> tests conducted by Oxitec prior to the experiment suggested that around 3 to 4 percent of F1 offspring would survive into adulthood, but it was presumed these lingering mosquitoes would be too weak to reproduce, rendering them infertile. These predictions, as the new research shows, were wrong … portions of the genome from the transgenic strain had “incorporated into the target population,” ... anywhere from 10 to 60 percent of mosquitoes analyzed featured genomes tainted by OX513A … the Oxitec scheme worked at first, resulting in a dramatic reduction in the size of the mosquito population. But at the 18-month mark, the population began to recover, returning to nearly pre-release levels. According to the paper, this was on account of a phenomenon known as “mating discrimination,” in which females of the native species began to avoid mating with modified males.
We may dislike mosquitos, but there are MANY critters out there that thrive on eating their larvae or their adults.
Just as humans have decimated the Monarch Butterfly's food/mating/hatching grounds (Monarch's almost exclusively rely on MilkWeed as a food and laying/hatching of their eggs. This "weed" grew from south america all the way through northern america, which is where the multi-generational-migration path of Monarchs occurs. By killing off MilkWeed with pesticides, as Humans don't find it an aesthetically pleasing plant, effectively destroyed the biological support infrastructure used for eons by the Monarch for their mass migrations up the corridor from Mexico north.
So - Sure, we don't like mosquitos, but I would not trust that we understand the true, long-term impact of eradicating them just yet.
Previous eradication efforts used pesticides and impacts all mosquito species and lots of other creatures, as well. Using genetic targeting like this is much lower impact. The main question is whether it will be effective.
This claim is magical thinking and, most probably, false (And is not difficult to see the obvious plot hole there).
I understand your argument, but at some point you have to say "I'm human, I care primarily about humans, I will do what it takes to help humans." At some point we get pragmatic, selfish, and we declare something our mortal enemy. I'd say the largest killer of human beings by orders of magnitude best qualifies. I say if we can eradicate mosquitoes that feed on humans we should do it.
The good news is that the plethora of ecosystems and niches in them that are filled and supported by mosquitoes is so rich with pathways that it is highly unlikely to cascade badly if they were eradicated. Particularly, we only target mosquito species that are disease vectors for human beings, and there are many many more mosquito species that target other animals or are not disease vectors for humans that those niches may very well be filled by other species of mosquitoes.
She's been ranting about genetically modified mosquitos for as long as I know her, claiming it cannot and never will work, mainly because mosquitos have an insane amount of offspring and a very short lifespan.
They adapt so, so, so quickly.
A male mosquito lives a week, a female mosquito a few months at best, and they produce 300-600 eggs per female mosquito on average. Can you imagine the exponential growth and recovery rates of these animals? It's like sharing your grandmother with 45000 cousins, and each of your grandmother's 299 siblings has 45000 grandchildren as well. It's a big family very quickly.
There are stories of countries who tried to eradicate mosquitos and reduced the mosquito population to 1% of what it originally was, only to jump back to 100% within two years (or so, my memory is hazy) after the program stopped because politicians had declared the program a success.
Mosquitos man. I'm not sure we'll ever get rid of them. They will probably outlive us.
Some years are different than other. Last five years were particularly hot and 2020 was the hottest year registered.
Not to mention the wildfires, or the speeding deliberate destruction of the rainforest in the last four years.
Removing trees will remove the rainclouds created by those same trees, and removing the rain means that the place will dry and eventually become arid. Not surprises here.
In both cases we can expect some effect on an animal that breeds on temporary rain pools and lagoons.
Thus, the alleged effect of modified mosquitoes can be zero, or much lower than we think. This effect will be temporary, because mosquitoes are facing similar problems and dry spells for millions of years and they still somehow survived.
> In 1973, the Pan American Health Organization again declared that Brazil was Aedes-free. The second official eradication period did not last long. In 1976 and 1977, A. aegypti was found in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Bahia, and then in nearly all the Brazilian states.
So, at least three years in their case. Seems you need to eradicate the mosquito from all the neighboring countries as well, otherwise they'll just fly in and fill the void. If you're interested in what they did to declare Brazil Aedes-free (twice), the full article is worth a read:
It's good to know that my intuition was correct and the field is basically over-promising to local authorities so they can effectively conduct funded genetic experiments in the wild...
Oh, wait a minute... No I'm not... That's a f*ing disaster waiting to happen.
Also I’ve been reading up on how Gene Drives work, it’s very interesting but I’ll just leave the Wikipedia page here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_drive
One of the biggest limits is weather and climate. Mosquitos don't exist here in New England for half the year, but if we increase the temperature by 2 C, we'll probably be facing them for 7-8 months and they'll rebound harder and faster.
Mosquitoes are a key species, that feed in turn thousands of other animals: fishes, spiders, predatory flies, bugs, bats, frogs, birds, shrews... etc and suffer heavy loses by that. And they are also pollinators. Mosquitoes are connected with everything and will support everything.
So messing with them is notoriously dangerous. Playing football with a nuclear bomb would be safer probably.
Loss of habitat, for example.
