares, under capitalism profits matter above all so let's continue producing them.


He was talking about standardizing phone chargers to use (one of the) USB standard ones so you don’t end up with a drawer full of outdated and incompatible chargers.


US is progressive in capitalism (one that comes to mind is Uber), EU in socialism.


Regulation is the core task of the EU, more or less its reason to be.

There are many squishy goals the EU has, but its core and non-squishy task is to create and take care of a common market among all member states. That relates to boring and straightforward things like tariffs (just don’t have them, duh), but also to other trade barriers, like differing regulation between different member states. (If a French company can’t sell their wine picker without modification in Spain because of mutually exclusive regulation in the two countries then that’s a trade barrier and the EU aims to get rid of it by harmonising the regulation in France and Spain and all the other member countries.)

As such the EU also takes over the continuing duties of regulating companies from the member states. It is no surprise that much of what the EU does relates to regulation, since that is its reason to be.


Yes, and this is how the normal state should behave. US messed it up big time by giving control to the corporations, but if you do some thinking: managers get their rewards based on some time based results. If they achieve better "money bases" results by screwing up customers or anyone else, they still profit. The corporations don't care if they poison half of world population as long as they profit. Make another war, few hunderd thousand killed? No problem, we made money. The only institution that can stop this insane logic is state and EU Commission is really suprisingly good in acting in good of EU cityzen, quite oposite in regard to what US is doing - acting for the corporations. I am sorry for US. People there got gang raped without the lubricant, but they are still too much brain washed to figure it out and are still living in fantasy world of "american dream", we have a saying "nation will write its own desteny by themself" and it fits for the US nicely, but I think years od dumbification are paying the toll.


Here is a nice example, how US is handling nature preservation: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/yellowstone-national-park-grizz...


Yes but what will those new solutions be? Will they be better? How will we know? Most likely scenario: they'll be replaced by some other chemical that on the surface may be better, but will be far less understood by virtue of being new. We may well find out years later that it was worse on a whole host of criteria, and may even be worse on the "don't kill the bees" criteria after larger scale/more research.

It's easy to assume banning the thing we don't like will yield better outcomes but that's not necessarily the case. If we want to get rid of chemical risk, we'll have to get rid of chemicals. If we do that, we'll have to seriously re-evaluate our agricultural systems and be likely willing to accept higher prices.


In the past we have generally managed to find safer alternatives for most substances.

CFCs, lead solders, DDT, leaded gasoline, radium paints, mercury lamps, cadmium paints, microplastics in cosmetics, ...

Sure, the first iteration of regulation of may have unintended consequences, but they are often smaller than the original issue and can be compensated for with another iteration. The process takes many years, but on average things are improving.


It's true but incomplete. For example:

DDT - May not have been anywhere near as bad as first thought, and replaced in part by these compounds, which themselves are being banned now. Also there's some argument that extensive use of DDT was key to ridding the US of malaria, we banned it worldwide, taking out one of the weapons in mosquito control. One could make an argument that banning DDT has killed people b/c increased incidence of malaria. It's hotly debated, but it's not a bonkers view, and most of those deaths would be in the 3rd world.

Cadmium Paints - Yes and no, artists still say it's not the same, and the replacements in industrial scale aren't always as good on a variety of fronts (https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-quest-for-billion-do...). Also not sure they're as affordable.

CFCs (then some HCFCS) - Good thing to ban without a doubt, but replacements are more expensive. The ACs made with the new gasses are more expensive, which has a real human cost: (https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/23/business/23cool.html)

I'm not making an argument for or against this particular ban or any of the bans above. I am making an argument that these bans are not without costs, and will almost certainly come with trade-offs. Some of those trade-offs will be overcome, others are much harder, and the short run will likely have some pain in the form of higher prices.

Lets say for example we got rid of all pesticides/herbicides. Could we generate enough food to feed the world? How much more expensive would staples like rice and wheat become? How much more expensive would high-nutrition fruits and veggies become? It's possible that someday get over it, but it's not good to minimize the practical drawbacks.

I think we've gotten to a point as a society where _any_ risk of something bad is too much risk, so we ban anything that presents risk. But we're left with things where either the risk is unknown, or that are bad in other ways. The average popular discussion of environmental/health risks often neglects to ask, "what might be an acceptable risk", I think sometimes the risk is worth it.


Isn't there an explicit exception in the DDT ban for anti-malaria applications?


The real problem with the replacement refrigerants is their reduced efficiency, leading to more energy use. Though we should just use propane since it doesn't harm ozone, has lower GWP, costs less, and has much higher efficiency.


Though we should just use propane since it doesn't harm ozone, has lower GWP, costs less, and has much higher efficiency.

...and is also explosively flammable. Remember that CFCs replaced early refrigerants which were flammable and/or toxic. This memorable incident may be attributed to using a flammable refrigerant:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoanut_Grove_fire

Personally, I'm against an absolutist ban on CFCs, since it was mainly their mass release into the atmosphere that caused problems, and they had great advantages in closed-system uses. This may surprise a lot of HN readers, but I have the same belief about PCBs[1] and chrysotile (white asbestos)[2] --- "the dose makes the poison". Literally everything is harmful to something in some way, so the right thing to do is to manage use such that we can maximise the benefit:risk ratio, instead of the frenzied "ban everything" attitude that seems far too pervasive today.

[1] https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/controversial-science-envi...

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3581056/


We don't live in world where industry can control itself properly for this be put into practice.


That was fixed with driver/drive combinations that replaced electric motors coupled with on/off thermostat switches.

Anyway, I still wonder why ammonia fell into disuse as a refrigerent.


Ammonia is still in use in large-scale refrigeration, indoor ice rinks and food storage being the major applications. The main reason it's not used in domestic refrigeration is the toxicity, although it's still common in absorption refrigerators.


It's still in use in silent (Einstein) refrigerator units.

One reason might be that we had to evacuate our office when our small refrigerator in the pentry popped and vented all ammonia. It took a while to get sorted, and it can't have been much in that small unit.


What's the source on DDT not being as bad as first thought? You can't just mention that in passing as an argument if it's not true.

(And I don't mean just to humans; that's only a small part of why it was banned.)


https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/11/magazine/what-the-world-n...

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-rachel-carson-cost-million...

From the second article: However, studies in Europe, Canada, and the United States have since shown that DDT didn’t cause the human diseases Carson had claimed. Indeed, the only type of cancer that had increased in the United States during the DDT era was lung cancer, which was caused by cigarette smoking. DDT was arguably one of the safer insect repellents ever invented—far safer than many of the pesticides that have taken its place.

There is some recent evidence of connection to breast cancer:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524999/

And the WHO has a few concerns:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-cancer-insecticide...

CDC Has a balanced view (though article is old): https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/clusters/fallon/ddtfaq.htm

That said the studies in question ask about very high usage, it's likely that more controlled sprays would be less damaging. That's the point I'm making, using chemicals responsibly can mitigate overall risk while maintaining their benefits. You don't have spray it in buckets everywhere (the procedure during the study period above) to do a good job of mosquito control. Plus you may save far more lives due to less malaria.

EDIT: In re. non-humans, I'm less familiar with that, but I'm an unabashed species-ist, I care that more humans live. If that has some environmental harm, then lets mitigate or try to reduce harm, but humans come first.


