Posted tagged ‘Tragedy of the Commons’

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

September 9, 2016

This is a video that will haunt your nightmares:

Go to NPR‘s story on this for a narrated version of the video — and you’ll find that what you see is a bacterial colony developing extraordinary capacities for antibiotic resistance in a shockingly short time — two weeks, or a little less, to go from a naive, wild-type strain to varieties that can resist 1,000 times or more the dosage that killed almost all of the original microbes.

The video is part of the supporting material for a paper published this week in Science .  In a way, there’s nothing new, or rather, nothing surprising here.  Microbial resistance to antibiotics is a phenomenon as old as antibiotics themselves.  (See Alexander Fleming’s Nobel Prize speech, for example).

What’s revealed in this video — and the reseach behind it, of course — is the obvious.  We ain’t going to win any war with bacteria anytime soon.  But in this political season, I’d add another thought:

There are some things at stake in this election that matter rather more than whether one candidate used a not-according-to-Hoyle email server.  Among them are matters of life and death — and not just in the usual sense of decisions about national security or similar matters.  One party, one candidate takes science seriously right now.  The other doesn’t.  Vote like your — and your kids’ — lives depend on it.

Conservatives are always wrong: Death of the Oceans edition

June 1, 2010

As part of my attempt to return to blogging after a case of end-of-semesteritis combined with some grims magnified by sad family news, here’s the first of what I hope will be some resurrections of posts begun but not completed during the last month or so that might (he fondly hopes) retain some relevance.

To begin:

Some while back, as in before BP et al. wreaked havoc on the Gulf, Andrew Sullivan flagged this TED talk by Jeremy Jackson.

In it, Jackson covers some, but by no means all of the disasters wrought by last fifty years spent demonstrating the tragedy of commons on the world’s oceans. The BP/Global Horizon catastrophe is signal in the size of the single incident, but, as Jackson begins to convey, is itself dwarfed by the accumulation of thousands, then millions of much smaller bad decisions.

The key point that emerges from Jackson’s talk as much as it does from the more spectacular market failure evident in the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, is that self correcting invisible hands do not work their magic on a resource in which the logic of the commons leads to uncontained exploitation of a resource.So watch the talk — it’s worth the full twenty minutes or so.

Full disclosure: it will ruin your day, the more so when you realize that every word was spoken before we ever heard the terms “top kill” or “junk shot.”

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