Monday, August 24, 2009

Climate change and changing times add up to new challenge for PMPs

One of my favorite anecdotes is about the famous British architect Christopher Wren. According to Wikipedia, "Wren designed 55 of 87 London churches after the Great fire of London in 1666, including St Paul's Cathedral in 1710, as well as many secular buildings of note." The story goes that Wren approached a man who was working on one of the buildings he had designed. When asked what he was doing, the man replied, "I'm laying brick." Wren approached a second construction worker engaged in the same work and repeated his question. The second man looked up and smiled and said, "I'm building a cathedral."

Every so often I think it's important that we stop focusing so closely at what we do, and look at the larger meaning and impact of our life's work. What kind of business are you in? Is it a business to make money? Is it a job to kill bugs? Or is your business helping people to lead healthier, safer and more pleasant lives? You may be running a residential route, or servicing commercial clients, or making sure your employees remain productive, but if you are in the pest control business, your job is more than just controlling pests.

I was reminded of the importance of our profession thanks to a note this weekend from Steve Baker, of International Exterminators in Fort Worth. Steve send an article from the Wall Street Journal on the increasing frequency of new diseases being seen, especially along the southern border with Mexico. Much of this has to do with changes in immigration patterns, but some of the concerns focus on spread of new pests into the U.S. Although data is still scarce, some people believe that climate change may be encouraging the spread of insect vectors of disease further north. In a response to a letter about a recent article on the impact of climate change on insects, University of California entomologist John Trumble notes that the ranges of more efficient vectors of this disease may be spreading north, even as the parasites follow immigrants across the border.

In Texas a major concern of health officials is the spreading incidence of the mosquito-borne disease, dengue fever. Warmer temperatures and increases in dense, low-income housing favor the spread of this disease. Caribbean (Rasberry) crazy ants, fire ants, argentine ants, and numerous plant-feeding insects are all likely to be favored by current trends in climate change.

Of course all this adds up to the growing need for pest control. How about if today, when you wonder if it's all worth it, you think about the bigger picture? You and your employees are not just killing bugs, you keeping your friends, neighbors and customers safe and healthy. Having people take a pest-free home or pest-free business for granted is a sign that you are doing your job well.
Christopher Wren would be proud.

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