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Lyme ecology

Over time, I've gained an increasing fascination with systems, how things work in aggregate, and how different systems interact with each other.  It's a substantial part of my interest in the social sciences, especially my interest in sociology and not just anthropology.  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a major catalyst of this interest for me, and starting to gain a formal secondary education only enhanced it.  The more I learn, the more this interest grows, as I see more connections and perceive the need for interdisciplinary research to solve existing problems and work to build amazing futures.  So here are some thoughts I found really interesting.

A few centuries ago, Europeans began to colonize the New World (which, as it turns out, was just as old as the rest).  They brought with them numerous plants, animals, and illnesses, as well as the Atlantic slave trade, much of which were new to the continent, or at least the parts of it they colonized.  Their social and physical interactions with Native Americans (or American Indians or– someone give me a good name here) lead to major decreases in the native populations.  This helped increase Passenger Pigeon populations, for a time, as the Native Americans had moderately hunted them.

Passenger Pigeons always operated en mass.  Their primary survival skill was that they were many, and they worked in very large groups, with flock sizes sometimes upwards of two billion at the height of their existence.  The European colonists, needing a cheap food source for their slaves — after all, expensive food could defeat the purpose of having slaves — and seeing an abundant resource, began hunting Passenger Pigions, eventually to extinction.  The conservationist movement gained sway after that point, but not earlier, and such a massive extinction had its ecological impacts.

One of those impacts was a simple matter of reduced competition: Native Americans and Passenger Pigeons alike had competed with rodents such as Deer Mice for similar food resources, including largely the nuts of forest trees.  (Another factor in Passenger Pigeon extinction was deforestation, which more importantly than reducing their food supply, left them without the incredibly large nesting areas their immense flocks required.)  The reduced competition from Native Americans and Passenger Pigeons left abundant food resources for the rise of the Deer Mice, an animal which then became an ample food source for the Deer Tick.  The Deer Tick, as many of us are well familiar, is the primary vector for the transmission of Borellia burgdorferi bacteria, the spirochete cause of Lyme disease.

There are discussions of evidence about Erythema chronicum migrans (the signature rash) existing in Europe in the nineteenth century, as well as German experiments with using ticks and other insects as part of a germ warfare program, both of which could actually suggest Nazi involvement with the proliferation of Lyme disease in the United States, even if Lyme borelliosis itself was unknown at the time.  Still, it's interesting to think that if we'd used selective tree cutting, had less and better interactions with Native Americans, did not use slaves — or at least not so many, and hunted in moderation, Lyme disease might not be the hidden pandemic of the day, and myself and many others could be leading much happier and more productive lives.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
kitten_goddess
Jun. 5th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
"Native Americans (or American Indians or– someone give me a good name here)"

Native American is the correct term, last time I checked. It is much clearer than American Indian.
aekiy
Jun. 5th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
I've heard the opposite, too, which confuses me because they weren't Indians. Some say "Amerindians," specifically, is the most appropriate term, but I don't get that. I feel "Native Americans" is more appropriate, but some people apparently don't like that either. I'm sure any actual Native Americans would prefer to be called Brotherton, Cherokee, Lakota, Seminole, et cetera, but listing all those isn't very convenient either. Language makes my head hurt sometimes.
(Deleted comment)
aekiy
Jun. 5th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
He ruined Christmas, the fiend! I guess it was just his job to make sure everything was bad, all the time, forever, even long after his death at the end of the Occult Wars in 1958.
kitten_goddess
Jun. 5th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
"He ruined Christmas, the fiend! I guess it was just his job to make sure everything was bad, all the time, forever, even long after his death at the end of the Occult Wars in 1958."

Mew??? Hitler killed himself in 1945. Who are you talking about?
aekiy
Jun. 5th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Do a Find for "Hitler" here.
rmash1948
Jun. 5th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
I guess the more things change, the more we find out just how interconnected everything is/was/will be. ::chuckles::
aekiy
Jun. 5th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
The universe seems to exist as a vast network of networks, all systems being directly or indirectly interrelated. Influence one system, and you influence related systems, which will influence further systems related to them, and so on. Any given event will have limited effects on directly related systems, and the less directly related, the less direct of an impact the event will have, but it seems like no two things can be considered entirely distinct from one another.
rmash1948
Jun. 6th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
Like a spider's web. Tweak one part and the entire web is set to shimmying.
dagoonite
Jun. 18th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
Look up a fellow by the name of James Burke. Though he doesn't address organic concerns much, he is a historian that focuses on the evolution of science and technology. He's produced a number of television series on the subject which are rather quite fascinating. If you're interested in systems in general (something that I can identify with; I was nearly certified in systems thinking) I find that the way that many of the things that we use today have developed along very convoluted routes. For example, polymers can have their history traced back to the American revolution, even though they weren't discovered/created/whatever you want to say until about the time of WWII.

As an aside, my step-father is of the Hochunk tribe. He has this to say on the debate on what to call them: "Well, I was born an Indian, raised an Indian, and suddenly a few years back I was told I was a Native American and not an Indian. I don't care, I still plan on dying an Indian."
aekiy
Jun. 18th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC)
Ya.. it's just confusing 'cause they're not actually Indians — that was a mistake made by settlers — and some take offense to it. Argh. I am an adoptive Brotherton, myself. (I was "adopted" by an old friend's daughter, though I haven't seen or heard from either of them in a few years.)

I think I've both heard and seen James Burke before, but I'll look into his stuff. I often find myself over-complicating things due to my tendency to look at things broadly and and in terms of systems with various relating components, functions, and emergent behaviors. I'm trying to teach myself to simplify as necessary.

On another note, happiness.
dagoonite
Jun. 18th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
I was lucky in that my computer science teacher purposefully would start us learning an obsolete application, then change us to an up-to-date application. He'd do this as part of his way of teaching us to understand the system behind the system -- the common elements and themes that build applications within a windows environment. That's why some computer science teachers continue to insist on teaching students Pascal. I was especially lucky in that he taught us how to apply this methodology to other aspects of life.

In the end I find that most of life is nothing more than a series of common themes and elements set in particular patterns. Once you can teach yourself to identify those things within a system (as they're going to be vastly different in a business environment from a college dorm) you'll be able to understand the system that much faster.

Of course this doesn't change the fact that once you figure out a system, you're going to tear out your hair and scream "What kind of stupid madman came up with this steaming pile of blargwarble!" ...And you can quote me on that one.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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