Now I'm getting worried that some ancient space-ring turns up
What we need is a gene bomb. Create a gene that makes mosquitos more resistant to gene attacks, but 10 generations later creates infertility. Spend 10 generations dropping gene attacks to ensure those bomb'd mosquitos proliferate and reproduce.
Still, you'll never get all of them.
And yes it can be combined with a generational ticking time-bomb.
But that's a bigger ask than you'd think. Stuff moves around, on its own, and often, on humans and human artefacts. Like for example, mosquitoes breeding in a puddle on a boat.
This is basically a worry people have about gene drives, that they will jump from places where they are wanted, to wild populations that are doing nobody any harm, and eradicate whole species.
However, the concerns about the critical publication are due to the very broad conclusions it makes. But the mere facts of:
- lasting genetic contamination of the mosquito population
- failure to erradicate the Aedes aegypti in Brazil
> According to Oxitec, the “OX513A self-limiting gene does not persist in the environment,” and that the “limited 3-5% survival of the OX513A strain means that, within a few generations, these introduced genes are completely eliminated from the environment.”
That is about the self-limiting gene. How about the other genes?
Why would the females choose the sexy Cuban mosquitoes? I always wonder this.
Maybe they sing better songs with its wings.
Or maybe, because being genetically different is attractive for females. The bigger the genetic mix, the more healthy, disease free and stronger the offspring.
Or maybe they aren't choosing and just have a random brief encounters with as many males as possible. This is a question for an entomologist, but I would not expect mosquitoes behaving as humans in a prom necessarily.
It's really easy to anthropomorphize the mosquitoes or to anthropomorphize natural selection; we shouldn't ascribe that kind of agency to them.
Instead, reason about the consequences that we observe after the fact: perhaps the modified male mosquitoes are drawn from a different population than the local, unmodified males, and the groups have slightly different colorings. A random group of females might prefer the modified color, a different group might have no preference, and a different group might prefer the local color. After a few generations, the latter group will dominate.
That's not because the female mosquitoes or Mother Nature made any kind of effort to find mates with good genetic material. No such agency was present in the process. Instead, those random behaviors that incidentally resulted in selecting good mates were more likely to be passed down.
Of course they can, you don't need to sequence DNA to get an idea of genetic affinity, you have the phenotype.
I don't know about mosquitoes, but all higher animals obviously judge mates on genetics (based on the phenotype).
you're kidding. I mean to people of course all mosquito look the same. It is a top of anthropocentrism though to think that mosquito would not differentiate. The basis of selection is "best fit" (to bring in and/or bring up new generation), and the weakness to the point of infertility is naturally selected out very quickly.
Evolution quickly selects against reproduction or immediate survival failure, but this modification leads to successful male offspring which makes the scenario trickier.
Unless the modified mosquitoes are handicapped by something, they will be selected just like any other, as best fit metrics are superficial. Humans wouldn't be able to detect that a specific partner could only have male offspring unless it brought along visual defects.
If the population survives for many generations with a significant population of defect males, if there is a physical characteristic in the defect males, and if that can be detected by a mutation present in some females - the UV marker maybe? - then the female population should slowly be replaced by ones that select against the defective male. That's a lot of ifs though.
Theorizing is great. But once there is evidence the reaction needs to be to adjust the theory instead of arguing away the effects that have been observed since they are inconsistent with the theory. "You're getting it backwards" is exactly that.
Mating discrimination is real, but redefining "attractive" mates isn't just a single mutation that is implied in survivors like regular "survival of the fittest".
Redefining behavior of a specifies is a hell of a lot more complicated, especially if it's not just a simple matter of making presence of a certain smell a turn-off.
> Theorizing is great.
And all we can do for a few years until we get the most recent results, all we can do to interpret them, and all we can do to iterate on them.
There is actually evidence to the contrary of your position. The grandparent post mentions mating discrimination.
I don’t think it’s weird to assume mosquitoes won’t be able to tell the difference. It turns out that was wrong, I hope it’s taken into account in this experiment.
“A fluorescent marker gene that glows under a special red light. This allows researchers to identify GM mosquitoes from wild mosquitoes.”
To fight against evolutionary pressure is a stupid idea. What could possibly go wrong?
This is why we look both ways when we cross a one-way street.
The weak point in this case is that this happened initially in Brazil (below average on: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-corr...), and now in Florida.
Although I 'trust' US, I cannot forget of the legalized bribing called "Lobbying". When $bn roll, politicians roll over. USA is also missing from the above list.
In this specific case, in the worst case, an aerial mosquito spraying plane can fix this in a couple of days, killing majority of insects in the area (even the beneficial ones) and the 'damage' is contained. It's not like they will evolve to become "Mimic" (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119675/) within a couple of weeks.
The article says nothing about the technology Oxitec uses. I checked, and as suspeced, they use a "gene drive" or a "mutagenic chain reaction"
This is a very smart technology that was invented and does not exists in nature to my best knowledge. So you throw this unique genetic mechanism not against the mosquitos, but in fact you have evolutionary pressure against you. In the best case, they become resistant, in the worst case you end up with total other effects in total other organism that acquired this mechanism.
