Circulate on Fridays: Microplastics impact on fish, trash-eating jackals and more…
Every Friday, Circulate rounds up a collection of interesting circular economy related stories and articles. This Friday, we look at new information about the impact of microplastics on fish, the economic benefits of trash-eating jackals, a report on the future of the gig economy and another big piece on the future of humans in a job market dominated by robots.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about the large quantities of plastics leaking into the oceans and other environments. What has been less clear is the impact that the material, in particular microplastics, has on natural systems. A new report, recently featured in the Science Magazine represents one of the most detailed early investigations to try to answer precisely that question. The paper concludes that environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastics exposure inhibits hatching, decreases growth rates, alters feeding preference and innate behaviours. The study focused only one species of fish, but concretely concluded that exposure to microplastic particles do have chemical and physical impacts.
Trash-eating jackals save the day
Jackals and other medium-sized carnivores like coyotes, foxes and badgers are often viewed only as pests, but recent work makes the case these animals are actually providing a valuable service worth a significant amount of cash. A team of ecology researchers at the University of Belgrade, Serbia have estimated that golden jackals remove 3700 tonnes of discarded animal reamsn adn 13.2 million crop pest rodents every year, a service that would otherwise cost €500,000 annually. Overpopulation can obviously also be a negative, but the analysis re-balances the discussion when it comes to the role of these species in urban ecosystems.
Looking at the future of jobs
In 2015, Stephen Hawking noted: “Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.” In a piece published in the Guardian, Zoe Williams looks at the different possibilities for a future where robots have a significant role, including the potential for a Terminator-like apocalypse. Williams offers no answers, instead she gives a succinct view of the landscape from a social perspective, touching on the historical and present realities of inequality and the idea of Universal Basic Income.
On a different future of work related topic, a report produced by one of the leading gig economy marketplaces, Thumbtack, draws a range of conclusions on the long-term impacts of the emerging trend. The report, which is titled: Beyond the Gig Economy: How New Technologies Are Reshaping the Future of Work, aims to move beyond current analysis of the so-called discussion of the gig economy, focusing on how technology is enabling buyers and sellers of services to connect, as well as blurring the lines between the two.