Two Steps Backward -- Any Forward?
What Kills Bees and Lights up Finland?
Living with cell phones, bees couldnít find home. And Finland expands its nuclear power, not its impressive bioenergy. Luckily, there are solutions. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) CNN, June 30, on bees by Sasha Herriman, and (2) BBC, July 1, on nukes.
by Sasha Herriman and by BBC
Study links bee decline to cell phones
A new study has suggested that cell phone radiation may be contributing to declines in bee populations in some areas of the world.
Bee populations dropped 17% in the UK last year, according to the British Bee Association, and nearly 30% in the United States says the US Department of Agriculture.
Parasitic mites called varroa, agricultural pesticides, and the effects of climate change have all been implicated in what has been dubbed "colony collapse disorder" (CCD).
But researchers in India believe cell phones could also be to blame for some of the losses.
In a study at Panjab University in Chandigarh, northern India, researchers fitted cell phones to a hive and powered them up for two fifteen-minute periods each day.
After three months, they found the bees stopped producing honey, egg production by the queen bee halved, and the size of the hive dramatically reduced.
It's not just the honey that will be lost if populations plummet further. Bees are estimated to pollinate 90 commercial crops worldwide. Their economic value in the UK is estimated to be $290 million per year and around $12 billion in the U.S.
Andrew Goldsworthy, a biologist from the UK's Imperial College, London, has studied the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. He thinks it's possible bees could be affected by cell phone radiation.
The reason, Goldsworthy says, could hinge on a pigment in bees called cryptochrome.
"Animals, including insects, use cryptochrome for navigation," Goldsworthy told CNN.
"They use it to sense the direction of the earth's magnetic field and their ability to do this is compromised by radiation from [cell] phones and their base stations. So basically bees do not find their way back to the hive."
Goldsworthy has written to the UK communications regulator OFCOM suggesting a change of phone frequencies would stop the bees being confused.
"It's possible to modify the signal coming from the [cell] phones and the base station in such a way that it doesn't produce the frequencies that disturb the cryptochrome molecules," Goldsworthy said.
"So they could do this without the signal losing its ability to transmit information."
But the UK's Mobile Operators Association -- which represents the UK's five mobile network operators -- told CNN: "Research scientists have already considered possible factors involved in CCD and have identified the areas for research into the causes of CCD which do not include exposure to radio waves."
Norman Carreck, Scientific director of the International Bee research Association at the UK's University of Sussex says it's still not clear how much radio waves affect bees.
"We know they are sensitive to magnetic fields. What we don't know is what use they actually make of them. And no one has yet demonstrated that honey bees use the earth's magnetic field when navigating," Carreck said.
Finland's parliament approves two new nuclear reactors
Trying to make Finland self-sufficient in electricity production by 2020 [while ignoring that the world runs out of uranium, too, not just oil], Finland's parliament has approved the construction of two nuclear power stations.
Approval had been expected as the coalition parties hold a clear majority in the 200-member house. However, the bill was opposed by Green League and Left Alliance MPs.
The government had given preliminary permission for the construction of the reactors to two utility groups but no details were confirmed.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the parliament and a number of environmental activists briefly protested inside parliament before they were led out.
"This is one of the most important decisions my government is going to make, because it really improves Finland's competitiveness and will create new jobs, and thus also increase the economic growth," Mari Kiviniemi, head of the country's centre-right government told AFP news agency [but did not say at what cost in terms of money, health, and security from nuclear proliferation].
Meanwhile Labour Minister Anni Sinnemaeki of the Green League said she was not surprised but "very disappointed" by the vote.
Finland has four nuclear reactors producing about 30% of the country's electricity, with a fifth expected to be functional by 2013.
Bioenergy is also a crucial element in the country's energy sector, supplying almost 20% of total primary energy consumption.
The National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Sources (RES) has aimed at a 30% increase in the use of bioenergy by 2010, according to Finland's Renewable Energy Policy Review in 2009.
JJS: What if the burden of proof were on the other foot? Instead of somebody who changes nature for profit being blameless until proven ruinous by victims (and poor bees donít have much voice), we could force them to first show their alterations are safe and thus avoid victimhood altogether. People might become better defenders of the natural world once they get a dividend based on the value -- which is based on the health -- of land. Governments, too, would come on board if they could not tax willy-nilly and had instead to recover the socially-generated values of land and resources. This public revenue reform goes by the name of geonomics -- Earth friendly economics.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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