Technology always has unintended consequences. Cell phones have had many — from car accidents to people wearing strange usb-key-looking-things in their ears. Scientists are suggesting another unintended consequence: bee killing. This is significant not only for ecological reasons but for agricultural — bees pollinate our crops so we can eat. An article in The Independent says:
It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world’s harvests fail.
They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world – the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon – which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe – was beginning to hit Britain as well.
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up….
The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast…. The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”.
More studies will follow. But let this be a reminder how technology is a bargain — for every advantage, there is a disadvantage that isn’t always obvious. Sometimes “progress” is one step forward, two steps back.
(For further reading on technological consequences, see Neil Postman’s Technopoly.)
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