"DDT was arguably one of the safer insect repellents ever invented—far safer than many of the pesticides that have taken its place."

Thats missleading, because we don't really use pesticices against mosquitos anymore.

Main "pesticide" today is a living bacteria which targets Mosquitos directly and apparently with not much side-effects to the nature besides reducing mosquitos and totally non-toxic to mammals.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacillus_thuringiensis


Not sure where you got the idea we don’t spray pesticides for mosquitoes anymore. There are large vector control districts all over the country that do exactly that. You may be interested in the NPIC page.

http://npic.orst.edu/pest/mosquito/mosqcides.html


That does not make sense about the species-ist part because damage or loss to one particular species has all sorts of context-specific ripple effects to everything else.

One would need to assess what if any damage the decrease or extinction of a particular species would cause to the ecology as a whole and the other life forms in it, humans included.


Stop taking about DDT. I had my own expirience when I went to Madagascar. Took with me ddt based insecticide (whatever it takes to avoid malaria) and got rashes all over my hands due to it.


Simple answer is yes we just become vegetarians and cattle land becomes crop land.


The difference is the precautionary principle, applied in the EU.

You can read up here:

https://ensia.com/features/banned-in-europe-safe-in-the-u-s/

The quintessential difference is explained in this qutein this quote:

"A key element of the European Union’s chemicals management and environmental protection policies — and one that clearly distinguishes the EU’s approach from that of the U.S. federal government — is what’s called the precautionary principle.

This principle, in the words of the European Commission, “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative” decision-making. In other words, it says that when there is substantial, credible evidence of danger to human or environmental health, protective action should be taken despite continuing scientific uncertainty.

In contrast, the U.S. federal government’s approach to chemicals management sets a very high bar for the proof of harm that must be demonstrated before regulatory action is taken."


“We shouldn’t do anything because it might not be the right solution” has is not a productive outlook.


I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying we should be careful to consider the trade-offs. There's a lot of hysteria around "chemicals" in the world, and blanket bans are the result.

Similar hysteria has killed maybe the best hope we have for carbon-free baseline power load (nuclear power) because people were afraid of radiation. Coal power plants kill more people per year than all nuclear accidents to date ever will (http://reason.com/blog/2016/04/26/more-deaths-from-coal-poll...).

We shouldn't do anything as a knee-jerk reaction against things that look bad because there are charismatic harms (bees maybe dying), without considering the larger problems (humans having more expensive food, or in the case of DDT, dying of diseases).


Nuclear also bacame more expensive because of very tight over regulation that also applies to research. We are stuck with 70 year old reactor designs now of which PWRs and PHWRs are so far the safest, but we should really move on with research into MSRs and other fast reactors which allow recycling of nuclear waste.


While this is a reasonable point to consider, do you have any evidence that is actually happening here?

If we have good evidence that a critical element of our environment is being damaged by pesticides with certain characteristics, it seems like the opposite of prudence to wait on fixing it.


> If we want to get rid of chemical risk, we'll have to get rid of chemicals

Ah, you've seen the EU chemicals directive. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/reach_en.htm


Getting rid of chemicals? Umm, everything is a chemical. What does that even mean?


That's exactly the point I'm trying to make (though a bit tongue in cheek). People usually don't like "chemicals" but don't understand what that means. Here I'm making a reference to the "petroleum/industrially derived chemicals" (admittedly also an imperfect category) as a commenter below suggests.


I like to substitute "petroleum distillates" when people say "chemicals".


Just like everything is a carcinogen. Damn near everything has to carry a warning that it contains a chemical known to be a cause cancer. Most infamously lately, Starbucks coffee.

Thanks California!


> Just like everything is a carcinogen

That's not true (nor equivalent transitively). What does this have to do with your derangements about California and Starbucks?


Have we collectively forgotten about this mess already?

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-lawsuit-coffee...


We ban accounts for personal attack, so please don't post like this here, regardless of how wrong someone may be.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The solution to this is to ban by default, and put the onus on the company developing the solution to prove it is safe. There are many drawbacks to this, BUT it does address the root cause of your concern.


Not really, that's damn near impossible. There's almost no way to prove an exhaustive negative, and to get close is insanely expensive. As an admittedly imperfect analogy, take a look at how expensive it is to get a drug to market (currently ~$2.5B [1]) in large part because you have to prove so much about how it works and how little harm it causes.

BTW Most of these compounds ARE tested for safety, just in a far more limited way. Proving things never cause harm is an entirely different bar.


I don't think it's impossible if the standard for "do no harm" was specified very rigorously.

Also I'd be interested to see if it's possible to make it an adversarial process, similar to how corporations define risks to shareholders. They can specify whatever risks they feel are correct, but if something happens that they didn't account for in their risks, they are liable for large compensation penalties to shareholders. Thus companies are incentivized to report every possible and conceivable risk to their business. Now to bring it back to the drugs example, have corporations specify on their own what "do no harm" looks like. And if it turns out the drug does impact something they never specify, have a penalty proportional to their revenue or market cap applied.


You forgot [1].



This reminds me of what happened with BPA. The chemical companies use to replace BPA is at least sometimes worse than BPA. But no one seems to care.


I care. And I think it's solvable, once we raise the burden of proof.

As it stands, male sperm rates have declined by over 50% in the last 30 years, it's only a matter of time until people switch to a more cautious attitude.


which is what?


May not be worse, but by tweaking a constituent group here or there, you can get similar molecules to BPA. Eg. BPF: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_F


I wouldn't be so quick to pat them on the back about that... First came CFLs, which put literal tons of mercury in landfills. ...not to mention their terrible power factor almost negated any efficiency improvements.

LED solves many of these issues thankfully,


> not to mention their terrible power factor almost negated any efficiency improvements.

A power factor is not what you think it is (has zero to do with efficiency).


In fact, it does. A lot of transmission energy is wasted as heat when powering devices with a terrible power factor. Replacing a 60w incandescent with a 15w device that has a .5 power factor isn't netting the environmental savings advertised.


I'm similarly skeptical that replacing 70 watt bulbs with 15 watt bulbs with poor power factors would end up being a wash. IR loses from the increase in reactive current would not cover the 55 watt gap.


There isn't even any reactive current, it's just a non-sinusoidal load current because there is a rectifier and capacitors for smoothing the rectified voltage at the input.


We moved from halogen directly to LED bulbs. Never liked CFLs mainly because of the mercury. I guess it's up to you to decide and educate others.


There was or may still is a guide on a official eu website what you are supposed to do when you break a CFL at home.

It involved having special full body clothing, removing all other people from the room/place and other creepy things.

Once I've told people that they happily bought the then 50$ led bulbs. Usually at least.


How are you supposed to get rid of a CFL if it doesn't break? I'd happily do it if there were a reasonable option.


In recycling crazy Germany, most recycling yards will take your old CFLs at no cost [0].

[0] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altlampen-Recycling


How much [toxic stuff] goes into making LEDs? If any?

We shall, in short order respectively have trillions of LEDs in landfill.

Old LEDs were a dollop of glass/plastic over the device, but sme/rgb LEDs are a bit more complex than the old LEDs of the past.


