Bird Priorities

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by Jack Flintermann

I initially struggled to come up with a topic for this project. In an attempt to find inspiration, I began by simply watching a huge amount of mostly random youtube videos. I quickly remembered what a depressing endeavor this can be due to the sheer volume of mindless, awful content on the site. This has always struck me as odd - here we have one of the most effective information-dissemination systems in the history of mankind, and 99% of the videos it now serves consist of cats playing the keyboard, whining teenage boys, poor-quality hand-filmed copies of television shows, and other meaningless drivel. Youtube is largely a wasted resource.

I thought of a conversation my friends and I had once had, where we discussed how while most animals are incapable of living in a urban/suburban environment (we don't see mountain lions walking around the Brown campus), birds are often seemingly relatively unaffected by human presence. Birds don't care about any part of the thousands of accumulated years of human cultural and technological experience. They are too busy focusing on their "bird responsibilities" - finding food, building nests, protecting their young, etc.

Going back to youtube, I found myself watching videos and joking to myself that a bird totally wouldn't care about what I had just seen. I realized that this was really just a specific focusing of one of my core beliefs about humanity - that nature doesn't care about us, and as a species we take ourselves far too seriously. Some would argue that human impacts are causing climate change that will in turn dramatically affect nature. I would counter with the opinion of many scientists now, namely that any major human-induced climate change will almost certainly dramatically reduce the Earth's carrying capacity, resulting in the near-extinction of our species and the utter destruction of our current way of life. In a geological sense, we are little more than an insignificant blip on the Earth's history that could be wiped out at almost any time.

I don't mean to imply total nihilism from this, just cynicism. While I still think that our individual actions have meaning, I don't really think they mean more than the individual actions of, say, a bird. To attempt to illustrate this, I ended up placing footage of birds (specifically, american robins) over audio from "major" American political/cultural events of the last year. The robins don't care about anything that happens in the background - they are too busy focusing on their bird responsibilities.

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