Politicians play to the incoherent fears of wimpy folks.
This is bad for protecting the planet and its wildlife-
Just two months ago many Americans feared they would soon be stricken by dread Ebola and those who survived would have their heads lopped off by ISIS. Fortunately a cure was deployed for both Ebola and the bloody blade of ISIS. The November election cured both.
The practice of politics consists mostly of talk –well, it’s best to say “communication.” A surprising amount of this talk is designed to manipulate fear in the public. Raising the fear level appropriately, or lowering it, or misdirecting it, are tools of the trade.
With the coming of the web, however, it isn’t hard to find some objective facts about what needs to be feared. There are statistics that enable us to find the probability of the possible ways of our demise. Now as a result people can know to worry most about heart disease because they can find their chances of dying from it are one in five. Next on the worry list is cancer, one in seven. Third is stroke, one in 23. Some kind of accident is one in 36, auto accidents being one in 112. Assault by firearms is one in 306, while accidental firearms discharge is one in 6500.
We can also learn what is improbable, such as getting hit by an asteroid is estimated at one in 200,000 to 500,000. Fireworks is one in 386,000. Really improbable is death by falling coconut — one in 250-million. Improbable too is death by terrorist attack. It’s one in 9.3-million. We could go on. Perhaps death by one’s lover sitting on your face (a growing concern of the U.K. government). Whoops! That one is not reported.
What about those big, mean animals? Death by shark attack is one in 200-million. I couldn’t find grizzly bear or wolf, but it is not hard to estimate grizzly bear attack for American to be about one in 225-million. I assume about 1.5 deaths by griz a year. The odds of becoming wolf dinner over the last 20 years appears to have been only one in 6-billion (just one case in the USA)! I calculated this using 300-million Americans and the odds of a fatal wolf attack somewhere in the U.S. once every 20 years.
Some anti-wolf activists call them “wildlife terrorists,” but the odds of death by wolf seem to be close to 6500 times less than attack by real terrorists in the United States, the latter still being very unlikely.
So, given that this information is now available at the click of a mouse, do people appropriately worry a lot about heart trouble and nothing about wolves? Do they change their lifestyle to save their heart, but not avoid outdoor recreation so to avoid wolf trouble? No, it turns out. Many people are wimps about about wolves, yet their fear is incoherent because they think little about their cardio, not even to worry how their fear of wolves raises their blood pressure.
Why is this so – people underestimating danger of real threats and overestimating uncommon things, even incredibly rare events like wolf attack? One reason might be, to quote a recent article by Gary Ferguson, the offerings of the Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Recent listings there include “North America’s Top 20 Most Fearsome Predators,” a rerun or two of “Shark Attack,” and a couple of episodes of “Nature’s Deadliest,” or “Rattlesnake Roundup,” or “Yukon Men.”
It would be wrong to blame it all on the media because fear is not the media’s intent. The passive fear generated by them is just a way to make money.
Fear is the intent, however, when some cattlemen’s group predicts wolf attacks on people. They want people to fear for their lives, or more likely, those of “the little children,” when they think of wolves roaming in the hills. It is politically beneficial to them. They make similar predictions about other animals they don’t like.
This brings us to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) wanting to restart the plan to restore grizzly bears to central Idaho. We can bet this will be met with blatant fear-mongering. After all, the process was well on its way back at the turn of the millennium, when Idaho’s then- governor Dirk Kempthone stated that the grizzly restoration plan “is perhaps the first federal land-management action in history likely to result in injury or death of members of the public.” He continued railing against “bringing these massive, flesh-eating carnivores into Idaho.” He forgot they were already in Idaho, with a small population in both the Panhandle and in Eastern Idaho, in Yellowstone and adjacent country. He also forgot that grizzlies are omnivores, not carnivores . . . kind of like himself.
Kempthorne’s worries at the time, which seemed almost personal, seemed to cause the Bush Administration to stop the process. Now CBD wants a restart. Politicians and groups usually don’t truly fear big animals because they think they will get eaten though, they have other reasons to oppose them. The fear is meant for the public. Do they disrespect us when they use it, or are we as wimpy as they think and hope?
Unrealistic fear has major consequences for the outdoors, for conservation, and more are worrying about these.
Fear of harm coming to children has resulted in children not playing outdoors unsupervised. There is little unstructured access to it. This writer, being of a earlier generation, had almost total unsupervised time in the outdoors. This was during the days when the crime rate was much higher than now. Now, we have traded fun and fearless time in the sun (and familiarity) for watching “killer” fish and wildlife on TV indoors. This kind of child rearing makes it hard to instill love of the wilderness, though this has always been true to an extent, with most Americans never spending a night outdoors in the woods alone.
Climate change is something that should lead to great anxiety. It is very probable and already underway, but as we have seen, more than half relegate it to a low concern. It is perhaps like a smoker’s view of the dangers of cigarettes. “I want to quit, but not right now.”
It is true that those who hate endangered species are more than proportionately folks who say they love a high CO2 emitting economy. It is also likely true that the same are content with our alienation from nature and have no problem is Americans have an unreasonable fear of the outdoors.
So, I am afraid . . .