Due to their long life, they probably won't enter into landfills in the same quantities as other bulbs. However, I believe many of the newer bulbs have silicoln chips in them and there's trouble with runoff from the metals on those chips if I recall. Don't take my word for it though, this is old creaky info from deep in the recesses of my brain that I'm too lazy to validate right now.


LED lighting can be recycled the same as e-waste. The challenge there is to ensure you have a proper e-waste stream recycling system setup, but it's a solved problem on the technical side.

Luckily, due to LED longevity, we have a decade or two to get better at recycling e-waste for the majority of bulbs out there.


due to LED longevity

The Phoebus cartel may be long gone but planned obolescence is a stronger force than ever before.

Low-power indicator LEDs do have extremely high longevity, but the type used for illumination certainly don't, because they are operated far closer to their limits; plus they need special driver circuitry which also limits lifespan. Components like electrolytic capacitors have lifetimes far shorter than the LED itself in typical LED lamp applications.


Yup. I've had several el Cheapo LED bulbs fail on me, and it always seem to be a problem of the electronics driving the bulbs. I wouldn't be surprised if, in China, people were actually recycling the bulbs, because it probably only involves replacing the right capacitor or driving IC.


> ironically using the tool progressives despise the most: Regulation

I've always pessimistically thought progressives rely exclusively on regulation to succeed at their goals. What situations make you say otherwise?


Mandating minimum standards on safety is one. Making non-key characteristics more similar to ease price comparison and enhance competition is another.


That was my first thought when I read this comment. Progressives tend to believe that the government knows best (e.g. please tell me what size soda I should be allowed to buy), while conservatives tend to believe that the free market will naturally regulate itself (e.g. amusement parks will voluntarily keep their rides safe, because people won’t buy tickets otherwise). There are pros and cons to both sides. But it is simply inaccurate to say that progressives “despise” regulation - they love regulation and would do far more of it if left to their own devices.


Progressives don't love regulation, but they also don't have a superstitious dread of it. Progressives want to use the right tool for the job. In some cases, that is regulation. In particular, when the consequences of a decision cannot be internalized, so the pursuit of self-interest is not sufficient to produce societally optimal solutions, regulation can correct this market failure.


I always understood it as a progressive wants to change things and a conservative wants things to stay the same.


Kind of, but it's more nuanced than that. A traditionally conservative ideology isn't opposed to change, but rather states that revolutionary changes are extremely likely to have unintended and unpredictable concequences, and so we should be extremely sparing with that. If change is necessary, it's better to to let it arise organically through societal pressures or the invisible hand of the free market, which can happen in a slower way with more controlled self-corrective measures.

Both "conservative" and "progressive" ideologies generally allow for change, but in different ways.

I don't subscribe to conservative ideology myself, but traditional conservatism is an understandable outlook.


I think in practice it has differed a lot between different groups that call themselves "conservative" in different time periods and locations. I suppose winding back recent changes (back to the "good old days") is also an aspect of conservatism.

It's also a far too simplistic way of looking at politics: usually groups will be in favour of same changes and opposed to others, regardless of what they call themselves.

There are also issues where it's not even clear what a "conservative" approach would be. Should action be taken against global warming, to prevent potentially undesirable climate change, or resist taking action, to prevent changes to the economic status quo? For some reason, modern conservatives generally seem to prefer the latter.


Those would be the literal meanings of the words, yes.

In practice, the fundamental difference is probably more about a person's radius of empathy (progressives tend to apply their empathy to a larger group of people), and then lots of vaguely related things flow from that, e.g. different outlooks on power (conservatives prefer a strong man - obviously only assuming he's from their own "tribe" - and therefore strongly tend towards authoritarianism) and economics (empathy with more people tends to make one prefer more equal distributions of wealth and income).

The terms progressive and conservative simply arose at a time when the world was largely shaped the way conservatives like. Since then, the world has changed more towards the progressive vision, so today conservatives do want to change creating things.


Progressives love regulation mainly because that's the only way for outsiders to get a voice in capitalist institutions which are run by a small minority that can cause extreme externalities on the surrounding community and their employees for their own benefit. One alternative solution to regulation is to let the employees and surrounding communities participate in the management of the business. This would lead to fewer externalities and hence, in some cases, less regulation.


Antitrust to break up monopolies?


Aren't progressives fans or regulation?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressivism

"Progressivism is the support for or advocacy of improvement of society by reform.[1] As a philosophy, it is based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition. Progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, out of the belief that Europe was demonstrating that societies could progress in civility from uncivilized conditions to civilization through strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society.[2] Figures of the Enlightenment believed that progress had universal application to all societies and that these ideas would spread across the world from Europe"


Yes, that's my understanding as well. It could depends on what country you are though. For me left wing means progressive and social and right wing means liberal and conservative. I guess in some countries the progressive are also the liberal, in which case the previous comment make sense


This is why I don't like these phrases at all. The only politics I really follow are Austria and Switzerland.

In Switzerland 'the right' is very social oriented and partly for legal weed even. In Austria even the left uses phrases like 'immigrant issues' and discusses 'unleft' ways to solve it.

Most of the world doesn't have a 2 party system. So there is not such a strong distinction between the individual parties.


I hate the one-dimensional taxonomy generally used. I wish one of these would be adopted in the media:

https://www.politicalcompass.org https://8values.github.io

(there’s more)

Classical Liberalism is sometimes considered left wing because it originated as a response to aristocracy, and alongside their preference for free markets (which originally meant markets free from economic rent, not free from regulation) over the rigidly hierarchical model of feudalism with it’s caste system, some founders were broadly socialistic in their thinking.

It’s somewhat ironic capitalism emerged in England where it began as a massive social engineering effort by the central authorities, putting large parts of the population in precariousness and poverty. “Laissez-faire was planned, planning was not.” To quote economic historian Karl Polanyi.

“Capitalism” is nowadays often conflated with “markets”, which can be found in about every agricultural society. Capitalism was coined by Marx and he meant basically a society where the population can be divided in two classes: those who own capital (capital = means of (industrial/mass) production = machines, factories, things-that-make-things, etc) and those who don’t. Those who own capital make their income out of profit, those without have to sell their labor for a wage to the capitalist. Remember that mass production dropped the prices of goods considerably, so artisanal production went out of the window. Basically the inequality in potential to make money resulted in a strong reduction in individual freedom for large parts of the population. This is where the paradoxal dichotomy of liberty and equality becomes clear, where equality in it’s purest sense can be considered the maximum amount of individual liberty for the materially worst off in society — freeing the individual from the constraints put upon him by his environment. That’s the same as saying everyone gets exactly the same. Wonder how well that works in the real world...

Note that “Socialism” is often equated with Marxism, which actually came rather late to the party.

Many new school “Classical Liberals” were created by marginalist economic theory, which was a response to the rising popularity of Marxist justifications for wealth distribution. It’s just as nonsensical, sadly, and it seems we’re stuck with it.

“Keyensianism” is another horribly misunderstood term. Keynesianism as historically known was actually developed by Paul Samuelson, and is based upon economic models that were published by him before Keynes published his major works. Keynes was a classical liberal with a streak of conservatism which despised Marxism. Keynesianism is nowadays equated with “money printing” which is not at all what he argued.

