Letters for Wednesday, May 23, 2012

• The birds and the bees – and smart meters • Ban it, ban it all • What would you do if …?

The birds and the bees – and smart meters

I am a beekeeper and I also sit on the board of KIUC. When anti-smart meter sites began trumpeting reports that smart meters kill bees, I was concerned. I did the research. The short version: This statement is false.

There is no evidence I could find that smart meters kill or cause any harm at all to bees, and no evidence that even stronger household sources of radio frequency harm bees.

What the research does say is that if you take a powerful source of RF radiation (like one or even more cell phones or cordless telephones) and if you actually place it inside a bee hive, it perturbs the bees. But if you reduce the power by half with shielding, according to a German study, then there is no detectable sign of bee anxiety or altered behavior.

I work my bees with my cell phone on my hip, and I detect no change in bee behavior. I know other Kaua‘i beekeepers who also handle their bee hives with their cell phones nearby.

I went so far as to place two different live cell phones at the entrances to two different hives in the Lihu‘e area.

As far as I could tell, the bees did not behave differently. They continued coming and going, departing to forage, and returning with pollen and nectar. When I put a little honey on the face of an active Motorola Atrix cell phone, the bees ate the honey right off the glass.

None of the studies I looked at suggests that smart meters, or even the more powerful cell phones, kill bees. They do say that bees exhibit specific stress reactions to strong radio frequency signals placed inside their hives. The stress reactions researchers found include “piping,” which are sounds that indicate unrest. And one study detected a small but statistically significant reduction in timely returns to the hive by foraging bees.

But I will also note that bees exhibit reactions from just being messed with. If these researchers were regularly lifting the hive tops, sticking stuff into the hive and removing frames to make their measurements, those activities alone could have caused strong stress reactions.

Every beekeeper knows that you want to minimize the amount of time you’re spending fooling around inside your hives. It’s not clear the researchers knew this; none of them mentions it.

As a longtime science writer, I note that one of the sad results of the misinterpretation of the bee studies is that it undermines science. Here’s what one of the authors of a German Study, Stefan Kimmel, said in a New York Times story:

“It’s not my fault if people misinterpret our data,” Kimmel said. “Ever since The Independent wrote their article, for which they never called or wrote to us, none of us have been able to do any of our work because all our time has been spent in phone calls and e-mails trying to set things straight. This is a horror story for every researcher to have your study reduced to this. Now we are trying to force things back to normal.”

Speaking for myself, I fully support KIUC’s smart grid program. I believe the meters are safe, and that they are crucial to our management of the electrical grid of the future.

That grid will involve much less utility-owned fossil fuel generation and much more distributed renewable generation. Our members need to be our partners in this change, and a smart meter helps turn the grid into a two-way street.

Jan TenBruggencate, Lihu‘e

Ban it, ban it all

Outlaw wood burning chimneys. Yes, of course; they do, after all, present human and planetary health hazards.

And have you ever noticed the smoke bellowing forth from some of the most popular island eateries?

And backyard BBQs, they must also be banned. And when attending a local baby party luau, there was the imu, its smoke created by wood.

Ban it all of course; human and planetary health demands it. And that natural abomination on the Big Island, spewing forth since 1981; outrageous! Ban it.

And since we are in the banning mode, how about banning the inane thinking that created this dim-witted no burning ordinance.  

Russell Boyer, Hanalei

What would you do if …?

Suppose I approached you with an offer to loan you as much money as you wanted, which you could use in any way you choose — you can spend it, save it, go to Vegas, give it away, invest it, or anything else you desire to do with it.  I will not require credit references or your financial statements; all I will require is that you sign an agreement promising that, should you be unable to repay this loan within a reasonable period of time, you will surrender to me all of your assets and a reasonable portion of your future income.

I will place this money in a bank account of your choosing, and will allow you, at any time, to withdraw it electronically, or if you are “old school,” you can have the privilege of withdrawing it in the form of printed money.

If you would like to know where I get all of this money to lend I will provide evidence that I work with several other banks worldwide, all of them with ample money, which they also lend to people worldwide, on the same terms I am offering you. I also have the backing not only of the United States government, but also of other major world governments and their financial institutions, who will not only vouch for my credibility and viability, but will also promise to bail me out if something should happen to go wrong with the program.

(I will not tell you that, should I run out of money, I will simply print more of it.)

What would you do if I made this offer to you?

Don’t look now, but the offer has been made. And we have all accepted it!

Robert P. Merkle, Koloa

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