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Location: Central Florida, Florida, United States

Paramedic EMT-II (Ret.), Computer software designer, Building contractor, Cruising sailor, Humorist. . . obviously unable to hold a job.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Biting Commentary

As a youth, I always figured I’d grow up to be a scientist. I guess this came from those 1950's science fiction movies that always ended with some lab-coated genius coming up with a way to kill the gigantic mutated grasshoppers that had taken up residence in the Holland Tunnel. Sometimes, he even got the girl. It seemed to be the perfect job.

Alas, the closest I came was to become a computer geek. . . which, for some strange reason, seemed to reduce my chances of getting the girl. To this day science still fascinates me, so I’m understandably disappointed that the aims of scientists seems to have diminished over the years. Instead of defeating mutated, city wrecking insects, they have focused on more trivial endeavors . . . like creating genetically engineered mosquitoes.

Yes, after years of research, scientists now report that they are on the verge of creating a better mosquito. While one might expect that the goal would be to produce a mosquito that does not bite, one would be wrong. This brave new mosquito will still retain it's desire for human blood. Instead, scientists are working on a way to prevent this valuable addition to our ecology from carrying malaria.

Now, the eradication of malaria is a worthy goal. Malaria remains a major problem, especially in many third world countries, and with the threat of global warming, some scientists predict it will make more of a comeback in the United States as these blood suckers (the mosquitoes . . . not the scientists. . .) move north from the tropics.

To date, researchers have not created a malaria proof mosquito, but they have created a mosquito that will glow in the dark. Well, actually, you need a black light in order to see the glow, but it's the mental image that counts. Who among us can deny that this is not progress? I'm sure the Florida Chamber of Commerce is eagerly anticipating the light show over the Everglades, the Mosquito Borealis, that will undoubtedly become a tourist Mecca in the coming years.

I have to ask, albeit humbly, that if we can make mosquitoes that glow in the dark, and are hopefully incapable of spreading malaria, why can't we simply make them lose their appetite for human blood? Is there some mosquito lobby out there claiming that to do so would deprive them of their basic parasitic blood sucking rights? If so, I imagine this group must also represent lawyers and politicians, as there is so much overlap in their interests.

No, I fear the answer is that, while they could make a kinder and gentler mosquito, it would have devastating economic consequences. We would have to dispense with the manufacturing of millions of tons of insecticides and repellents aimed at mosquito control, decrease the poisoning of our environment, and cut the exposure of our immune systems to toxic chemicals. And nobody wants that.

Now I'm sure, if you tried hard enough, you might find some compelling reason to preserve the world's mosquito population. But if you do, you're simply trying too hard. As far as I'm concerned, we could dispense with mosquitoes entirely, but this is not an ecologically correct stance. Just as the good folks from PETA objected when the CBS television show Survivors depicted hungry castaways eating rats, and protested by carrying signs saying Rats have Rights, someone must standup for these much maligned insects.

And what of the Malaria parasite? If we eradicate their most common vector, what is to become of them? If rats have rights, then surely, so do parasites. They are living creatures, entitled to the same consideration as rodents, mosquitoes, and sometimes even people.

There is seemingly only one solution. We must allow mosquitoes, parasites, viruses and any other living thing prosper and flourish in our ecology. Given enough time, man will lose the battle and our planet will revert to its pure, pre-human state. A harsh fate? Perhaps . . . but after all, the mosquitoes were here first.

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