I also recently read Harari’s Sapiens, where at one point he makes the following distinction, which I thought was neat:

* Liberal humanism which holds that the individual, and liberty of the individual, is the most important priority.

* Socialist humanism which holds a notion of humanity as collective and for which equality is the main priority.

* Evolutionary humanism, which holds that Sapiens might either degenerate as a species, or evolve into “super-humans”

Calling Nazi’s “humanist” might seem strange, but in some wicked sense they were, they cared for humanity as some kind of meta organism that could evolve or devolve. Thankfully modern biology put all that to bed.

It’s interesting to note that humanism is based on the notion of “natural rights” which is another way of saying “rights given by God”. People often don’t realize just how religious the axioms of their preferred moral framework are.

(Bit long and tangential probably...)


Its funny how you say everything is sunshine and rainbows with lightbulbs, but just yesterday I was reading comments here about how its impossible to find lightbulbs with good temperature anymore.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16929470


I don't know where you buy your led light bulbs but here in switzerland you usually have three choices (white, warm white, and something yellow-ish). I find the warm-white nuance quite pleasant.

Then, if you still want another colour, internet is here for you.


However, if you want good full spectrum LEDs (that approach what an incandescent bulb provides) I believe you must buy really expensive ones that are only manufactured in Japan https://www.yujiintl.com/high-cri-led-lighting


You may be viewing the past with a rose filter. Incandescent light bulbs are nowhere near full spectrum. You have a decent analysis of the emitted frequencies here:

https://www.comsol.com/blogs/calculating-the-emission-spectr...


> You have a decent analysis of the emitted frequencies here:

That still shows something approaching a black body radiatior. The difference is just the planckian locus. In other words it does emit a full spectrum, just with a power distribution that mimics sunset light and not midday sunlight.


I remember the transition, and “A/B testing” different rooms in my parents house as our last incandescents died, quite vividly. It was awful. It still is, but people no longer have good quality light for comparison.


And you no longer have a room lit with incandescent to compare with the current, much improved offerings :)


I assumed that full was always a relative term. You surely don't want devices that emit on the whole EM spectrum.


They maybe be expensive but will last a decade or longer, so price is negated. And when you replace in 10 years, price will be minuscule as to what it is now.


For daytime hours I would like something approximating the suns spectral output. Something like a black body at around 5800K. Lots of blue but pretty flat in the visual spectrum.

For the evening I would prefer more of a wood fire or candle light spectrum. That seems to help with people's sleep cycle. Something with a black body temp of about 1500 K. Or cool incandescent if you are reading; around 2400K. Majority red spectrum.



It's weird that their website gives no indication that they function this way. They don't say anything about blue light or sleeping better.


Phillips and some other known brands sell a wide spectrum of different LED bulbs these days. Some are way better than others. I am sure someone is making the 'best' but the better average is not as bad anymore IMO.


You're not understating things when you say "really expensive"...

https://store.yujiintl.com/collections/high-cri-led-lights

Wow.


I can confirm the quality of the devices they send. And from the shipping it seems to be Shenzen. Their 1900K VTC (triple-phosphor) LEDs seem to be out of stock though. They have 80+CRI on candlelight. DIY Perks (youtube) got some and made a video destribing the difference between their double phosphor and 'normal' chinese LEDs. One can see the quality of the actual LEDs (not the packaging/phosphor(s)) by running them at threshold voltage, and seeing if all dies in the package light up simultaneously. If they don't, the device is of 'chinesium' quality. Ask for a refund, as it's going to burn out soon (uneven current distribution between the parallel columns).

And as far as "really expensive" goes: the price of the LED is 10% of the electricity cost over a life of 50k hours, which is about what you get out of them without fancy cooling. See http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Plot%5B(1000.+%2B+0.2+x... , for TCO over time. Units are EUR and hours, and I calculated a price of 20ct/kWh. You can take these prices as net prices for USD, tax and forex cancel out. Yes, these are not economical if you don't use them. In that case, use cheap filament bulbs or similar. Don't cheap out on the quality of light you use. Get double phosphor (other manufacturers offer those too) for normal use, and consider triple phosphor for uses where color rendition is particularly important (photo shooting/inspecting things/etc). For the mentioned price you can get a cheap driver and the LED, but please don't burn your LED with inadequate cooling or a bad driver. They are not cheap ;)


Do you use these for home lighting, and if so, how do they compare to traditional CFLs? Or would that be total overkill?


106$ for a pack of 6 led light with CRI > 95 doesn’t seem really expensive to me... It’s less than 18$ each.


Well, it seems really expensive when I compare to the price of led lights I'm used to. eg local supermarket. :)


On amazon you'll find a plethora of LED bulbs with their color temperature in kelvin, CRI (or R-alpha), lumens and directivity listed. I have picked a wide range of different ones for different needs. A few years ago there was limited choice but the palette has broadened since then.

The item titles, often listing incandescent equivalent wattages and fuzzy categories like warmness, are kind of irrelevant. You need to look at the fact sheets.


Disagree. I just swapped a 2700k bulb for another 2700k bulb and the room went from eery green to warm just off white yellow. You have to try them. The ratings are suspect, IMO.


The warmth has no relation whatsoever with the CRI. If your first led had an awful CRI you should blame yourself for not checking it rather than saying that all the spec sheets are useless.


Oh! I didn't know about this property. Thanks, this will be very helpful in picking bulbs in the future.


Buy good LED lights with a CRI of >95. They are not hard to find.


No way. Tons of warm, white or cool bulbs. You just have to try a few and be sceptical of the kelvin rating. Trust me, the wife and I are very picky about color temp.


Well, if you have extremely specific desires for light temp.


"When they banned all filament lightbulbs, everyone was saying how bad it would be for the economy, but the industry was just forced to innovate and just a couple years later everyone is 95% on LEDs."

First they started by mandating enviroment and if broken, human "friendly" mercury lamps as a replacement. And even without the regulation, LED's were about to make the breakthrough. And since energy(money) saving is a factor for many people, I would argue it would have come anyway. Maybe even some time later, but with people willingly accepting it and without hating the EU for mandating light for them which was ugly and dark. Because the common energy saving lamp at that time was a catastrophe aesthetically and practically.

But this is different, pesticides are activly damaging the enviroment for everyone. Classic case for what regulation was invented - and this should never get mixed up with regulations which mandate certain energy savings to everyone. This is something people do anyway, if not for the global effect, but for their wallet. So you can maybe assist progress in that area, but never mandate it as people will then start to hate energy saving because now they are forced to do it by the evil government.


When they banned all filament lightbulbs, everyone was saying how bad it would be for the economy, but the industry was just forced to innovate and just a couple years later everyone is 95% on LEDs.

And now we hear from a study in the EU that LEDs cause cancer. Yay.

https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp1837/


From what I understand, they found a correlation between disturbed circadian cycles and hormone-caused cancers, the mean of lighting doesn't seem to play a role.


That seems right - they only mention LEDs as a possible factor for the increase in disturbance of circadian cycles, as people keep them on at night more than they used to with filament bulbs. The study isn't about LEDs themselves.


It was reported elsewhere that it was the increased level of blue light. So perhaps something that can be addressed. Still, unintended consequences.


