Friday, January 7, 2011

Aflockalypse Now

Desi Anwar

In recent days we’ve head of birds falling dead from the skies in thousands and millions of fish dying mysteriously around the world. Sudden changes in temperature, stormy weather, even fireworks, have been blamed for these strange goings on, but an approaching Doomsday sounds like a more plausible explanation to this ‘Aflockalypse.’ After all, animals are a lot more sensitive and prescient to impending events and planetary rumblings than humans, normally being the first to make a dash for it when a natural disaster is about to occur. No doubt, those birds that died en masse in midflight, or the fish that suddenly went belly up by the million all suffered massive heart attacks at the sight of a pale horseman casting his shadow or signs of an alien attack.

Scientists are trying to make light of these events, saying they are not such rare occurrences, but then that’s probably typical of a government cover-up attempt in the face of weird phenomena.

Having dead birds raining down from the heavens is about as natural as the biblical plague of locusts.

For all we know, the mass deaths were the works of some mischievous aliens or a scientific experiment gone wrong. Or, of course, they signal the end of the world, which if we follow the Mayan calendar, is due to come at the end of next year.

Closer to home, my pet cat has also been showing a noticeable change in behavior these last few weeks.

Little Ben, generally a pusillanimous and antisocial creature, seems to have given up on his mat near the water pump and instead taken a liking to the sofa in the TV room.

This might not seem like any cause for alarm, but for a creature that had up to now shown itself to be immune to human caresses and suspicious of both two-legged and four-legged company, this sudden transformation is quite disturbing.

Is this the result of Ben finally realizing that the sofa is a nicer spot to have his catnap or does it portend a more sinister happening like the end of the world?

Which, scientifically speaking, is not unnatural either. Difficult to document perhaps, but not impossible.

Throughout the ages, a number of species have become extinct.

Creatures that had walked, flown or swum on this earth for thousands, even millions, of years could suddenly disappear without as much as a by your leave, including our ancestors, leaving future descendants to puzzle over the mysteries of what exactly happened and why.

Moreover, it’s only recently that modern humans have colonized the planet, and we can only trace our own history back a few thousand years while theory holds that ‘Homo sapiens’ was around in Africa some two hundred thousand years ago.

This means that between the numerous planetary catastrophes and the melting and the freezing of the continents, there were no doubt a bunch of strange goings on that we don’t yet know about.

For example, what were the saber-toothed tigers and hairy mammoths doing when they suddenly became extinct?

And what were the Neanderthals up to before their species was wiped off the face of the planet?

Thinking about it, what prompted some of our ancestors to leave the African continent and populate the world some forty to fifty thousand years ago? Perhaps because birds fell out of the sky and fish died?

Even the discoveries of our human origins continue to surprise us.

We are used to thinking of ourselves as the only superior and intelligent being that roamed the earth, but recent revelations about the Neanderthals, with whom Homo sapiens shared the planet tens of thousands of years ago and may even have exchanged genes, are making us rethink our history and what constitutes the human species.

Apparently we were not the only smart being around.

The Neanderthals too, contrary to our beliefs, developed their own tools and even cooked their food.

And then there were the Denisovans, ancient cousins of humans who are thought to have lived alongside and even bred with our Homo sapiens ancestors some fifty thousand years ago.

Throw in the ‘Homo floresiensis’ Hobbit and the world seemed to have been a lot more interesting place to live in those days when the planet was somewhat younger.

These are all silly musings of course, but there’s nothing quite like looking at things in perspective and trying to see the big picture to make life a lot less alarming and keep our hubris as the dominant species on earth in check.

The world is always changing and coming to an end in one way or the other and will continue to do so.

Civilizations and cultures rose and fell, different human races thrived and disappeared, beliefs grew and changed as knowledge developed and evolved.

Nothing is permanent.

The one thing that we need to do is continually deepen our knowledge and find answers to the question, Why?

By Desi Anwar senior anchor at Metro TV.

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