An nuclear bomb explosion is limited in location and time. This genetic mechanism, once released, is potentially unlimited in location and time. So serious question, what could possibly go wrong?
> Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.
Just make your points the best that you can, and you'll avoid downvotes about spending half your comment talking about downvotes or attacking "the education and intelligence of the average HN Reader."
That's the whole point. Scientists have to build in "rent-seeking" properties into the "solution" so that the company can make money in perpetuity.
Nobody is interested in solving mosquito problem once and for all.
Because modified males can't have offspring down the line, only females who mate unmodified males produce offspring, selecting for females who would mate with such. This might even hurt a company selling such a solution, because if they released a second batch, nobody would mate with them.
Obviously this only works if modified males show any external characteristics.
But even without all that, at some point the modified populace is going to die off, since that was the point, leaving only unmodified ones, before finally recovering.
Therefore, offsprings of unmodified mosquitos have twice the chance to reproduce, as both males and females can reproduce and both will yield unmodified males and females. I wouldn't know the rate, but even if slowly, unmodified strain will come back, unless extinct.
There need be no female preference for this to happen, but of course if they evolve to detect modified males it would accelerate the rate which modified mosquitos get extinct.
Nitpick: That's not what science is about. You are talking about engineering.
Science is a knowledge-seeking endeavor. Observe, build a theory, run experiments to refute or refine your theory.
Engineering is a constructive endeavor. Using knowledge acquired from science (see above), build something that solves a practical problem.
In 1958 the Four Pests Campaign called for the elimination of four pests, one of which was the sparrow. Sparrows were accused of consuming grain and as a result were targeted for elimination. A popular sparrow hunting campaign led to the near extinction of the Eurasian tree sparrow in China.
Shortly afterwards locust populations boomed, now missing one of their principle predators. The "smash sparrows campaign" is credited with worsening the Great Chinese Famine, which saw somewhere between 15 and 55 million people die.
The people who smashed sparrows believed it was correct just as surely as we believe anything today.
> ...suppressing populations of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can carry diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
> Aedes aegypti makes up about 4% of the mosquito population in the Keys, a chain of tropical islands off the southern tip of Florida. But it is responsible for practically all mosquito-borne disease transmitted to humans in the region
It's a disaster. Like always when humans intervene in key larts of the ecosystem and totally screw up the network effects.
Another story showing the vast effects of such interventions is the story of the wolf in Yellowstone.
"Nature" is nothing but the fragile status quo of a system in constant flux.
Natures status quo tends to be quite robust absent discontinuous changes. If one season there was a bit less rain, population sizes adjust and everything keeps working. A bit warmer, a bit windier, etc, continuous effects are dealt with in some robust manner.
Only when there are discontinuous changes then dramatic things happening. A meteor impact is such an event, some island gets reachable and suddenly flooded by some species, this kind of thing. But in nature such events are rare. Humans introduce such event all the time. Instead of an island getting reachable, we drive between them with boats or bring animals as pets or plant some nice flower from a different continent that gets invasive. Or modify genes or burn up millions of tons of coal.
We humans introduce those events at a massive scale, which is an entirely different quality than random changes in nature.
The selfish human decision to eradicate nuisances is just as random as the selfish decision of a predator to find new lands and drive local animals to extinction.
Most of our our eradication is not intentional, usually just hunting or eating a species out of existence. We are just dumb predators doing what successful predators do.
> We humans introduce those events at a massive scale, which is an entirely different quality than random changes in nature.
In the face of ice ages, our eradication attempts are no more impressive than a child killing ants in their backyard. The only thing in this regard that is truly impressive is our delusions of grandeur.
Granted, we gain little from messing with nature, but our attempts to maintain the status quo is guaranteed to fail. Nature is the furthest from a constant as one could possibly get, and species and ecosystem are ephemeral at best.
We don't just do this the way other predators do, by killing them to eat them. No, most of them are "mistakes" because we don't care.
 - and for that matter, an estimate for eradication caused by other species for comparison.
(A good counter here would ask me the same for ice age extinction counts.)
> We don't just do this the way other predators do, by killing them to eat them.
Predators kill for food, fun and frustration.
Any outdoor cat owner would be able to tell you that predators don't kill to eat, as they clean up the daily lot of dismembered birds and rodents in their garden.
> No, most of them are "mistakes" because we don't care.
You think not caring about what we kill is a unique property to us?
We were randomly created though, right?
The larger concern is that mosquitoes bred by the same company are reaching adulthood and breeding new generations in greater numbers than projected
Therefore, offsprings of unmodified mosquitos have twice the chance to reproduce, as both males and females can reproduce and both will yield unmodified males and females. I wouldn't know the rate, but even if slowly, unmodified strain will come back, unless it is overwhelmed first. In which case both are extinct and unmodified can come back imported from other countries.