To be clear the widespread use of LEDs has caused significant health issues for many people, especially shift workers, due to disrupting their circadian rhythms and decreasing their sleep quality.

With that said, even though I’m against regulation as a means to effect change, I can’t say I’m upset about fewer pesticides being used on our food, it’s literally poison.


> ironically using the tool progressives despise the most: Regulation

They do? Are you sure you're not thinking of conservatives?


Yeah I don't know what progressives they've been hanging out with...


Neo-liberals and Anarchists, which are very close in ideology


Maybe I was to short on explanation here. what I mean is that regarding regulation, both neoliberal and anachistic policies have a 'laiser faire' approach of minimizing or abolishing government intervention. Both do so from widely opposing points of view. Neoliberals see regulations as needlessly restrictive and inhibiting the 'natural' efficiency of the market. Anarchists see regulations as 'protecting the privileged'.


Though I like this new regulation and I live in the EU. The EU creates a lot of useless waste and red tape, just look at the EU cookie law


I don't have a cookie banner on my site. I decided I didn't need the cookies and I didn't need the tracking either.

The EU only creates a lot of waste and red tape if you want to ride close to the line, if you decide to go with the spirit of the law rather than the letter it actually reduces waste and red tape.

If you want to give a real example of waste then the VAT rules would come to mind, the cookie law was meant well but the majority of the web operators decided they were going to pass the burden on to the consumer instead of to actually take the hint. And if they had taken that hint the GDPR most likely wouldn't be here tomorrow.


The cookie law only affects you if you'd otherwise be tracking your users/visitors. So if you're just using cookies for login sessions and other primary functions of your site you don't need to ask for permission. And honestly, I'm happy to be aware of the tracking websites do.


This still means it affects 99% of (popular) websites out there (Google analytics, ads, social sharing stuff,...).

Sure these websites could just find better solutions for that, however how it was and is that cookie warnung is just to common to even give it a second thought as average user.


But it also lead to the rise of diesel cars not all the EU's technical regulations work very well - cookie laws for example.


I understand this is an important decision by EU, but I just can't fathom the reason this news got so upvoted here on HN. Am I missing something? Can anyone elaborate on this?


Insects, bees especially, pollinate plants. Without pollination many plants do not reproduce. Without plants reproducing, humans starve. Killing all the bees is therefore a bad idea amounting to collective suicide. Many people here on HN care about not being killed.


The bee problem was a huge mystery for a lot of years and got a ton of press until researchers finally figured out that - Surprise! - it was all the literal poisons we saturate our landscapes with that was killing them of.


The literal insect poisons, specifically.


It's probably the hope that it would generating conversation about new discoveries rather than drawing out the loonies (which is all it has done).


>> I must admit I find the EU pretty progressive and thought-leading lately - ironically using the tool progressives despise the most: Regulation.

Who said it is necessary for 'progressives' hate regulation? Progressiveness, I think, is a contextual thing. Capitalism, free-marketism, socialism, theocracism, and indeed any political and social movement can all advocate progressivism toward their own ideologies.

So, in my view, progressivism has more to with general change to an idealogical view, whatever that idealogical view is, and not got anything to do with change to a certain idealogical view. As in one person may view a change being progressive, eg reduction in regulation, and another might view that change as being regressive, eg removal of regulation of toxic chemicals into a river system.


I think you’re confusing corporatists (more commonly called neocons or neoliberals these days), and progressives.

Corporatism is the idea of government by corporation. In practical terms, this means that government functions should be privatized, and all laws that restrict companies repealed. Puerto Rico is a great example of how this plays out in practice.

People also frequently confuse conventional libertarianism, which argued that monopolistic/large corporations are simply an arm of the state, and present day libertarianism, which is basically just corporatism.


Amen, except on "the tool progressives despise the most: Regulation" - you're thinking of libertarians.


That or neoliberalism (aka, Thatcherism) using the meaning that Wikipedia uses for that term < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism >.


It also made the old bulbs extremely cheap for a while which was hilarious.


The loss of incandescents made human habitats into colder, harsher, less welcoming places. We’re turning our nighttime cityscapes bright blue. We’ve almost completely erased the joy of coming home to warm soft lighting from the human experience (and no, the piss-yellow emitted by “warm” LEDs isn’t a substitute). We aren’t stuck with darkness, at least, but something very real and valuable was lost and not replaced.


The scariest news I heard last year was not the North Korea nuclear testing, but the insect mass collapse by 82%. This is insane. We need to seriously reconsider the use of all insecticides, not just the bee-harming ones.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-...


Doesn't it look like the initial reading was the anomaly? Like the 1989 number is twice as big compared to 1991.

In 1991 they could have reported "insects numbers drop 50% in two years!!!!".

I mean there's a definite decline, but it doesn't look like an imminent collapse.


The decline is really noticeable. (I live in Germany.) You can go bicycling in the countryside in summer and never get any insects in your mouth. You can drive your car and not wipe off your windshield.

If you look at the graph you can adda trend line for poor years and one for good. Both point steeply downwards, say -30%/decade. Extrapolate to human lifetimes, and you get a 96% drop in one human lifetime. Wow.


>> You can drive your car and not wipe off your windshield

This. When I was a kid in California a quick trip in summer and it would be carnage on the window and grill. Now I can drive for hours and not get a single bug. Part of this could be increasing traffic. But it is really dramatic and scary.


Another part of this could be improved aerodynamics of cars. Maybe a larger part of the insects gets routed around the cars in a laminar flow.


Could be, but bikes on the roof of the car see a lot less carnage as well. It used to be gross, and you’d need to wash your bike after an hour on the roof, but now, not so.

There even used to be spandex covers you could out over the front of your bike on the roof rack, but I haven’t seen one in years.


Nope. Still driving the same car.


These are anecdotal, but I have the same experiences in North America of inspect splatter when I was younger versus the last decade, of which there is very little.


Different vehicles maybe? A day-long summer ride through the countryside on my motorcycle and my helmet, jacket and windscreen will be completely covered with bugs.


Has anyone considered this idea? That modern computer-modeled and wind tunnel tested cars are just dramatically more aerodynamic than the insect-killing cars of our youth?


It's very pleasant to be able to go for a whole-day bicycle trip and not get any insects in my mouth. But even if cars have grown more aerodynamic, I don't think I can thank the car manufacturers for this pleasant development.


In the 1980/90s I used to cycle everywhere as a kid. I must have done at least 10 miles a week as I lived 3 miles from my best friends. And I lived in the country.

I only ever remember swallowing an insect twice. It probably happened more, but it definitely wasn't a regular occurrence and tended to only happen on hills when you were going really fast.

Also the having to clean screen thing was a thing that happened certain years, not every single year. We used to go on trips to France that we drove to, from East England to France, 10 hours of driving, and some years it needed cleaning a lot, some it didn't.

Again, I totally realise that there definitely is something happening, but the way people are talking is that there used to be a swarm of insects every year, when that wasn't the case. It was different year to year, and it looks like 1989 in Germany was definitely a 'heavy' year and not a great baseline.


