During the Student Poster Session, I had walked around to see a few posters, but some that two posters that especially stood out to me were on the topic of “humans commercializing nature” (by Jessica) and “the backfires from manipulating with nature” (by Lucas).
Jessica talked about several examples whereby humans commercialize nature, and what manipulations humans make to nature as a result of this. One of the examples was about the plantation of coffee trees in the Galapagos Islands due to the demand for a ‘Galapagos Island’ branded coffee beans from Starbucks. She mentioned that later on, this demand faded, and that the island is now left with unused and ‘foreign’ coffee plants. After her presentation, we discussed about the difficulties of balancing between the economic and social demand of human beings and maintaining nature the way it is. After her poster session, I gave this topic further thought. I wondered how we would be able to, or if we would ever be able to stop commercializing nature and maintain the nature from any human influences, especially in beautiful nature areas. For instance, world nature heritage sites are places that aim to preserve beautiful nature that is often times specific to that particular place. The beautiful and ‘exotic’/rare characteristics of these sites make it almost impossible for humans to start commercializing them for their profit.
Lucas’s presentation was on the backfires from humans manipulating with nature. Some of the interesting examples he had were: the Black Plague, and antibiotics. The Black Plague in the 1330s was thought to be caused by dogs and cats at that time (cats were also thought to be the ‘devil’ that brought the disease and death). In attempt to ‘control’ the spread of the disease, many cats were killed. However, since the actual contributors to the spread of the disease were rats, the plague spread more as the rat population rose in the absence of their predators. The example of antibiotics was also intriguing. The first antibiotic that was discovered was penicillin in the late 1920s. The repeated use of penicillin over time killed off the bacteria, except strains that were resistant to it. By natural selection, the strains that were resistant to penicillin persisted; and now, not many of the flus that are caused by bacteria can be treated with penicillin. This same idea still is relevant today, especially in hospitals where ‘keeping clean (germ-free) at all times’ is a must. This same problem could arise, where only bacteria that are resistant to these methods persist, making the strains that survive more and more harmful. As a Biology major, this example led me to think of the many instances where natural selection has probably led to adaptations and sometimes even the resistance of organisms (including microscopic ones like bacteria, fungi, and also larger ones like insects, rats, cats etc.) against human influences.