There need be no female preference for this to happen, but of course if they evolve to detect modified males it would accelerate the rate which modified mosquitos get extinct. So, even if there damage from the experiment to the ecosystem, it would self heal in this case. (and apparently no major side-effect happened in Brazil)
Edit: my understanding, I'm not even from this area
Hopefully people doing large scale interventions have better models than 'wiping <species>'.
aedes aegypti = 4% of the mosquitoes in this region. Eliminating aedes aegypti (an introduced, invasive species) eliminates 4% of the mosquitoes in the region. The food chain still has 96% of the mosquitoes available.
There is just a difference in those two things.
So were the people who thought the earth was flat.
>Aedes aegypti this, Aedes aegypti that...
To those with these kinds of rebuttals to the parent, please understand: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Unknown unknowns lie ahead, and you cannot predict the outcome with even a modicum of certainty.
I don't think novelty is the problem here. Humans have a genuinely terrible track record of ecosystem engineering. Unintended consequences are pretty common.
Unintended consequences are the norm. Most discoveries were a product of them. We're just good at hiding the fact and convincing ourselves that it was all planned in advance as part of our genius. But it's all chaos.
On the other hand, these are males whose female offspring are designed to die. If they were regular male mosquitoes their female offspring would have the same survival rate as males.
So the bad scenario is the female offspring survive as normal. The super bad scenario is they only beget female mosquitoes I guess. Yes that would be worse.
Mosquitoes are buggers though.
Or what about this: they go extinct/away and it turns out there was some predator that now doesn't get food anymore and is decimated while their competition gets now out of hand? Next pest please.
lol, I like your framing of that. I can just picture the headlines:
HUMANITY TO BE ERADICATED!!!!!
Also, condom sales fall
...which is obviously a very sensible approach.
Denominator blindness leads to people assessing risk solely based on how vividly they can recall failures. Which in turn leads to all sorts of irrational fears and behaviors.
I'd be more worried with nanomachines trained to consume carbon molecules to clean up oil from the ocean which started to eat all organic matter because of a Friday deploy bug.
When you jump out of a plane, you don’t just say “99.999% of people survived this before, so I’ll probably be fine”, you carefully triple-check your gear, and you abort if you get a gut feeling something isn’t right.
Poverty is real, and people fear being poor for good reasons. Losing millions each year because an idiot released a toad, a rabbit, a starling or a snail is a real fear in the real world. People can choose not to see it or to laugh about it, but they will still must to pay, as their grandpas did, and their grandsons will do.
Messing with mammals is a thing. Messing with insects, bacteria or virus is a totally new level.
<<They found that some of the genes from the genetically modified mosquitoes had transferred to the native population. In other words, some of the offspring had survived and were strong enough to reproduce. This new population is a hybrid of Brazilian mosquitoes and the genetically modified mosquitoes that were created from strains in Cuba and Mexico, according to the study, which was published Sept. 10 in the journal Scientific Reports.
"The claim was that genes from the release strain would not get into the general population because offspring would die," senior author Jeffrey Powell, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, said in a statement. "That obviously was not what happened." >>
So we are not really sure that this company knows what they are doing.
See also : https://twitter.com/vtchakarova/status/1297275503267713028?s...
What’s the issue?
<<But it is the unanticipated outcome that is concerning," Powell added.
In fact, the genes that were passed on weren't the tweaked genes that were designed to kill and tag the mosquitoes but rather genes from the strains in Cuba and Mexico, according to Science magazine. The researchers also noted that this mixing of genes might have led to a "more robust population," perhaps one that would be better able to resist insecticides or transmit diseases, Science magazine reported. >> https://www.livescience.com/genetically-modified-mosquitoes-...
In other words, something they didn’t expect happened.
What else will happen that they did not expect?
Here's a rare case of a species that there is very good reason to deliberately get rid of, and suddenly people care and object, a lot!?
Of course there's justifiable skepticism and a long, sorry history of unintended consequences of introducing, eradicating or in any way modifying a species or its behavior, but seriously, read up on it, this is not one of those species, pretty much everyone who knows anything about it (including otherwise very environmentally minded people who as a rule would never, ever agree with deliberately eradicating anything) agrees it can be eradicated with no meaningful impact on the ecosystem. (and yes, that includes even the armchair criticism from cynical misanthropes who consider human deaths resulting from this species a good thing "because humans are bad for the environment" - while these mosquitoes do cause a lot of human deaths, the environmental "benefit" of those deaths are completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things)
I don't mean to claim that this is always bad or inappropriate. Just that it's the in thing to do these days.
Two ideas can be perfectly valid at the same time, even if they conflict on some points, and the ideas likely exist on a spectrum of possible views with neither Team A or Team B truly being at the logical conclusion of their ideologies.
Likewise, it's perfectly valid to know something is good for the environment on paper, yet still "feel" like it's the wrong thing. Humans are not calculators, and whether or not you'll get the right outcome from going by your feelings, you're fully entitled to them all the same.
What’s so extreme about disagreeing with releasing genetically modified organisms into the wild? Even if a person believed that some combination of both options should be done instead, that person would still, by the end of the day, decide to disagree with releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in the wild as it is currently being done precisely because it is not how they believe it should be done. The extremists-fighting-over-false-dichotomies narrative is honestly so tired and lazy, IMO.
