Friday, October 7, 2011

A Late-Night Post About Bears and Pools

Black bear climbing out of a home swimming pool with white type above, Watch out for the drain!
What does the Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 have in common with Hope the Bear?

The irrational nature of the human mind.

Hope was born on camera a few winters ago in a northern Minnesota den. Thousands of people watched and waited for her birth over the interweb. Well, Hope has recently disappeared, probably shot by a hunter. And people are sad about this, writing letters to the editor -- many of whom don't think twice about every other adorable bear that's shot, let alone the cute cows, pigs and chickens they eat every day.

At the time Hope was born, I thought about writing a grouchy post here, but talked myself out of it. It reveals my antisocial side, I know. But this recent news brought it all back.

Ed Lotterman, on the other hand, highlights the irrationality of people who say they want less government regulation, but then turn around and pass a bill requiring all pools to be retrofitted to prevent swimmers from becoming stuck in the drains. A Minnesota child died this way, you see, so there ought to be a law. According to Lotterman, "Drain-related accidents commonly account for less than five of the 2.4 million deaths in our country each year."

Risks are not real to our impaired human brains unless we can see and, ideally, imagine ourselves hugging the thing that's threatened. And it's even better if the threat is posed by something tangible, like a drain you can fix for $3,800 a crack or a mean old hunter.

But a company that spews pollution that will make us all sick some time in the future or that wants to mine the Boundary Waters Canoe Area --  hands off of them, because they're job creators! Let alone the risk of climate change -- that's way too abstract. Unless it involves some bears. Hence the news about polar bears stranded on ice floes, surrounded by water.

Somehow, it always comes back to bears and water.


Some of the best writing on our all-too-human irrationality can be found at YouAreNotSoSmart.

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