I tuck the kids in every night. Nothing unusual in that. But a couple of nights ago I went into the bedroom found our youngest son quietly sobbing in the dark. I gave him a hug, then waited a bit before asking, “What is it?”
“I miss Gracie,” he said.
I didn't quite expect that. Our puppy Gracie has been gone for a couple of years now, neatly buried in the woods. That was one house move ago for us—and an eon ago to a boy, I’d expect.
But life is like that, continually looking forward but rarely looking back. It reminds me of the news feed on Facebook or the news feed from any news source. The ‘new’ news just keeps on coming, replacing the old. So what happens to the old stuff?
Who knows? And there’s a whole lot of old stuff out there, especially now on the Internet. According to one site I found, there are more than 250 million websites on the Internet, and we exchange over 100 trillion (yes, trillion) e-mail messages a year—at a rate of about 300 billion a day!
What that really means is the pressure of the “now” greatly overrides the rapidly deflating memories of the past.
This has proven to be a real boon to both newscasters and politicians. With so much of the public’s attention focused on the immediate present, the sins of the past can quickly disappear. A few weeks ago the public was curious, to say the least, about the manner of Osama bin Laden’s death. Today? Meh.
This goes for pretty much everything, from the flooding here in Charlotte County to what happened to NB Power after New Brunswickers kicked out the Liberals for wanting to sell the money-bleeding utility, and elected the Conservatives on the issue.
And the list of disappearing news nationally and internationally is staggering. Instant media phenomenon Julian Assange is all but forgotten. The Gabrielle Giffords’ assassination attempt is a distant memory (who was the shooter, again?).
By way of examples, here are the top stories from 2009. A U.S. major killed 13 people and injured 30 others in a shooting rampage at a Texas military base. A plane crashed in Buffalo, NY killing 49 people and one on the ground. An Air France jet disappeared over the Atlantic taking with it 228 passengers. North Korea threatened its southern neighbour with a military strike. A German teenager shot 15 people before killing himself. “Balloon boy” never left home in a runaway helium balloon. World leaders meet in Copenhagen for climate change agreement, which fails. A California man is accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old girl, and later investigated for murdering prostitutes. And a story you might remember, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States. Those were just the big stories.
So with this constant tidal wave of news, how do we concentrate on the important things that need to be addressed, without experiencing some kind of media fatigue? By that I mean the singularly important things: like the global energy crisis, which will continue to intensify until we finally run out of fossil fuel.
Sure, we cover the symptoms, such as gas prices, or reports of the number of wounded or dead in America’s longest running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we seem incapable of addressing the larger issues, such as our addiction to a fossil fuel-powered economy, and the fact that the Indians and Chinese are just now ramping up their entry into the game.
And the simple facts are compelling. Already there are over 900 million people going hungry every night on planet Earth, while the world’s automobile fleet now exceeds that number by some 10 million according to one report I read. I don’t know about you, but I find something darkly sinister in those statistics.
As the onslaught of news increases, thoughtful discourse seems to be on the decline. We seem to have no public forums in which we can discuss issues such as fossil fuel depletion, climate change and world poverty. Instead, we have the polarizing of public debate into opposing, self-defeating ideologies—and faith-based defensive positions.
This, I think, is what happens to a species that loses its direct connection to its source of survival: the earth. And just as I begin to write this column, my kids run into the house to bring me back into that connection.
“Come outside and see this,” they say, and out we go to look. And there it is, the most impossibly small baby bird lying in the grass beside a fractured bit of eggshell. From the shell colour it looks to be a robin. We search for the nest in the nearby trees, but nothing. It must have been carried from the nest and dropped there by a predator.
So, what to do? What else could we do? We put the naked thing into a makeshift tissue-paper nest under a lamp on the buffet. The kids are hunting for worms, and to our surprise it’s taken a little food.
While I’m not overly optimistic, we’ll see how it does—and keep you posted in the upcoming news feeds.