Friday, January 07, 2011

It Happens Every Other Day

It’s the end of the world. It’s a sign of the end of the world. It’s God sending us a message. It’s aliens.

It happens, on the average, every two days: a massive kill-off of birds, fish, animals. Nothing more mysterious than that. But why now? Because it happened near a city with a tv station, newspapers and a lot of people who are online. Reindeer in the middle of the Tongass National Preserve in Alaska don’t make headlines.

The birds were scared out of their gizzards by fireworks on New Year’s Eve. They flew out of their nests and, not being night fliers, flew into anything that happened to be in their way. Sometimes a pack, a herd, a school (not kids) of something will catch a virus and a ranger will find them, feet in the air, with vultures dining to violin music.

Meanwhile, the people who concern themselves with this look up from their work and say, “Another kill-off. Interesting. And your problem with this is?” It would be nice, in the best of all possible worlds, not to have this happed. But we’re not in the best of anything; things go wrong and flocks of birds fly into bridges.

You hear of “cancer clusters,” which brings a bit of humor into the sad lives of oncologists. With over a hundred types of cancers, the so-called clusters turn out to be a random distribution of several kinds, quite unrelated, which happen to have occurred in a single location. No single cause; neither a cause for alarm; no such thing as a cluster.

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