How do you look at risk?

How do you evaluate risk in your life? Do you feel you can safely use your cell phone when you drive but cringe when you see someone else do it? Many of us feel risky behavior is not as risky when we are doing it because we are in control, or so it seems. But we don’t like it when someone else does it because we do not know if that person is going to do it safely enough to avoid hurting us. We will spray pesticides on our gardens, in our homes, etc when we see bugs, rodents, etc. Judging but the amount of these products use by homeowners it seems most people have no uneasiness in using them. Most people don’t like to share their living space with cockroaches and mice. But it seem there is a lot of uneasiness in some quarters about farmers using pesticides. We don’t know what they do, how they do it, we don’t know what the products are, etc. People tell us these things are bad and we are more likely to believe that because we view behaviors being done by others as risky. It is out of our comfort zone.

Let’s look at it from another angle. Let’s say you have an illness that is going to get very serious and may be life threatening. How you look at it will be determined a lot by how you feel about the disease you have. If it is cancer you will probably panic as that word has a lot of baggage attached to it. If it is something you have never heard of you may be less likely to panic but be pretty scared anyway. The doctor has two options for you. One is a very toxic dose of medicine with a high probability of nasty side effects but will probably get rid of the disease quickly. It is covered by your insurance. The other is not toxic but will take many more treatments over time and is not covered by your insurance. The toxic one will make you very sick and put a heavy burden on your family. But you have a better chance of recovery. What factors do you consider? Toxicity, cost, harm to others, quick recovery that has a high success rate, slow recovery with less of a chance at working. All interesting questions.

These are all very similar questions that a farmer and a pest control adviser must consider as well when treating a sick field. How bad is the problem? Does it need a quick fix? Will the quick fix be toxic to other things? What will those consequences be? How can they be mitigated? Will a less toxic option work? What are the economic costs? There are so many situations and possible solutions. These decisions are not made lightly or without due consideration. We do not live in a risk free world. Choices need to be made. You make them about your life, farmers make them about theirs. They are not evil doers, intent on poisoning your world or your children. When someone tries to scare you into thinking they are, remember, they live on that land and they have children too.

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