Friday, July 13, 2007

New Science Scares

NewScientist usually is a good read for the latest forays, adventures, and mis-adventures into the boffin developments in science. Two recent stories that made me pause, wonder, and frown are these below, which I feel are worth the time to read:

Humanity gobbles a quarter of nature's resources:

Almost a quarter of nature’s resources are now being gobbled up by a single species – humans.

People appropriate 24% of the Earth’s production capacity that would otherwise have gone to nature, according to figures for the year 2000, the most recent available.

The result is a gradual depletion of species and habitats as we take more of their resources for ourselves. And things could get even worse, they say, if we grow more plants like palm oil and rapeseed for biofuels to ease our reliance on fossil fuels.

Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US:

Deadly germs may be more likely to be spread due to a biodefence lab accident than a biological attack by terrorists.

Plague, anthrax, Rocky Mountain spotted fever - these are among the bioweapons some experts fear could be used in a germ warfare attack against the US. But the public has had near-misses with those diseases and others over the past five years, ironically because of accidents in labs that were working to defend against bioterrorists. Even worse, they may be only the tip of an iceberg.

The revelations come from Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a biosafety pressure group based in Austin, Texas, US, who after persistent requests got the minutes of university biosafety committees using the US Freedom of Information Act. The minutes are accessible to the public by law. There are now 20,000 people at 400 sites around the US working with putative bioweapons germs, says Hammond, 10 times more than before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Some scientists have warned for years that more people handling dangerous germs are a recipe for accidents.


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