Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dots and their spurious mysteries

Have you noticed how the media have created a "mystery" out of recent incidents of mass deaths of birds and fish, which scientists say are unrelated? Such incidents happen around the world with some frequency and mostly get reported as one-off oddities. The latest report is of hundreds, "possibly thousands" of turtle doves dying in the Italian town of Faenza.  The dead birds, according to news reports, have "a mysterious blue stain" in their beaks. The media's creation of a spurious mystery kicked off with the incident in Arkansas on New Year's Eve, in which about 5000 birds, mostly red-winged blackbirds, died of internal injuries now being attributed to fireworks. Next was the deaths of a few hundred birds a few hundred miles away (attributed to powerlines), in Louisiana, followed by the deaths of 2 million fish in Maryland, with other mass fish deaths in Brazil and New Zealand (and Arkansas, again) and 40,000 (dead) crabs washed up on New England beaches. 

Talk about clueless coverage. The reports may be careful not to suggest a common cause, but sneakily imply some mysterious (cosmic?) cause. (Anything to pique readers' and viewers' attention, right?) But as a matter of fact, 21st-century Earth is an extremely hazardous environment for the planet's wildlife. Habitat continues to shrink at an incredible pace, migration patterns are being forced to shift because of radical changes in the environment, and toxins are everywhere. (BP's blowout & obscene use of methane-generating "dispersants" is just the tip of the iceberg.) And we now know, thanks to Wikileaks, that the EPA approved the use of a pesticide they knew would kill honey bees. (And since approval has done so, on a massive scale.) The fish that have been dying in recent days apparently died from cold. Obviously that's the sort of problem fish faced even before human beings decided that their god-given "stewardship" of the earth is not about care-taking but exploitation. And yet for all I know the shifts in migration patterns and habitats brought about by global warming might have something to do with it. I'm not a marine biologist, so I don't really know. But do you notice that when the media name fireworks, power lines, and poisoning as causes of avian death, the media treat these causes as they would random lightning strikes. Which is to say, a contained but uncontrollable event that is in effect an Act of God (as insurance policies like to phrase it).

Maybe the media thinks human beings are like God? (Or at least that certain human beings are?) Well as far as birds, fish, and amphibians are concerned, I guess they are.

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