Looking for a Silver Lining

by rthieme on October 28, 1998

Increasingly dire predictions about Y2K flash across the Internet. This morning it was Canadian Naval captains who were told their ships may have to be docked to serve as power plants, field hospitals, soup kitchens.

And power grids in third world countries? Don’t even ask.

Hoping to find an intimation of rationality in our species, I browsed a September issue of Science News. But the chaotic swirls of our fractal world, macro and micro, were also in disarray.

A committee is investigating 87,000 chemicals for their potential to disrupt hormones in human and wildlife because “endocrine disrupters” are generating widespread deformities in animals.

And a new strain of HIV appeared in Cameroon. And a common pesticide is clobbering amphibians. And giant storms on Jupiter remind us of the weather’s indifference. And a newly discovered valley in the South Pacific may mark the place where the earth’s outer shell has started to tear. And antidotes to anthrax, the biological weapon of choice, are ineffective. And … why go on?

So was there any Good News?

Well, when flocking birds are looking for food, it’s best not to be near a glutton. The bully birds grab all the good grub. And, a study suggests, smart birds know which piggy-birds to avoid. Dominant siskins, for example, have larger markings on their chests, so savvy siskins look for birds with smaller spots. When they eat next to a less aggressive neighbor, there’s plenty to go around.

That’s something to remember as the Y2K bug begins to make inroads (it’s already starting). I’m going to hang with slender vegetarians who are willing to share, friends who live in modest houses, drive smaller cars. Humans who know that enough is a feast. Maybe come the millenium, the meek who stick together really will inherit the earth.

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