Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Northern Bald Ibises: Slackers That Must Be Saved

To be sure, the birds have not evolved well. If they don't take flight in the first autumn of their life, they usually settle into a sedentary existence. And even the mobile ones are far from fleet. When they are motivated to take flight, they need almost ideal conditions to get anywhere. A stiff tail wind is best; a headwind is a deal-breaker. Generations of poor self-motivation and even poorer stamina (their top speed is 35 kph, and during migration the young require ample recuperative days off) seem to have robbed the birds of one crucial instinct: an innate sense of direction.

There's a conceit in Modern society that laziness is  unnatural. Work is ennobling, ambition a sign of virility. While Sloth carries a bad rap from its inclusion among the seven deadly sins. Look back for a moment and it's not hard to fathom why.

The modern work ethic and religious thought have a dutiful marriage. The fall from Grace is a motif that persists in the spite of the Enlightenment's ardent evangelism. The romanticism of Rousseau's Noble savage  provocative and condescending continues to feed our view of the world. A flight to nature will cure the ennui that plagues post industrial man: Thoreau expressed it in a  pure and eloquent way in America, Wordsworth before him in Britain. It's the banner that's more than ever unfurled to champion the environment, a realization of a collective guilt and a hope to expiate the sin. Atonement through a concerted and worldwide plan for renewal. 

Nature's that marketing buzzword that sells. Natural products, the natural way. It's a similar idea reinforced by one study after another to explain escalating levels of heart disease and diabetes. We don't move. Food is plentiful and available for the middle and upper classes of the world.

And we indulge. The modern world is to blame. It's a cultural side effect of advanced industrial nations. The solution is a simulation of the activity that's part of our heritage in the natural world.

As much as all of this is sensible and reasonable and should be emphasized as a form of propaganda if nothing else, I love to hear of the natural exceptions.

Meet the Northern Bald Ibises. They're lazy,
awkward, in an aesthetic sense odd - bird punk rockers- and incredibly rare. And they must be saved because they're  like us without the existential excuses.

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