There's a story today on the NYT that just made me see red. This is another "WHY can't we do Science right???" post. And why can't it be reported right?
Wow, sounds great huh?
Maybe, maybe not. One of the things I've studied in detail is the process of innovation- start to finished installation of new idea/technology. (Why? Because humans need to do a lot of changing- and we're lousy at it. The history of innovation might be good to know about.)
First thing you ask about a "new" idea - has somebody else already done/tried this?
No indication in this article they bothered with that. Just - "gosh, I was choking on the air inside! Must be awful to have to live with!" Never mind that they DO LIVE with it, and have for millennia. Don't bother to guess that they have ways of moving, sitting, and managing so they avoid the smoke most of the time. Don't ask.
Yes, dozens of inventors have looked at 3rd world cooking/cookstoves and come up with much "better" ways to do it; ways that use less wood, or make less smoke. Very few of them work out well. Would be a good idea to ask if it's been tried before around here.
Guess what? It has.
Guess what else? Improved Stoves and Severe Malaria
The critical quote from this German peer reviewed study:
In terms of cooking practices, use of an improved stove was associated with an increase in the risk of severe malaria (OR=3.39, p=0.004, 95%CL=1.49-7.75) as was an average cooking time less than three hours per day (OR=2.18, p=0.02, 95%CL=1.14-4.18).
What? Yeah, turns out that nasty smoke is the only thing keeping the mosquitoes out of the house. Guess who suffers? It's the children. They die. Big improvement.
No mention of this possibility in this lovely piece of PR for Shell, of course.
This ticks me off. This is not my area of expertise; I just read the science news- and even I knew about this connection. As far as we can tell, neither the scientist at the Shell Foundation, nor the journalist with the rosy reporting, bothered to ask question #1 - "has this been tried before?"
And will anybody notice this post, when the New Improved Regan-Bush Depression is getting underway today?