Only in the narrowest sense.
Another valid response is "you can't do this as-is, but if you make changes X, Y and Z then you can."
Or "do more experiments with captive populations first."
Or "do this in an area where it's less likely to cause unexpected side effects (eg an unpopulated island somewhere)"
Or "use a different set of genes or tweaks"
It's pretty rare that the _only_ possible choices are to do this _one exact thing_, or do nothing at all.
You may think it’s narrow, but whenever you can decide between yes or no on an action all arguments considered, that could just mean that the action itself is clear and specific, as in this case.
I completely disagree with you sir!
"I'd like to have an argument, please."
I wish I could pin down the reasoning to explain why I feel this is wrong, but intuition is the only thing I have to go on, even as heavily discounted that is in this day and age.
Mosquitos are horrible little devils, and we swat every one we can and destroy their habitats when we find them. Glad to see you at least have a seed of skepticism in you. Humans are notoriously bad at playing god.
You can look at any metric of human wellbeing over the past 1000 years and the results are dramatic.
Take child mortality for example. In the 18th century, the average family suffered the deaths of 3-4 of their children before they reached adulthood.
Then, from 1800 to 1950, global childhood mortality dropped from 43% to 22%.
Accelerating further, from 1950 to 2015, global child mortality dropped again by nearly 5X to just 4.5%. And it's still going down. 
The reasons for this are numerous. Reductions in famine through agriculture, beating disease with medicine, reducing War through economic interdependency, expanding education and access to information through digital technology, etc. While we make mistakes in the short term , in the long term, we tend to get stuff right.
The problem is, we're also really good at getting distracted by bad news stories while missing the big picture. And we LOVE the idea of humans being the cause of the end of the world for some reason. It's the basis of most of our religions.
Of course, the arc of progress is paved with setbacks. But before getting pessimistic and cynical because you read some bad news stories, it pays to zoom out a little.
 - https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality#:~:text=Across%20....
I am not ungrateful for our current actualization. Getting here took (and continues to take) tremendous sacrifice.
I really think you give humans too much credit here. The world has been here for billions of years, and will be here for billions more. Even if we bombed ourselves to extinction, in another million years there'd be little more to mark our passing than some fossils and a few hunks of concrete.
BUT the spirit is:
>we are the only thing on the planet capable of causing the end of the world, such as it is.
Meaning, we are the only thing on the planet capable of willingly causing our own extinction. This, for all intents and purposes, is the end of the world. World, again, in this context refers to humans and the human experiment.
I don't get the argument that "oh, you mean the death of all humans, the planet will be fine". How is that better? We still all die.
But I think gp meant the end of the world as the end of survivable conditions for humans. Nobody cares if the planet is still here after we are gone.
To my knowledge the track record of things we've improved for humans will be much longer... so I'm not sure that's a great comparison to make here!
The sun will destroy earth in 2-5 billion years. But before then, an asteroid will likely destroy all most/all life on earth in the next couple hundred million years or so. And before that, a super volcano will likely destroy most/all of the animal and plant life on earth.
Assuming human technology advances fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change and MAD succeeds at keeping us from destroying the earth ourselves , we're the only species that has a shot at making any "not-human-centric ecosystem" survive beyond earth.
(ignoring any life that may exist outside our solar system)
Of course, 22 Billion years from now the entire universe might die and kill everything anyways, but we may end up giving Bambi & friends a few billion years of existence they wouldn't have otherwise had. So I'd call that a net gain.
Maybe we should focus on the pressing and critical issues instead of worsening them in the hope that a distant event could justify our suicidal behavior.
But if this modern narrative of "We've angered the gods!" makes you feel good, I'm not sure anything I can say will refute your certainty about our coming doom.
One can also see some good signs when injective palliative drugs into a dying organism.
People acting like climate change is some ending event always seem to utterly discount human ingenuity to overcome problems throughout history.
The real issue with effective problem solving is make sure you are solving the right problems.
"A new study reports continued climate-altering carbon emissions and intensive land use have inadvertently greened half of the Earth’s vegetated lands. Green leaves convert sunlight to sugars, thus providing food, fiber and fuel, while replacing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air with water. The removal of heat-trapping CO2 and wetting of air cools the Earth’s surface. Global greening since the early 1980s may have thus reduced global warming, possibly by as much as 0.25oC, reports the study “Characteristics, drivers and feedbacks of global greening” published in the inaugural issue of the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment. Two of the authors, Dr. Jarle W. Bjerke and Dr. Hans Tømmervik works at Norwegian Institute for Nature Research at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway."
Is plastic waste good or bad for the environment? Is more forestation a gain or a loss?
Such question cannot be answered without factoring in a human perspective. (Or some conscious things’ perspective, but either way, “the environment” has no perspective as it has no goal or objective)
And even if not, absent humans ever existing, the destruction of all life on earth is still a statistical certainty due to the fragility of earth.
So, thinking long term again, we're the only shot life as we know it has at outliving this place.
