Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A global phenomenon

Comprehensive list of animal deaths en masse, Dec. 31st - Jan. 6th:
  1. New Years' Eve: 5,000 grackles, blackbirds and starlings fall dead from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas. According to HuffPost, Dan Cristol, co-founder of the Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies at the College of William and Mary, says that the fireworks explanation is unlikely, unless "somebody blew something into the roost, literally blowing the birds into the sky."
  2. 100,000 freshwater drum fish washed up on the shore of the Arkansas river near Ozark.  
  3. 500 red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings found on the side of a road in Pointe Coupee, Louisiana.
  4. Hundreds of dead red-winged blackbirds, grackles, starlings and several robins fall from the sky in Murray, Kentucky.
  5. 2 million small menhaden, croaker and spot fish found dead in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
  6. 100 tons of sardines, croaker and catfish wash up dead in the Parana fisherman's colony on Brazilian coast. In the meantime, the sale of seafood has been suspended. See Shirat Devorah on the difficulty of finding fish during the era before Mashiach
  7. 8,000 of dead turtledoves found on trees and ground in Faenza, Italy. As a Youtube video narrator says, "Peace is dead." (See previous post for how doves were co-opted into a move of Palestinian unilateralism). Also, the week before in Italy, mass amounts of clams, crabs and shellfish were found washed up on the beach.
  8. 50 jackdaws found dead on city street in Falkoping, Sweden
  9. Hundreds of dead snapper fish dead on Coromandel Peninsula beaches in New Zealand, many with their eyes missing.
  10. 40,000 velvet swimming crabs (also known as devil crabs) carcasses found strewn across a beach in Kent, England.
  11. Japan on high alert for H5N1 avian influenza. Hooded crane dies of avian flu in the Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan, the nation's top poultry-raising area. In the northern Toyama Precture, a wild tundra swan was found on a house balcony dying of what was tentatively identified as the flu virus, which led to a search in which 23 more birds were found dead in neighboring farms. In the Hyogo Prefecture on Japan's inland sea, officials decided to stop displaying the white stork, Japan's national treasure, to prevent exposure to wild birds.
  12. A mystery disease killed 10,000 saiga antelope in Kazakhstan, which are already an endangered species. 
  13. Thousands of dead fish were found floating in Spruce Creek in Florida on Tuesday. Locals say the fish kill, which is the worse they've ever seen, is unusual because the creek is warm. Buzzards and pelicans swarmed above the water eager to get at the kill, and brown and white pelicans made a rare showing from their usual habitat at the beach. Most of the fish that died were mullet, ladyfish and catfish.
  14. Authorities are investigating the deaths of three whooping cranes found in Calhoun County, Georgia last Friday. An investigation was called due to the the fact that the birds were found together, whereas a normal predator attack would involve one bird at a time, according to the  US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  15. 200 birds were found dead on a bridge over the Lake O' the Pines in East Texas on Wednesday morning.
Other recent incidents of animal deaths (prior to Dec. 31st):
  1. Tens of thousands of dead menhaden fish washed ashore in New Jersey in August 2010, just days after thousands washed ashore 200 miles away in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. This was also around the time of the last solar eclipse, and the much-awaited Rosh Chodesh Av of the Jewish Year 5770.
  2. More than 150 tons of red tilapia died en masse in the last week of December in the southern province of Dong Thap, Vietnam, resulting in losses of $2.2 million for aquaculture farmers.
  3. Over 100 dead pelicans were found mutilated on the beaches of Topasil Island in December. According to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Law Enforcement Officer Doug Jones, natural death is an unlikely explanation.
  4. In late December, dead penguins washed up on the shores of New Zealand in unusual numbers. Autopsies showed that the birds starved to death (i.e. lack of fish)
Update via Shirat Devorah: Map of Worldwide Mass Animal Deaths

A map of the US incidents:

Most of the media is caught up in a wild-goose hunt (no pun intended) after causal explanations. Aristotelian philosophy was characterized by an openness to causal and purpose-based explanations, i.e did I get up because my legs moved, or because I had a goal of making a sandwich? Modern science, on the other hand, has done away with purpose-based explanations, since it has a bias of only including explanations which can be proven by observation. The problem is that this approach creates its own tautology, since anything asserting that the world has a purpose is proven by introspection, learning, prayer and devotion, and not on an approach that cuts the human being off from everything other than observations deriving from the five senses (which all animals share, hence the proclivity to believe that we came from apes...=0)

Today, for anyone who grew up brainstormed by the exclusive education of modern science, believing that the world has a purpose is a huge leap of faith. However, in my experience, once one, for whatever reason, even from a genuine wonder from reading the news, is open to the notion that what happens in this world is not random, and is not only in the hands of physical/material explanations, and that as humans we have access to realms beyond the physical world (beginning with art, creativity, imagination, wonder, awe, love, introspection, meditation, insight...and ending with prayer, Torah, mitzvot, from a Jewish perspective), a mere openness to other perspectives on reality is the only way to access new insight, in a world in which God has become a bad word =0(

Don't forget to eat gefilte fish with kavvanah this Shabbos!!

Birds circling the sky in Jerusalem today (kayn hora):

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