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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Apparently we talk too much

I guess it doesn't surprise me that much. In fact, it is consistent with my desire to move to a cottage in Belize and ignore the world as much as possible. What I'm talking about, of course, is communication. This is sparked by the news of a New Years Eve blackbird die-off in Arkansas when 4,000 birds dropped out of the sky. I know just how they felt. I've been to Arkansas.

But, we are told now that this isn't unusual. In fact it happens all the time. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center says there is a mass wildlife die-off on the average of every other day in the United States. They've tracked and logged 95 in the past 8 months. That includes over 2 million fish in Chesapeak Bay, 900 turkey vultures in the Florida Keys, 4,300 ducks in Minnesota, 2,000 bats in Texas, and 2,700 sea birds in California. They couldn't all have died of boredom! (The Huffington Post)

Apparently, the major cause of concern in this is smart phones. No, the phones didn't kill the birds, fish, and salamanders. But inside of 30 seconds of the first bird hitting the ground, photos were being posted to Web sites all over the world from smart phones. Our instant connectivity alerted the world to the mysterious die-offs and from there speculation ran rampant. Was it weather related? Fireworks? Poison?

Ah for the good old days. In the good old days, only the people where the birds fell would have known about the incident for days. In that period of time, there would have been a great revival at all the little churches in the community. A particularly dynamic preacher would have risen as a prophet and gathered hundreds together to proclaim the end times are near. By the time the news reached a reporter in Little Rock, the enclave would already have built a wall around the town, fortifying itself against the coming apocalypse. In a few months, a new religious sect would be sending out missionaries to spread the word. And they would all be greeted with the same raised-eyebrow scepticism when they told of the birds falling from the sky. "I doubt it."

Now the job of the missionary has been usurped by the smart phone. The time elapsed from the first bird hittting the ground to the first apocalyptic warning on the Internet was measured in nanoseconds. The first warning was then bolstered by photo images, first from Arkansas, then Chesapeak, then Idaho. Images would be smuggled out of China. News reports would come in from the flooded states of Australia. Worldwide panic would ensue, driving people to churches, mosques, and synagogues everywhere. (Note that we only do repentence in the Judeo/Christian/Muslim religions. Billions of Buddhists, Hindi, Taoists, Pagans, Zoroastrians, and Europeans would largely ignore the event.)

This world-wide panic and repentence would last exactly two hours. Then we would get the news that the Seahawks had won a game and were headed for the playoffs. Now that's a real sign of the end-times.

With our smart phones quickly passing on the message that the die-off is normal, we will learn to ignore reports that there are certain species genuinely endangered or near extinction. After all we never see Mountain Gorillas, Arakan Forest Turtles, Darwin's Foxes, Javan Rhinos, Brazilian Mergansers, Gharials, Vaquitas, Dholes, Blue Whales, Bonobos, Ethiopian wolves, Giant Pandas, Snow Leopards, African Wild Dogs, Tigers, Indian Rhinos, Albatrosses, Crowned Solitary Eagles, Philippine Eagles, Markhors, Orangutans, Grevy's zebras, or Tasmanian Devils dying off by the thousand. They must not be in that bad of shape.

It's a miracle of the communication age. We are blessed with so much instantaneous information that we rapidly develop filters in our minds. It is much more important to know who needs a pitchfork in Farmville or has become the mayor of Jake's Bar and Grill or whatever the game du jour is. We can follow that on our smart phones.