I think the reduction in aerodynamic drag mostly relates to the flow of air at the back of the car, to reduce the low pressure area.. so wouldn't change what's happening at the front too much. Also, since the 80s, improvements have been minor(?), and besides, road speeds have possibly increased, which you would expect to increase the incidence of squashed bugs.


I own an old utility car (1981) not so aerodynamic and i confirm the drop of insects on the glass in the last 20 years


My first car was a 1986 Honda CRX Si, which IIRC had a pretty low Cd of 0.31. I picked up plenty of bugs with it back then.


When I was a kid, lightning bugs filled the front yard. Now, I might see one of them if I'm lucky.


How much farmland did you drive thru as a kid vs now? I live in a small city and never get bugs on the windshield or grill. When I drive out of town and thru the surrounding farmland there are tons of them. To be fair, though, I grew up in farming country and it there used to be way more than there are now if my memory serves me. It does appear that there are fewer total insects in those areas. The farmers are getting better at controlling them, I think.


On the east coast it's the same! I don't like walking outside at my parent's house because of the crazy number of bugs but anywhere reasonably developed (like the small college town I live in) doesn't have this problem.


I live in Ireland, in the countryside. The farmers here are mostly livestock so i don't think there's much insecticide use. We used to get hundreds of bugs at kitchen window on summer evenings, the last two or three years there are not as many. Thing is, I've only been in this house a few years. The timescale is too short for it to be meaningful. It could be weather patterns, it could be that they don't get attracted to the LED bulbs as much as the old lighting we had when we moved in. The bird population does not appear to be suffering, they're everywhere you look around here, so there must be bugs to eat.

But memory is unreliable, and anecdotes are not data


Your thought about LED lighting is a good one, one which I'm ashamed to admit hadn't even crossed my mind.

It would be worth a test - an old-style incandescent on one side of the house, a contemporary LED on the other, see which one attracts more bugs!


> It would be worth a test - an old-style incandescent on one side of the house, a contemporary LED on the other, see which one attracts more bugs!

There's already a surprisingly lot of solid info on that out there [0] The gist is pretty much: Most LED don't emit UV and produce less heat, as such they are generally less attractive for flying bugs.

LED ability to change color is an extra advantage, as flying bugs prefer some colors (cool white) over others (warm yellow) and some they supposedly can't even see (red).

I've played around with what color of light to use in my office at night, where the window is pretty much always open due to heat and monitors tend to "collect" all the bugs.

Using only red light really reduces the number of bugs coming in, but then you are sitting in red light all the time, feeling like you are hunting for Red October.

[0] https://www.dodsonbros.com/led-lights-flying-insects/


I've seen maybe 3 bees this year. 2 of them just dropped in the water and would have died wouldn't I have saved them.

I remember thinking the same last year and the year before, but it gets visibly worse without question.

And yes it's not only bees


> You can go bicycling in the countryside in summer and never get any insects in your mouth.

Still happening to me every time in Germany :( That's why I usally were glasses (otherwise small flies get in my eyes).


>> Doesn't it look like the initial reading was the anomaly? Like the 1989 number is twice as big compared to 1991.

There's variation between years but a clear downward trend that leads to a significant reduction overall.

Intuitively, if that was money, someone would be pulling their hair out by the handful.


Last year when I left my kitchen window open at around this time, in a couple of hours I had dozens of flies everywhere. This year - silence. Way less birds as well. When I visit my parents that retired to a village valley without any industry, insects of all types are everywhere.


Same here. Except this year we still have snow on the ground and last year it had all melted a month ago, so that's probably why there's no insects.

Anecdotes aren't helping anything.


The insect splatter or lack thereof has been noticed by a lot of people in different countries though.


Still though, "being noticed" is not evidence of anything. Studies count, people noticing things don't.


Of course "being noticed" is evidence, if only a small amount.


There is a significant latency between an observation and scientific study, often in years.


Anecdata: growing up, all blossoming cherry trees here had hundreds or thousands of bees in them. now there are a dozen bumble bees. that is beyond 'imminent collapse' and beyond sad.

Someone send all people at Monsanto who hid the evidence to jail.


Dane here: last year, all the insects at my mom's farm were gone. No cherries, very few apples - worst harvest we've ever experienced. The buzzing is simply gone and it is chilling.

It is like being in a silent city; wrong.


The actual report that's based on largely pins the reduction on habitat loss.


There's also lots and lots of other factors at play, including other advances in agriculture. Case in point, the Eastern-European village where my parents now live. It is located in the Danubian plain, on one of the most fertile soils of this planet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernozem).

There hadn't been many investments in mechanization up until 5-10 years ago (I'm talking about my parents' village), which meant that the seasonal agricultural works were carried out by 30- or 40-year old communist-era tractors or by actual manual labor by the local people. That meant, for example, that there was usually a time interval of at least a couple of weeks between the land getting plowed and the seeding operation (not a native English speaker, too lazy to search for the exact technical terms). That in turn meant that there was a time window of at least 2-weeks for birds like crows to hunt and eat the insects and mice that the plowed terrain would "reveal" to the open air.

But, as I said, that started to change in the last 5 or so years, when, after some capital-intensive investments, the local farmers started using GPS-equipped state-of-the-art tractors which only leave a day (at most) between when the plowing and the seeding operations happen. So, that means that the crows now only have one day (at most) to hunt and eat for insects and mice, while previously they used to have at least 2 weeks. And the new tractors and combine harvesters are also a lot more efficient, as in they don't leave that much grains on the ground during harvesting (the old communist-era combines were not as efficient) which also means less food for mice and crows, which means less mice and crows, which is bad.

And there are countless other stories like these, all negative when it comes to the ecosystem that surrounds us.


The paper by Hallmann et. al. studied insect biomass in nature-protected areas in Germany over a period of 27 years. They didn't refer to "habitat loss" in their paper, but do refer to "land use" as a broader generalization describing the overall biodiversity of foliage in areas surrounding the insect traps.

They measured a number of variables during the study (different aspects of weather and climate and land use), but failed to find a single explanatory variable to match the trend they were seeing. They proposed that the cause was something they weren't measuring.

Abstract: "We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline."

Results: "There was substantial variation in trapped insect biomass between habitat clusters (see Materials and methods), with nutrient-rich grasslands, margins and wasteland containing 43% more insect biomass than nutrient-poor heathland, sandy grassland, and dunes. Yet, the annual rate of decline was similar, suggesting that the decline is not specific to certain habitat types (S5 Fig)." "On average, cover of arable land decreased, coverage of forests increased, while grassland and surface water did not change much in extent over the last three decades (S3 Fig). Overall, adding land use variables alone did not lead to a substantial improvement of the model fit..." "These interactions, which were retained in our final model (Table 4), revealed higher rates of decline where coverage of grassland was higher, while lower declines where forest and arable land coverage was higher."

Discussion: "In light of previously suggested driving mechanisms, our analysis renders two of the prime suspects, i.e. landscape [9, 18, 20] and climate change [15, 18, 21, 37], as unlikely explanatory factors for this major decline in aerial insect biomass in the investigated protected areas." "Agricultural intensification [17, 20] (e.g. pesticide usage, yearround tillage, increased use of fertilizers and frequency of agronomic measures) that we could not incorporate in our analyses, may form a plausible cause. The reserves in which the traps were placed are of limited size in this typical fragmented West-European landscape, and almost all locations (94%) are enclosed by agricultural fields. Part of the explanation could therefore be that the protected areas (serving as insect sources) are affected and drained by the agricultural fields in the broader surroundings (serving as sinks or even as ecological traps)."

i.e., they're finding that habitat type is insufficiently correlated with the observed effects, and suggesting that some other effect related to nearby agriculture is the predominant cause.

