THERE’s no news of The Controversy between evolution and creationism at the moment, so we’ll drift a little bit off topic — way off topic — into the field of environmentalism, where your Curmudgeon is completely out of his element.
There may be good people who consider themselves environmentalists, but we wouldn’t know. Every aspect of the environmental movement causes us unease, because each splinter group across the green spectrum seems to be united with all the others in their Luddite opposition to our technological civilization, and particularly the free enterprise system, labeling both scientists and industrialists as criminal polluters.
Some groups want to save the planet by restricting the use of fossil fuels and by promoting alternative methods of generating electric power; but they almost always oppose nuclear power plants, so their goal can’t be accomplished. Others focus on saving endangered species from extinction; but extinction has been the fate of most species, so these groups also have an impossible goal. The entirety of the environmental cause seems more like an eternal crusade than a movement with practical and achievable objectives. Crusaders make us uncomfortable.
The reason various environmental groups usually oppose the same things and support each other’s goals is because it’s freedom — including the freedom to develop and use technology — that they see as the enemy. In our Curmudgeonly way of looking at things, whenever we hear some group babbling that they want to save the planet, we pay no attention to what the drooling followers say. What we hear from their leaders isn’t that they want to save the planet — that’s just a slogan — they want to rule it. If you don’t hear what we hear, then you’re not listening.
But that’s enough grumbling. Let’s get to the news. What happens when the goals of one environmental group conflict with those of another group? That, dear reader, is today’s topic.
At the webiste of Michigan State University we learn that Scientists propose fix to keep insects away from solar panels. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
Solar power might be nature’s most plentiful and benign source of energy, but shiny black solar cells can lure water insects away from critical breeding areas, a Michigan State University scientist and colleagues warn.
Al Gore, why do you hate cute little water bugs? Let’s read on:
When species such as mayflies and caddis flies mistake shiny dark surfaces [of solar panels] for water, they set themselves up for reproductive failure and often become easy targets for predators, [Bruce] Robertson and colleagues noted in a recent online article in the journal Conservation Biology.
Here’s the abstract: Reducing the Maladaptive Attractiveness of Solar Panels to Polarotactic Insects. Back to the news article at Michigan State:
“This research demonstrates that solar panels are a strong new source of polarized light pollution that creates ecological traps for many types of insect,” says Bruce Robertson, a research associate at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners. “This is of significant conservation importance given the radical expansion in solar energy development and the strong negative impacts of ecological traps on animal populations.”
This is his page at the university: Bruce A. Robertson. We continue:
Using nonpolarizing white grids, he adds, demonstrates a novel approach to reducing the attractiveness of a false habitat by applying what biologists call habitat fragmentation. That is an effect that usually is harmful to species, but in this case promises to solve a conservation problem.
White grids — that’s the solution. The insects are saved! However:
Robertson’s team estimates that adding white markings to solar cells might reduce their ability to collect solar energy by perhaps 1.8 percent, depending on the amount of space the strips cover.
Egad! Solar panels will reduce our use of petroleum, but only if they’re sufficiently productive. Defacing the panels with grids will save the bugs but decrease the value of the panels.
Preserving the bugs may destroy the planet. What a dilemma!
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