Thursday, January 29, 2015

A classic case of unintended consequences

and why one size fits all doesn't work, and today's solution begets tomorrows problem.

The New York Times reports that there is considerable use of mosquito nets for fishing in African communities located near marshes, seashores and other bodies of water.

People are hungry - and eating today takes precedence over longer term strategies of disease prevention. Sewing together the free or low cost mosquito nets provided for a family result in a much larger and much much cheaper fishing tool.

Using the nets as seines creates four problems. The nets are coated with insecticide, which can kill marine organisms. The nets are fine, which means young fish and shellfish, and the macro-organisms on which they feed, are caught as well, reducing tomorrow's catch. Seining with the nets in shallow areas can destroy breeding grounds of fish and shellfish. And the increased efficiency the nets provide means that total catches increase greatly over traditional methods, such as handmade basket fish traps, and thus fish stocks are dropping.

It's just a disaster all around.

What really annoys me is that the promotions of some NGOs which collect donations to buy such nets mention the fact that they are coated with toxins in the fine print - or not at all.
Why aren't more Americans angry that they have been giving money for items which, while reducing rates of malaria in certain areas, have been harming marine and aquatic environments. Why have we been buying toxins with our charitable dollars?

At least Episcopal Relief and Development is upfront about the insecticide.
"A simple insecticide-treated net can protect children and families from a needless, preventable death. "
The misinformation is in the word simple - the net may be, but as a solution it's not so simple.