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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
Here are two, widely separated quotes from the same mainstream newspaper story:
“The songbirds at the feeder outside your window are not the same as they used to be. The goldfinch, the grossbeak and even the ever-present sparrow are all a little bit bigger. The reason is climate change, according to a study. …”
“Research in Pennsylvania … found that birds there are getting smaller because of climate change – not larger. …”
A robin was resting on a telephone line when a sparrow alighted next to him.
“Hey, Red,” said Sparrow. “You’re looking good. Been working out?”
“Well, yes,” said Robin. “I read a report that said lighter birds would have an advantage in heavy storms because they would be more maneuverable. The report said global warming was creating stronger storms, so, I’m trimming down.”
Sparrow scoffed. This was an odd sound for a song bird to make. Nevertheless, he made the sound and said, “Take a look at me. Does it look like I’m losing weight?”
Robin allowed that, in fact, Sparrow seemed to have expanded a bit under his feathers.
“I didn’t want to mention it,” said Robin, “but you do seem to have added a gram or two.”
“Think nothing of it. I’m not offended,” said Sparrow. “I’ve been trying to bulk up, because I read a study that said bigger birds would be better able to withstand the buffeting of stronger storms associated with global warming.”
“That may be,” said Robin, “but my study – written by top scientists, – said we lighter birds would do better in the coming food shortages, because we wouldn’t need as many calories to survive. Clearly, smaller will be better.”
“What a crock!” chirped Sparrow. “The scientists I read said larger bodies will allow us to store more calories when food is available, so we’ll be able to survive longer when times are tough. Larger size, you see, is an adaptation to global warming.”
“Humph!” said Robin. “I have to doubt any scientist that says bigger bodies are a product of global warming. Everybody ought to know that larger body mass is an adaptation to colder temperatures. It explains the huge animals that roamed America during the ice age.”
“Look here,” Sparrow retorted. “Ice age stuff aside, my scientists said they’ve been measuring wing span, and birds’ wingspans have increased over the last 40 years.”
“They’ve been measuring wing span for 40 years?!” exclaimed Robin incredulously. “Wow! I have to wonder how they do that with any precision. Are they using live birds or dead? Do they stretch the wings out under a uniform tension? Do they smash bird specimens flat? And how much has the average span increased, anyway?”
“The answer to most of those questions is ‘I don’t know,'” said Sparrow. “As for the last query, it’s less than a millimeter.”
“Wing span has grown less than a millimeter? Jump back!” laughed Robin. “My scientists say global warming is making us birds smaller, and they did their study with government funding! That ought to be proof enough of their credibility.”
“Wait a second,” Sparrow interjected. “Are you telling me your scientists got government funding? So did mine!”
“National Science Foundation grant,” Robin affirmed.
“Well, I’ll be,” mused Sparrow. “If both studies were done by scientists with government funding, they both must be right. Birds are getting larger because they need to be stronger to handle all the global warming storms, and so they can store calories to survive food shortages.”
“And birds are getting smaller so they can maneuver better during those global warming storms, and so they can subsist on fewer calories during food shortages,” added Robin. “Shoot! Now I don’t know whether to diet and work out aerobically, or to hit the heavy weights and the bird feeder to bulk up.”
“Here’s an idea,” said Sparrow. “Why don’t we just forget all this global warming stuff and visit that berry bush over there. Research tells me that fruit will be delicious.”
“Now that’s science I trust!” said Robin. And off they flew.