The paper is free to download and very readable: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....


The previous HN discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15502074 has lots of interesting links and anecdotes.

[E: if you ever wanted to know how data and anecdote differ, dive into that thread]


We live in the countryside. It"s scary how few bees there are this year. Everything is in bloom and usually the plants are buzzing with bees. This year you just see the occaasional bumblebee or wasp.


It is scary. The good news is that I would expect this measure to have at least some beneficial effects for other bugs.


Guess all the bugs came to my house, this year has been absolutely awful for far and its just now starting to warm up. Not really looking forward to the spider invasion this summer.

I don't get why people go crazy with poisons. I just do some minor house perimeter treatment but try to make sure it wont run off. I keep everything else natural.


We could start using more GMO products, bred to resist insects without killing them.


Most GMO products are altered to be resistant to powerful weedkillers, meaning farmers use loads more, which leaches off into rivers and destroys ecosystems. Using more of this sort of GMO is a terrible idea.


They'd still die as they can't feed off the GMO plants.


Maybe they've been catching most of the members of each species that are susceptible to the type of trap they use leaving only trap resistant specimens in the wild to breed.


Windscreen resistance and the car avoidance genes have been selected for?


I saw a few scientists on a thread in reddit point out that those numbers are misleading, as the way they collected the data was suspect and it was driven by amateurs. I didn't verify but quite a few chimed in that it wasn't a great study...


What's more worrisome is that I haven't heard of this and haven't seen it on the news, yet I've seen reports on Kim Kardashian's fragrance bottle being shaped like her and Kanye private texts with John Legend about Trump. And these are on so-called "news" stations, it just blows my mind....


A paranoid person might conclude that there's an industrial scale effort to distract the population from any issue that might be even tangentially related to their real interests; e.g. their survival and that of their children.


A more paranoid person might conclude humans are easy to be distracted by short-term entertainment/profit and handle long-term threats very poorly. It's not like climate change, mass extinctions, and environmental damage are unheard of - the vast majority of people have heard, but just don't care in ways that would make a significant difference. I'm doubtless among them even as I complain about it.


What would such a person consider to be the motivation of the people involved in such "an industrial scale effort"? Are the deceiver's real interests somehow not threatened? Are they literally not human? Or are they protected somehow from the issues that will kill everyone else?


It was on national news... for like a day.

Most people seem to know about it but not how serious it is.


Its not actionable either I think. Or What would you have done? Voted differently? Started an argument on reddit or here? Write an app? Whats the impact of that.


Well you could plant more flowers in your garden, or any other place like that you have access to. Its not much but if enough people do it, it can get people aware of this issue and help build political will. You know “grass roots” movement.

I just heard this in a recent TED podcast that this is what some people were doing :)


My mom did that a coupple of years ago, she took a big chunk of where formally only was gras which my dad cut often and has sown flowers there. Tons of insects came by, I have a coupple of pictures from back then on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeena/albums/72157634192672920


The sentiment is appreciated and I doubt its impact on anything is measurable at all.


Don't just speculate!

http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature21709

It had a measurable impact when planting "wild"flowers on 2% of the land alongside English fields, with a little more searching there's probably a study on gardens.

(From the paper: "Here we show that the survival of family lineages from the summer worker to the spring queen stage in the following year increases significantly with the proportion of high-value foraging habitat, including spring floral resources, within 250–1,000 m of the natal colony.")

However, the jury's out on "insect hotels": http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....


You can vote with your wallet and support financially entities that care about it, choosing the products you buy. You can eat less meat, hence require less crop for your food and so less insecticides. You can teach your children to do so, and also to not consider insect as something to fear and systematically eliminate, but something to live with.


And you can eat organically-grown food as much as possible.


Build an insect hotel, plant some suitable flowers, take care of your immediate environment. The impact may be small, but it quickly visible to you and that is nice, at least.


I'm a city man and have no suitable land so no to that.

> but it quickly visible to you Definitely measurable in that it gives them more options which is probably better for them with proper care.

Doesn't have impact on the main problem though.


You don't need much land at all to plant a bee garden. You actually don't even have to have land.

We've got a little wildflower patch, maybe six square feet. Was covered in all kinds of bees & insects last summer.


Of course you can do something. Buy organic. Support local beekeepers. I'm turning my lawn into a wildflower meadow.


Voting differently would be the obvious one. This sort of thing’s very much political.


How does said party know why a specific voter voted for them, what their mandate is?


You have to let them know. Write and call your representatives.


My lobbying budget is quite small compared to others.


Politicians are quite worried about what the public want. If a bunch of constituents ask about this, the question may end up in an internal poll, and so on... Lobbying is an important source of funds for politicians, but it’s not everything.

Obvious recent example in the US; the dramatic shift in Democratic Party support for single-player as it became clear that that was something that constituents were extremely concerned with. Obviously that’s a big issue. But this can happen with smaller issues, too.

Right now, your representatives don’t know what’s important to you. Telling them will at worst do nothing, and may well help.


(Regarding a generic "you":)

If you've called your representatives, you gain my sympathy and concern.

If you've assumed ten minutes a month isn't worth it, these arguments are not persuasive.


And what impact does THAT have on anything exactly?

I thought of a thing that might have at least a little.

edit: I know I strode a little from the mandate part cause mandates may differ in relative importance for everyone.


Perhaps I'm not following your intention. I saw:

Person A: voting helps

You: How do they know why you're voting on this?

Person B: You have to tell them

You: But others spend more money and thus count for more

Me: That's an excuse unless you've actually tried it (and if you have, yeah, that sucks)

If I misread, my apologies - based on on your response it appears I have.


Its a good summary!

I didn't make the connection "these arguments are not persuasive" => "its an excuse" and rather read the part as "not persuaded by the argument" and so I tried to clarify.

(Didn't look so good did it:) Thanks for taking the time to clarify ergothus.


This article was on the front page of The Guardian for much of yesterday, and is the fourth on the subject so far this year. They had something like 20 articles last year[1], it would be very difficult to miss.

(I was about to praise them for not writing more about the latest celebrity baby, but they have, damn them. I was trying to go as long as possible without learning his name, and there it is in the "most read" section.)

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bees


> I've seen reports on Kim Kardashian's fragrance bottle being shaped like her and Kanye private texts with John Legend about Trump

As a start, I'd encourage you to choose different news sources, because I've no idea what you're referring to here and your comment on HN is the first I've seen of it (and thanks for that).

I'm not being facile here; we need more people to stop consuming pop-culture "news" as a good first step towards solving important and difficult problems. Media will report on the subjects that people read, watch, and talk about. So, avoid the garbage.



Any idea where that is?


East London: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/03/save-the-bees-mural-pr...

(The building and wall looked very British to my British eyes, but a Google image search by the URL brought that article straight up.)