We may destroy earth ourselves before then, but I think the will-they-or-won't-they technological race against time will be more entertaining than if we went back to hunter-gatherer society and waited a few million years for the next asteroid to inevitably end us, no?
People have been saying this since the 18th Century, and yet we continue to find ways to support our growing population. There’s enormous swathes of the Earth that remain untouched and unused—the carrying capacity of the planet is much higher than our current population level.
What resources? Pick any resource... fossil water, topsoil, fish, oil, etc. It's the same situation no matter what resource you pick. Plus, we have built a dependency on many non-renewable resources.
By that definition, we are already beyond carrying capacity.
Every population that grows exponentially will double over a period of time. The last doubling that starves everyone off has 50% of available resources left.
How fast does humanity double?
1950: 2.5 billion
1986: 5.0 billion
2017: 7.5 billion
2050: 10 billion
Spreading shit like "you are about to starve in a few decades" is dangerous, as it also gives the wrong idea of some very real resource concerns.
The real danger is preserving and defending the irrationality behind the status quo.
While rational people care about the environment, irrational self-centered people celebrate Burning Man, travel around the world for conferences that could be done online and buy thousands of single use plastic items for Halloween only to throw them away the next day.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. In that order. Take the environment into consideration when making decisions.
Everyone knows what they have to do. Fucking do it.
No more fucking unjustified air travel (is your family dying? no? then don't fucking travel), excessive packaging, single use plastics for non medical reasons, stupid events that can be done online, no more snail mail spam. No more bullshit.
Did you travel to an exotic destination this year? I don't fucking care. I do care about the environment though.
Send polluters to jail, ruin them economically, shame the fuck out of them. Your value as perceived by society should not be how much you pollute or help destroy the environment.
Fuck marketing, fuck buying shit you do not need, fuck the narcissism and vanity. Live within fucking environmental budgets.
Are you aware that there were cultures here in the Americas that were able to preserve the environment intact for 10,000 years?
Ironically, the new arrivals here claim that Native Americans were somehow unproductive and mismanaged their territory with inefficient farming practices. Well, those claims will not age very gracefully once all the aquifers are pumped dry and soil finally becomes sterile in a few decades. All of it, in about 500 years. Good job.
None of the "advancements" you mention are actually necessary, or can actually be called advancements. For something to be called an advancement it would need to be better that what preceded it. How is precisely a global clusterfuck/extinction event better than what existed before? How can being decades away from total ecological collapse be better than living in a fucking paradise full of biodiversity in perfect ecological balance?
The only advancement necessary to achieve sustainability is keeping your ego in check and have a reciprocal relationship with nature.
Go to an Indian reservation and listen to the people who managed to survive here for 10,000 years without causing a cascading ecological disaster. Try to understand the philosophical differences between your culture and theirs, and understand which of those differences cause you to destroy the environment instead of preserving it for future generations.
Your extrapolation is a bit like https://xkcd.com/605/
Believe whatever you want, really. You seem to be in denial about all this because your lifestyle requires everyone to believe shit is OK. It is not OK.
And because it is not OK everyone will eventually pay the price of not working together to avoid a cascading environmental catastrophe. Namely war and famine.
The unpopularity of my responses here really reflects how abstracted from reality people are these days.
And ~10 billion is where humans will stop growing (at least, will stop growing exponentially/explosively). IIRC this is mentioned in this talk by Hans Rosling: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_the_best_stats_you_ve...
Which makes it, cynically, sustainable. When every country is growing out of a control, that's a worldwide disaster. When a bunch of countries are growing out of control... that's a local disaster. There's a reason we have countries/states/defense mechanisms.
1. The net world population is going up. Any non-zero growth rate will eventually saturate the planet.
2. We are already beyond capacity. Even if we kept the current population level for 100 years, we would still run out of resources.
3. The countries that slow down their growth tend to get more economically developed, causing each person to boost their resource consumption.
In 4-2-1 families (Chinese one child policy), the one remaining person consumes far more resources than the 6 ancestors combined.
There's a huge difference between "saturating" 10 years from now or 1000 years from now.
And population growth has slowed down to a crawl. It's enough to bring just a dozen, or less, countries out of poverty to achieve basically zero growth.
> We are already beyond capacity.
We are not.
> causing each person to boost their resource consumption.
Overconsumption is a problem, and should definitely be solved.
It might. But it's nowhere exponential, or even linear.
Hundreds of millions of murdered and poisoned people would likely disagree with you, if they hadn't been murdered and poisoned by humans who were playing god.
That's some weird god who mostly cares about themselves.
This is an oversimplification. If used as a limited last resort it can do more good than harm (which is why e.g. the WHO still recommends using it). DDT is very effective and has certainly saved a lot of lives by preventing malaria infections. But if used carelessly it can do a lot of harm, and various groups of experts who have studied the question have come to the conclusion that its use should be dramatically curtailed, and replaced where possible by other methods of malaria control.
DDT causes fertility problems, birth defects, cancer, etc. to humans, as well as environmental damage.
(Malaria also kills a ton of people, and we should be investing more resources in fighting it, ideally without resorting to heavy DDT use.)
