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The Unintended Consequences of Well-intentioned Ecological Fixes

Rebecca Helm tells us in the January 22, 2019, issue of The Atlantic:

Home to vibrantly colored, tiny creatures, the ecosystems floating on the ocean’s surface remain all but unknown…The Ocean Cleanup says it wants to protect animals at the ocean’s surface from plastic, but neuston is the ecosystem of the ocean’s surface. There is a reason turtles and sunfish eat floating surface plastic: It looks like neuston. Using these wall-like barriers to collect plastic in spite of the neuston is like clear-cutting a canopy in the name of helping a forest. There is no point in collecting plastic if by the end there is nothing left to conserve.

Consider this message in relation to the world apocalyptically upended by the fictional gene modified bacteria in the Eupocalypse series. It’s critical to ask: is the way to fix the harms of one technology necessarily another technology? Is it appropriate to give “cleanup” technologies a pass, when “profit” technologies are subject to rigid review? How do governments compensate for human ego, greed, and wishful thinking in the non-profit environmental sector (or do they)?



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