From a family of hive owners: Not sure this will have any sort of meaningful impact except raise prices elsewhere... It's a grand gesture, but the science just isn't there. The real problems are mites, which we do not have any sort of effective treatment for, and decreased biodiversity as African bees continue to push into North America.


What would convince you that neonicotinoids kill bees? A study recently done at Purdue University perhaps?[1]

Pesticides are absurdly politicized. The amount of ridicule and PR flak pesticide critics get is insane.

[1] http://pollinatorstewardship.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/...


What is it that you think that Purdue study says? It doesn't contradict anything that the parent comment said. Their comment seems like a pretty straightforward recitation of the situation in the US: feral honey bees --- an introduced, non-native species --- were eradicated by the Varroa destructor mite, decades ago.


I don’t dispute that the spray kills bees. Honey bee numbers are so high here that the numbers are causing problems (decreased honey harvests, disease outbreaks and worker shortages). Honey bees are not in decline her in New Zealand.


Does New Zealand have a smaller percentage of farmland or even cultivated land in general than Europe? Maybe there is less pesticide usage per area?


I would guess so. Particularly important for the honey industry here is regenerating bush, as the quick growing manuka supplies the bees with the nectar for the lucrative honey. The use of neonicatinoids is quite heavily regulated though traces do appear in honey. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objecti...

The other interesting development is the use of Fipronil to kill wasps. The usage has really helped but you’d have to wonder about having more of it in the environment.


Indeed, so sad, because as things become politcal, it goes from science to pop culture, and lies become truths because they are repeated so often.

Thanks for the link to the study. I had not read that one yet. To give a counterpoint, this article on slate I thought was very convincing in the other direction: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/201...


>>The data were rife with other contradictions. Worker bees and drones in Britain struggled to survive the winter, but the same variety of wild bees increased in Germany. Egg production also increased in Germany but fell in Hungary.

It seems a lot of bee studies only look at honey bees, but there are some 4,000 types of native bees in North America, some of which are better pollinators then the non-native European honey bee and secrete silk instead of honey. Yet our urban spaces don't do a great job of providing good habitats for native species to thrive. So that's a least part of the solution to the bee problem, not just banning a pesticide.

I could go on but just check out this great SciFri episode on this topic: https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/beyond-the-hive-the-w.... And do your part by supporting your local, native bee species.


Varroa are the big problem for /honey bees/. Honey bees are not the most significant pollinators (they’re technically fairly innefficient pollinators compared to other bees - bumble, carpenter etc)

The vast majority of pollination is via non-bee insects, but just reducing the destruction of wild bees will help at least.

As for mite treatment you may want to look into oxalic acid, although it’s not technically approved for use in hives (despite being less harmful than regular mite pads)


This recently popped up on HN which is extremely promising: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-19137-5


Regulations vary. Oxalic acid and formic acid are allowed and commonly used in Sweden, for example. We can also use thyme based extracts. We prefer cutting out drones, but we find it is not sufficient in our hives, so we complement with the other methods as required.


In california at least oxalic acid is not allowed, so you can only use the formic pads/strips. That said oxalic acid is "wood bleach" and i have heard multiple tales of keeper "cleaning their frames in situ"


It rusts out the metal and isn’t great for the beekeeper either. It’s seeming like a good alternative in the face of mite resistance to the synthetic treatments though. The Randy Oliver Method is with OA doused strips is gaining traction. http://scientificbeekeeping.com/tag/maqs-strips/


Have you tried open-bottomed hives? The mites that get groomed off the bees fall to the ground where they're vulnerable to predators and can't crawl back up to the top of the hive to re-infest the bees. Supposedly solves the problem. I confess I have not tried it myself yet, but I'm still learning, working on a very small scale in a very benign climate and have not yet experienced any significant mite problems, so ymm(likely)v.


It helps, but you have to treat too where I am. Your bees over there have a degree more tolerance to the mites than ours as they are relatively new here in New Zealand.


There hasn't actually been any conclusive proof that open bottomed hives help at all


There is evidence that about 20% of mites fall off as they emerge, and they supposedly can’t get back in if they fall out the hive. That claim comes from Mark Goodwin and Michelle Taylor (Control of Varroa, revised and reprinted 2013). That said, they don’t make any comment of the effect this has on hive health. A potentially better argument for the open style of floor is the additional ventilation. Where I am gets something like 1125mm of rain a year, which is quite a bit. Keeping the hive ventilated is an additional benefit.

A third reason is that the bases I’ve got are so nice to use, and cost no more than the older style wooden type.

https://www.ecrotek.co.nz/product/hive-doctor-semi-vented-bo...


Oh boo, varroa got to NZ? :(


Oh yes. And like everywhere they go they have caused havoc and spread disease. It’s very sad.


Nice! We have very rough winters in Kansas (driving, persistent wind and no humidity), so it won't work year round, but it may work for our summers


Are the hives outside during the winter? Maybe something like a greenhouse could help?


You may want to look into Paul Stamets’ research into this. He’s the mushroom guy, and he’s doing a pilot study with beekeepers, giving bees diluted extracts from certain kinds of mycelium. As of the last talk I heard him give about it, none of those colonies have collapsed.

There’s a whole 20-year story that led to him testing this, starting with noticing when his bees spent a few days pushing wood chips aside to get at Garden Giant mycelium and licking it, which puzzled him.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2017/06/05/can-a-...


Honey bee numbers are the highest they have ever been here in New Zealand. The numbers are so great that honey takes per hive are decreasing and disease levels are high. Despite the diseases, honey bees are doing just fine. The bit that matters more though, is that native bees are struggling. http://www.afb.org.nz/beekeeping-in-nz


Do you have an opinion on the treatment-free option? The idea that you can adapt the bees through selection to make them resistant enough to mites seems interesting and there are quite a few success stories. Probably none on a large commercial scale though.


There are actually a few such programs going on in America. I’m aware of strains where the bees bite off the limbs of mites, and some that are more aggressive towards them.

There is at least want breeder that has managed to get queens that seem to result in mite free hives

(Edit to clarify: resistance to mites isn’t really the problem - the problem is that the mites are very effective at spread more or less all viruses that harm bees, and the feed on the larvae just for good measure. Basically you want bees that actively fight infestation so that they don’t have to become resistant to every single disease)


The consensus in the scientific community is that resistant breeds are the real solution, the question is what to do until then. Every apiculture research group has at least some people working on varroa resistant breeds, and questions like whether local breeds (in Europe) are better suited to combat varroa themselves.

The whole 'no treatment' controversy is about beekeepers who treat and those who don't in the same area. On the one hand, there are those who treat and create weak colonies, on the other there are the non-treaters who might infect those weak colonies. It's sometimes bitter.


I've seen how healthy the bee populations are at the wineries around Cape Town. The Africanized bee seems to handle the varroa mites quite well and also somehow seems unaffected by widespread neonicotinoid use.


> into North America

The article is about Europe.


there has been a very positive perspective in mite treatment with a simple lithium salt. have no reference at hand, but it should come up with a google search. correct dosage still has to be researched, but it all looked very promising.


Also ants and robbing behaviors. Mites and ants cover the overwhelming majority of hive loss that I have personally witnessed (non-commercial, of course, and in SoCal).

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