I am not a medical expert, just passing along what I have read.
Especially in the US. A pro-agrarian/anti-development conservative strain goes back to the original colonies.
I'm also kinda curious if this could help eradicate invasive species. I'd imagine it'd take longer with species that don't reproduce as fast as mosquitoes.
Any citations for this? Seems like a very bold claim considering this has never been done before.
> considering this has never been done before
But that's the point, it kind of has. Countless species are going extinct all the time. The only thing different about this case is it's deliberate and using a scary sounding means.
It seems unlikely to me that any creature could have existed in an ecosystem for tens of millions of years without evolving into some sort of important niche. Obviously I could be wrong here, but the claim that we can just eliminate them with zero repercussions strikes me as a bit of scientific arrogance. Nature is a complex dynamic system, how could we possibly know what unexpected side-effects might occur when we tamper with it?
These mosquitos are a man-brought invasive species, so that argument doesn't fly.
+ You're already mentioning we don't know what effect species going extinct can have... But that's the point, countless species are already going extinct anyway, there's literally zero reason why you would worry or care more about keeping this one.
There's an episode of The Magic School Bus (the original one, from the 90s) where a cacao farmer eradicates mosquitos and the cacao trees stop producing cacao beans. The episode ends with the reintroduction of the mosquitoes, and you get to eat chocolate again.
So you've got at least one generation that grew up on the message that mosquitoes are a species that you don't eradicate, or else, no more chocolate. And that's a simple enough message that people would feel comfortable making public comment to that effect.
Humans are the ones who brought Aedes aegypti, yellow fever, and the malaria parasites to the “natural environment” of the Americas in which >100,000,000 people lived prior to contact.
Yellow fever came with the English colonists from their infested coastal marsh natural environment (where people lived).
Parasites from their slaves, taken from their malarial natural environments (where people lived).
Imported into the New World, helping kill 90% of the people who already lived there, perpetuating the use of chattel slaves thought less susceptible to “fevers and ague”.
One of the single most important components to the Colombian Exchange, the idea of mosquito borne disease protecting any natural environments from human encroachment at this point is borderline delusional / actively malicious.
Which is why I said
even the armchair criticism from cynical misanthropes who consider human deaths resulting from this species a good thing "because humans are bad for the environment" - while these mosquitoes do cause a lot of human deaths, the environmental "benefit" of those deaths are completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things)
"> ... that includes even the armchair criticism from cynical misanthropes ..."
NN Taleb's Black Swan, Antifragile are must-reads for any engineer with an "opinion" about the "reliability" and "soundness" of science, that they really ought to read before doing the "well-ack-shu-ally": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan:_The_Impact_of_...
Many people care, only those that have financial gain to make from this state of affair choose to ignore it.
Benefit to whom? What is the grand scheme of things?
>pretty much everyone who knows anything about it (including otherwise very environmentally minded people who as a rule would never, ever agree with deliberately eradicating anything) agrees it can be eradicated with no meaningful impact on the ecosystem
The hubris in this statement is absolutely stunning and, ironically, the perfect example of why we, as an extremely limited, ignorant, species of upright apes should not be exterminating other species because we think we have it all figured out.
How are we extremely limited and ignorant? As far as we know (and with zero counter-evidence), we are the most capable, most knowledgeable species in the entire universe. We reign supreme. In fact, the only logical reason we shouldn't exterminate other species for our benefit, is if doing so somehow harms us in some different and greater way.
I can't answer this any better than your response already does.
I object because I have no confidence that the unintended consequences won't be ecologically disastrous.
By using genetic engineering? Yes I would.
Edit: bioengineering projects released into live ecologies have unforeseen consequences.
Having -potentially- genetically modified organisms sucking my blood and introducing who knows what into my blood stream is non-ideal.
We've also got an incredibly bad record of fucking with ecological systems: See basically all of austrailia (Cane Toads, European Rabbit, Feral Goats, etc).
> Now, a team of independent researchers analyzing an early trial of Oxitec’s technology is raising alarm—and drawing fire from the firm—with a report that some offspring of the GM mosquitoes survived and produced offspring that also made it to sexual maturity.
Mosquitos lay a lot of eggs.
> Typically, a female only needs to mate once, and after this is done, she can lay eggs for the remainder of her life. Most female mosquitoes can produce between 50 and 500 eggs in their first brood. Subsequent broods may have fewer eggs, but a single female mosquito may produce up to 10 broods throughout her life.
I'm not convinced this is the best solution. Bring back the anti-mosquito lasers :/
What everyone wanted was more studies and data to assure the ecosystem wouldn't get screwed up, and basically it came down to a chicken and the egg problem. Oxitec knew they needed more data, but they couldn't produce the data until it was released in the Keys.
I don't anyone at the meeting was anti-science, they were just not convinced Oxitec had the well-being of the residents in mind.
Social distancing and use of masks certainly won’t aid with mosquito spread diseases. Furthermore, widespread use of pesticides is devastating to desirable insects, particularly bees. Having a tool to control the mosquito population that doesn’t directly impact other insects would certainly be a win in my book.
