Sunday, November 1, 2009

Solutions Cause Problems

Sometimes solutions cause more problems. And sometimes the causes of problems are solutions.

In the early 1950s the Dayak people in Borneo had Malaria. The World Health Organization had a solution: spray DDT all over. And they did. The mosquitoes died and the Malaria declined. So far, so good. However, there were side effects. House roofs started falling down on people’s heads because the DDT had also killed tiny parasitic wasps that had previously controlled the thatch-eating caterpillars which munched up the roofs.

So the colonial government gave people sheet metal roofs, but then the noise of the tropical rain on the tin roofs at night kept people awake. Meanwhile, the DDT-poisoned bugs were eaten by geckos, which were eaten by cats. As the DDT built up in the food chain, it killed the cats. Without the cats, the rats flourished and multiplied and soon the World Health Organization was threatened with outbreaks of Typhus and the Plague.

Consequently, they had to organize Operation Cat Drop, parachuting large numbers of live cats into Borneo.

This true story (although I haven't verified all the facts completely) serves as a guiding parable. The story shows that if you don’t understand how things are connected, solutions may cause additional problems. Many problems are caused by ourselves.

1 comment:

Roger said...

Excellent and correct. The are so many well intended 'solutions' that waste resources and create additional greater problems.