Copyright 2004 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner                                                              January 8, 2004

                                           Thinning the Herd

   By now, probably all of you have heard more reports on the first
definite case of mad cow disease in the U.S.A. than you ever wanted to hear,
and have had passing thoughts about not buying beef for a while, despite
assurances that it's safe to do so.  It won't hurt us to consume less beef, if
you don't count the effects that this might have on anyone who makes
money from the beef industry as "harmful."  That list would include cattle
ranchers, livestock transporters, hamburger chains, slaughterhouses, feed
companies, farmers, butchers, packing plants, grocery stores, any business
that needs a steady supply of cowhides, all the stockholders who own shares
in any of the companies that depend upon the current rate of beef
consumption, and countless people who don't realize that beef, if it isn't
what's for dinner, nevertheless affects their lives.  Little Susie won't have a
summer job at the Burger Barn if they're not hiring, and Aunt Edna's prize
roses might not get their annual dose of cow manure if genuine BS is in
short supply.
    Everything is connected; one thing affects another in ways we can't
always perceive, even if we're trying to pay attention.  I'm a little fuzzy
about the details, but I'm fond of an idea called Gaia Theory, in which the
Earth is a single large organism, of which human life is merely a part.
Suppose that the planet, as a whole, is self-regulating; if one part threatens
the existence of the whole, something will happen to bring that part back
into line or to get rid of it entirely.  For example, if enough greenhouse
gasses from cars, factories, and cow flatulence build up, global warming will
melt the ice caps, raise the oceans, and kill off a bunch of people.  Or,
perhaps, the constant cloud-cover will prevent the sun from warming the
oceans, precipitating another Ice Age, which will kill off a bunch of people
until the pollution levels have a chance to drop back to where the sunlight
can get through again.  We still don't know what caused the last Ice Age,
which really wasn't all that long ago on a geologic time scale, so what's to
say we won't have another one in the not-too-distant future?  The dinosaurs
were around for a whole lot longer stretch of time than humans have been,
but things changed, and they died out; how do we know we won't do the
    Humans are a part of the Great Green Beast that is the Earth and its
ecology, and I think it's trying to tell us that there are too many of us, and
that it's trying to kill some of us off by using the far-reaching effects of our
own overpopulation and technology against us.  Bear with me; this isn't as
far-fetched as it sounds.
    Take mad cow disease: more and more people wanted more and more
burgers and prime ribs, so the beef industry got bigger and bigger.  Years
ago, a pioneer farmer might kill a steer and feed his family and sell some
meat to his neighbors, but as soon as we had cities with city people who
couldn't raise a cow in their apartment building but still wanted steak for
dinner, someone started supplying meat in larger quantities.  We developed
ways of raising bigger animals that grew faster, and ways to process and
ship more meat in quicker ways, to meet the demands of greater populations.
More meat, delivered faster; the result was a feeding method that infected
healthy animals and shipping methods that delivered tainted meat to
hundreds of people before anyone could warn them about it.
    Salmonella and E. coli are other food-borne bacteria that reach more
people because of raising, handling, and shipping practices designed to meet
the demands of a large population; SARS, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, and
influenza spread quickly in a world full of travellers.  Lyme disease comes
from deer ticks; the deer are overpopulated because we killed off their
natural predators, and we didn't want those nasty hunters to shoot Bambi,
either.  But now the gardens of our nice houses in the suburbs, where we
went to escape the crowded cities and bring our kids up in rural safety, are
invaded  by marigold-munching, disease carrying tick-ridden antlered
vandals, and we want the authorities to do something about it!
     Put a population spin on the following things, taking into
consideration the possible effects of lifestyles, economics, and pollution:
antibiotic-resistant bacteria, environmental disease, ADHD, child
abductions, freeway snipers, school shootings, gang violence, serial killers,
soccer riots, road rage, air rage, domestic violence, and shopper stampedes.
Read the report from your local water department, and try to trace how
population could affect the amount of cryptosporidium, giardia, and farm
runoff in your tap water.  Years of fire suppression policies in forests full of
resort communities and vacation homes make for bigger, more devastating
fires in the long run, with mudslides to follow.  Climate changes, droughts,
floods, hurricanes, avalanches, and holes in the ozone that give us skin
cancer from ultraviolet exposure; is Mother Nature sending us a message
here?  Even earthquakes wouldn't kill so many people if fewer people lived
in earthquake zones, or if they built more quake-resistant dwellings there.
    Depression, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks seem to be more
common than they used to be; if they don't wreak havoc with your sex drive,
the medications for them do.  I don't know if homosexuality is on the rise,
percentage-wise, or if it's just a case of more people being "out of the closet"
than before.  Being blue or being gay doesn't necessarily mean you won't
have children, but it's likely to increase that possibility.  Is something trying
to tell us that we shouldn't be adding so many more people to the Earth?
And, while there have always been wars, concentrated populations and
better technology have increased the death potential of war dramatically.
    I don't think there's any grand conspiracy going on here, because a
conspiracy implies conscious thought.  Taken together, however, all these
diseases, violent acts, and "natural" disasters do seem to make some sort of
pattern.  We are being warned, and we should listen, before the Great Green
Beast kills us all.  For now, mad cow disease and everything else might just
be ways of thinning the (human) herd.

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