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I love the sort of painting where you can see all the creatures that live in an ecosystem and imagine the complicated interrelationships between them.  This particular example is by long-time favorite wildlife artist, John D. Dawson, who was illustrating pull-outs for Ranger Rick when I was a youthful subscriber.  I had a large number of his web-of-life landscapes affixed to my bedroom walls.  They were stuck on with that peculiar blue tacky gum that gradually hardens until your poster falls off the wall.

I would still put this on my wall

Our politicians and our media greatly overstate threats to our wellbeing.

Media outlets are full of fear mongering stories about how common household chemicals will injure and kill us.  Global warming is bringing about the end of days (in the least dramatic and slushiest of possible apocalypses).  Our food is unsafe and toxic. Autism is on the rise.  Terrorists and enemies are everywhere. Measles is coming back…. You’ve looked at the news: you know the sort of  thing I’m talking about.

These reports do not exist because people worldwide are universally worse-off and more endangered than ever (substantial bodies of data suggest that the opposite is true).  Looking back at newspapers and magazines from yesteryear reveals headlines filled with the same sort of—now hilarious–language, concerning threats we have largely forgotten.  We’ve nearly been wiped out by Halley’s comet, Global cooling, a communist third column, holes in the ozone,Y2K, Swine Flu, and innumerable other deadly scourges.  News outlets know that we insatiably consume stories like this, so they oblige our awful tastes.

Politicians also tell us we should be afraid because it magnifies their authority and because it is a win/win proposition. If something bad happens—they warned us.  If nothing bad happens, it means they prevented it from happening.

Undoubtedly some of these threats are real and we should indeed worry about them (ah, but which ones?), however I wish our elected leaders would use some different arguments other than the hysterical ones hardwired in our desperate primate brains.  Being chronically frightened makes us a less successful, less happy society in obvious ways and in subtle ones.  To live trembling because of our own newspapers and our own leaders really does seems cowardly.

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