There is no scenario where the US and Florida government are just going to say that mosquito born illness is just a fact of life and we just have to life with it.
Mosquito control efforts will happen. Right now that involves spraying a bunch of pesticides everywhere. If the mosquitos develop resistance, likely new pesticides with potential more environmental effects will be used. In fact, one of the reasons DDT was used so widely throughout the US was for mosquito control.
What these genetically engineered mosquitos offer is a chance for a more surgical, more environmentally friendly mosquito control option. Instead of massive spraying that kills not only disease causing mosquitoes but likely harms a lot of other bystander species as well, if we can specifically target the biting, disease carrying mosquitos effectively, both humans and the environment will be better off.
Your comments about eradicating this so-called pest sound similar to the arguments for mass fumigation of DDT. “This harmless solution will eliminate pests that plague humans.” But then it turned out collapsing ecosystems was bad and it also nearly drove the Peregrine Falcon to extinction because it would accumulate in their bodies and damaged their eggs.
So sure. Assuming we know all the possible downsides the happy story makes sense. But we keep finding out that we don’t know all the downsides in advance.
In nature, everything is connected. We have a long history of thinking simple technological solutions will solve our problems, and especially in nature that kind of thinking has led to environmental disaster time and time again.
I would argue, that the benefit of cutting down endemic malaria and yellow fever in the United States and the lives said and the people who did not get sick was worth the risk to the Peregrine Falcon.
In nature, everything is connected. But to believe that it is too connected for humans to be able to successfully manipulate the environment for our benefit is anti-science.
Growing more food, curing disease, increasing human longevity does have follow-on effects for nature, but I would argue that manipulation of Nature for human’s benefit is something we as humans can and should do.
Yes, we should be aware of unintended side effects, but we cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by fear.
Anti science has nothing to do with this. I’d advocate for more scientific study generally. We thought we had a great thing with glyphosate and we released it in farms all over the world and now the monarch butterflies are endangered and farm workers are getting cancer.
If we are willing to learn about the problems these “quick solutions” will cause it forces us to look to alternative means. There are no quick fixes when it comes to the environment. That entire mode of thinking is what has caused so many of our environmental problems in the first place.
Science is a method of inquiry, and that inquiry is typically and always ought to be bound by ethical restraints.
I hope this particular experiment goes well and that we see a large benefit, but dismissing all ethical objections to ecosystem manipulation as "anti-science" is ludicrous.
The worst, worst possible case would be this gene getting somehow into the general mosquito population and making mosquitoes extinct. That would be a disaster since they are an important food source for so many other species.
Presumably, the much-smarter-than-me scientists have thought of this.
The species of mosquito targeted here is actually a pest that follows humans around. It tends to only infest areas where humans have settled and mostly preys on humans. Where we go, it goes.
The genetic modification here is designed to shut down their breeding patterns. It targets that specific species and is far, far better for the local ecosystems than pesticides or other measures.
Basically, it's trying to kill off a pest species we bring with us.
If anything, it should make the environment better for the native species of mosquitos (of which there are many), due to decreased competition from the invasive species.
In addition, theoretical downsides that have been considered and deemed unlikely by the scientific community (like making it seem that disease carrying mosquitos are an irreplaceable food source) are trotted out again and again.
In addition, just like with vaccines, the risk of doing nothing (kids die from measles, etc in the case of vaccines, and kids die from malaria and Zika, etc in the case of mosquito control).
Based on what I've read this sounds safe but that is not a fair analogy and given our pretty crappy track record of screwing up local ecosystems by trying to introduce balancing species, I'd say this warrants caution and wouldn't fault people their discomfort.
Can only become tried and true if you actually try it ;).
Even with vaccines there have been issues. See for example the Russian vaccine with the live virus. Or people who have caught polio from the Sabine vaccine. Or the kids with bowel intusseception from the Rotavirus vaccines. Or the scare about blood clots with Astra-Zeneca and J&J.
You will never be able to achieve 100% safety with zero risk.
However, you have to consider the trade offs and the baseline risks.
I think when you consider this for both vaccines and genetically modified mosquitoes, the benefits far outweighs the risks.
Also, Moderna and Pfizer are the first vaccines to use mRNA technology. Because they haven’t been tried and true for decades, which seems to be your standard of safety, would you advise people not to take them?
Or it wouldn't be a disaster since there's no species that exclusively feed on mosquitos.
Another important point is that it only accounts for 4% of all mosquitoes in the area, so even if it was entirely eradicated, 96% of mosquitoes would still be fine.
Inheritable fertility manipulation and gene drives should be applied very, very carefully
> Among insects, so-called killer bees were accidentally created during an attempt to breed a strain of bees that would both produce more honey and be better adapted to tropical conditions. It was done by crossing a European honey bee and an African bee.
2. Some males will evolve genes which disable the sterilization gene. By opening this evolutionary pathway we could enhance the mosquitoes in unintended ways.
That causes the population of Mosquitoes to become more troublesome.
All joking aside, I hope everything works out okay.
We don't currently believe that they are, however.