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Learning, my.Diary Entries, Research

Where there is smoke, there are no mosquitoes.

Where there is smoke, there are no mosquitoes.

As a researcher, I am a firm believer in grounded theory. If it does not emerge from activities in a realistic social context, in other words from the field, theory and research activities that use the scientific method can be very dangerous as they do not have to deal with 1) the cultural implications of a given situation, 2) the specificity of any given natural context, such as available resources or impact on health of animals as well as humans, 3) the impact of the theory on the field, 4) the knowledge emerging from lived experiences of people.

Some of our recent research activities are reinforcing this point in my mind. My youngest son has allergic reactions to mosquitoes bites and is sensitive to chemicals so I can not put commercial repellents on him. AI have been looking for alternative treatments and I have found that citronella, patchouli, tea tree oil and eucalyptus essential oils mixed to create a spray work well. But you need to retreat yourself every few hours. A small inconvenience… We have also used net tents which work well but have turned out to be very hot.
Given the potentials of malaria and other diseases these animals carry in nicaragua, we decided to use insecticide the restaurant and garden. I hate it as it kills many animals other than the mosquitoes. And it makes me sick for two days. We are due for a new treatment but are dragging our feet. But looking online, beside expensive gas systems, little advice is offered.
Yesterday, the kids had a fire in our backyard, given that garbage was not pickup we decide to burn dried leave that were suppose to be disposed in garbage. The smoke it created was tremendous, the kids had a blast and something interesting happened. we had no mosquitoes inside. I did not get bitten once during the night…. A first…. Without chemical treatment.
Julien and I discussed this and had the hypothesis that the smoke stops them from smelling us… I googled mosquitoes and smoke and found a text that explained how smoke was used in the old days on an island to deter mosquitoes. And how every house would have a smoke fire every night by there house… Hum…. I then found another post confirming this…. I then found an explanation of how mosquitoes find us, by smell… Looking for carbon monoxide. The fire obviously fouls them or hides our co2 emission. So we are trying smoke again tonight.
Of course, people here burn most of their garbage as they can’t pay for the garbage pick up…. They use mangrove leaves in the fire which is a deterrent… So, their way, is the most effective way … Hum…. Even if it looks unhealthy at first inexperienced, “modernized”, hand. “Moderns” condemns smoke as salvage ( sign of a lower class background), inconvenient (leaving dirty and smelly residue on the skin), a poison since it releases carbon monoxide and impolite for neighbors … Chemicals as safe, transparent and efficient at creating an artificially sanitized nature. For my sensitive family chemicals are salvage as they kill everything including our own cells, , inconvenient as they invisibly make us sick, leaving poison in the air and and on the skin, and impolite as they discriminate against life. Smoke is part a part of fire, visible therefore avoidable if necessary, and an efficient way of living with nature.
This made me think about how we assume that scientific advancement such as those that brought us chemicals equals progress and how we have been socialized to assume it is better. Our biases blind us to other potential solutions in very significant ways. I was reviewing a video about the scientific method meant for kids from the site we use for educational material. It explains the traditional ask a question, create an hypothesis, look for an answer, experiment, describe your findings. never does it discuss the social or experienced world nor ethics…
I wish it would start by saying experience the world with all your senses, including your emotions and social intelligence, then listen to your experiences and then ask a question. Experience, sensory. , social and cultural life should not be ignored as important if not crucial research tools.
Hard science is dangerous without human-ities…. And it brings us things ylike the atomic bomb. Though without an experiential context can not be truly ethical…. Research outcomes that are not grounded in intimate knowledge of its social and cultural use is not complete nor accurate, just a perception not a reality… And technical innovation that ignores all aspects of the environment, are not necessarily safe.
As I become integrated in the life of this village, I realize how much of my perceptions of the life in the village were inaccurate and entirely based on a fiction derived from my own social class and values. As I get to know people from the inside, I realize I am gaining a knowledge base as part of the community, not as an observer. What an eye opener.
And just like the kids and the dogs, people do not reveal themselves when they feel observed or judged. they completely unconsciously show the researchers a sanitized version of their lives and ideas. We, researchers, know that what they say to a researcher is rarely what they really live. But what we do not seem to want to discuss in modernist and post modernist approaches are how the act of observing changes the interactions between people and how the observations of the researchers are tinted by their bias which is reinforced by the theories inspired by the values of their dominant social class.

The scientific method has been used to eradicate the validity of ancient wisdom and people’ localized experiences. If it can’t be seen or explained via science, it does not exist… But who creates science? People trained in specific and often competitive thoughts, disciplines and cultures.
This logic has been to the detriment of many cultures, assuming something is negative if not acknowledged as valid either socially or scientifically by an institution. But not everyone enters institutions and not everyone has the tools to learn The habitus of Scientific thoughts. Definitely not fishermen and women who has less then high school as their education base… Yet their knowledge supersede those of many scientists when it comes to the sea and how to exist in harmony with nature and without spending money. And maybe that is the point, they are not part of consumer society and therefore their knowledge must be invalidated as it does not support product growth or the creation of a demand… but boy is it ever healthier… This made me think about how we have separated techne from the art of living,
Medicine does not equate healthy living, nutrition does not equate nourishing, chemistry do not equate safety. Information does not equate knowledge. Knowledge does not equate understanding. Talking does not equate communication. Observing does not equate listening.
I finished writing this, and like every night the kids and I listened to quirks and quarks http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=2219810736 , and what do you now… Biologists are starting to listen to nature… And realizing we live in a quantum biological world… Hum… Soon, science will discover what ancient myths have told us… We are quantum beings…. And at least some scientists are learning to listen to the wisdom of nature….

Mobile Alex

[tag deep learning, highly sensitive]




  1. Pingback: The Importance of ‘What is Life?’ | RicheousIndigNation - April 17, 2012

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