I have turned activist as I matured. It wasn't that I didn't care when I was younger, but I felt my voice simply wouldn't get heard because I:
* wasn't an important person
* didn't have impressive degrees
* was a woman
Last year, some Dallas beekeepers asked me if I could come up with anything to stop the aerial spraying that was harming their bees. I developed some 'stop the mosquitoes' flyers (which are being distributed by Audubon and other places)... not "prevent getting bitten" but "stop the things BEFORE they start" actions.
There's a city council meeting this coming week. I can't be there, but am (hopefully) having the following letter read by one of the beekeepers. I don't know if the city council will allow it, or if it'll work, but I feel better for having tried to do something.
The letter that they will (hopefully) read from me:
Thank you for allowing my voice to be heard. I am a PhD Candidate in Information Science, and I work with maps and data to give people information pictures that help them make decisions about their world.
Texas has seen many epidemics mosquito since its founding in 1835. Most, like Yellow Fever, are connected to rain and drought cycles. (show DP1) Yellow Fever is carried by mosquitoes, and epidemics of this disease occurred an average of 2 1/2 years during droughts. They dropped to one every 11 years during normal years, thanks to the presence of predators like fish and dragonflies. Mosquitoes mature in 8-12 days, but it takes almost a year for the predator populations to rebound after droughts end.
(show DP2) Your data for affected zip codes shows how the drought of 2010-2012 worsened the West Nile Virus situation. The center of the outbreak was White Rock Lake, and if you had walked the shores as I did, you would have seen that the lake was a full foot or more below normal levels. This left many areas with just enough water to breed mosquitoes but not enough water for fish and other predators to swim in and eat the larvae. As ponds and streams across Dallas dried up, mosquito predators died, leaving the field open for mosquitoes and disease.
But some zip codes had no cases of West Nile Virus. Many of these places are near managed water sources where ponds and wetlands never completely dry up -- including the Trinity River Audubon Center and the Dallas Floodway Extension Project. Last year, dragonflies and fish reduced the number of mosquitos in these areas, but aerial spraying unfortunately poisons these predators as well, and that’s not good.
I stand before you to recommend that the mosquito problem be solved not once -- but once and for all so that we don't face this same problem year after year.
Instead of widespread spraying, I urge that you do like many cities (show DP 3) and manage and restore wetlands that provide habitat for mosquito predators -- and that you adopt policies recommended by the CDC: monitoring, using larvacides, and spraying trouble spots only.
Dragonflies and fish are far more effective and cheaper than most other measures. Many mosquitoes that encounter insecticide live long enough to bite again and lay eggs, and some populations develop a resistance to the chemicals. But no mosquito in history ever developed an immunity to fish and dragonflies.
Thank you for your time.
Mel. White, PhD Candidate, Information Sciences, University of North Texas