07 January 2011

Dead Birds, Dead Fish & Dead Minds

Breathless news reports about dead birds, dead fish, turtles and crabs seem to be popping up around the globe lately. When I saw the first report about thousands of red wing blackbirds dying Arkansas, my first response was to mutter "the 2012 crowd is going to love this." Sure enough, thanks to the immediacy of the Internet and its ability to allow know-nothing idiots (like me) to chime in with their opinions, I read everything from bible thumping believers that the end is near to conspiracy theorists blaming HAARP, the New World Order and every other nebulous explanation you can think of.

As I have stated in earlier posts, I really don't have much patience for eschatology. Trying to foresee the unforeseeable, rather than living in the here and now, seems like a tremendous waste of time to me. I also resent the fact that that many authors (just check out any book store shelf on 2012) are making a quick buck by capitalizing on public fear and ignorance. The recent reported animal deaths, coupled with a public primed to hear the message of doom, made for a powerful cocktail which was helpfully mixed by the world's media.

A step back from the story, and about 5 minutes worth of research, reveals that wildlife die offs such as these are not only common place but remarkably prevalent. In the U.S. alone, a quick examination of these incidents (see historical information from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center here) shows that many of our animal friends live lives that are nasty, brutish and short. This whole episode is a wonderful example of how the human mind will process and filter information to fit the belief system in which it operates and reject any explanation that offers an alternative.

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