Monday, August 12, 2013

Terrorists are like sharks: Avoid drunk driving. Irrational fears decrease safety.

Taxidermed shark, in The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
Fear cows. Graphic by
http://like.iw3b.info/every-year-sharks-kill-10-2013-08-11/

On a recent tour through southern France, i brought a group of American high school students, their teachers and families, to Monaco, where i recommended they all visit The Oceanographic Museum.

There we found an extensive set of exhibits on sharks. The exhibits, meant to highlight the concern of the Museum, and of the Royal family of Monaco, that shark finning is highly detrimental to our own health and safety in the long term. It emphasized how drastic reduction in shark population is causing larger problems, including a great increase in the population of jellyfish. Sharks might be yummy, but jellyfish are statistically much more deadly. We have, i began realizing, an irrational fear of sharks that lead us to turn a blind/ignorant eye towards their destruction.

i apologize for my poor photography skills here, but check out this commentary from the exhibit:
"Where is the real danger? Sharks are burdened with the awful reputation of a man-eating species, a reputation that is regularly publicized in the western world by movie directors and hype-mad media. In reality, only a few specimens of this very diverse species...are truly dangerous for Man. The majority is really much less harmful than other more discrete animals. 
Information placard from The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
And yet, sharks are dubbed 'public enemies,' and as such are under constant attack from Man in his hunger and greed to conquer the marine environment, threatening many shark species with extinction. This incessant plundering threatens the balance of marine ecosystems, driven by Man's appetite for shark fins that is the real justification for these unscrupulous massacres." 
When i later learned from the exhibit both that jellyfish kill many more people than sharks, and that killing sharks increases the population of jellyfish, it became clear to me that a fear of sharks is irrational. i also began to realize how this irrational fear parallels our (American, especially) irrational fear of terrorists and terrorism.

Jellyfish, according to the statistics of The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, are five times as deadly as sharks. And as we kill sharks, the population of jellyfish grows. Therefore killing sharks actually makes us less safe.

Most dangerous animal in the world. Graphic by
WeKnowMemes.com
Similarly, killing terrorists and the people near them with drone missile strikes increases the number of people that would support violence and even terrorism. With the United States having used drones to  kill as many Pakistanis as there were Americans killed by terrorists in 2001, according to The Guardian newspaper, "a hydra global insurgency from a plethora of extremist groups in Pakistan has emerged that have links to al-Qaida led extremism and are willing to die to avenge the death of their leaders." To form the analogy, by killing the sharks (terrorists), we create more jellyfish, which are actually even more deadly than what we fear.

Information panel in The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco




Now, on the animal side of this analogy, we ignore the fact that mosquitos kill more than half million people per year, according to the World Health Organization). This global problem though effects the United States very little. The most dangerous animal i could find in America is the white-tailed deer. That's right, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as quoted by USA Today, car collisions with deer cause 200 deaths per year in America, more than twenty times more than sharks cause in the whole world.

Also on the public affairs side of the analogy also, we find many mundane things more deadly than the boogey man of terrorism. The one i choose to highlight here is drunk driving. Never has there been a year, not even 2001 with the events of September 11, when terrorism killed even 1/3 the number of Americans as drunk driving. Attacks took just less than 3,000 lives that daydrunk driving takes 10,000-15,000 per year in America.

Prevent a tragedy, Drive Sober.
Graphic by Zazzle.
Click here to buy that graphic as a bumper sticker.
Drunk driving is like the mosquitoes or deer on the animal side of the analogy - they are actually, statistically deadly. Unlike the animal simile, we can actually do something about this danger, we can avoid it.

Our irrational fear of terrorists and terrorism tend to only increase violence, increase worry, and increase the number of terrorists - it decreases safety.

To increase safety, instead, we should focus on sober driving. If we avoid driving intoxicated and avoid traveling with others that do so, we increase everyone's safety. When we teach children to fear terrorism, we make no one safer and our children more scared - but if we teach them that it is socially despicable to ride with an intoxicated driver, we actually make them safer.

This is the message i conveyed to those American students as a round up from our trip to Monaco. And, as always, this blog is an open letter to myself. And i truly hope to worry less about terrorism and actually avoid all drunk driving, driving only sober, and thus make everyone around me both safer and happier. :-)

Pulitzer Prize-winner Walt Handelsman's cartoon on drunk drivers, as cited by Arial83's Glog.

2 comments:

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