Our World: A Caricature of Itself

If it wasn’t so frighteningly real and serious, it would be downright entertaining. Today’s personalities, politics and planetary foibles are so bizarre and distorted and unimaginable in a former time that they seem more like the work of a deranged screenplay or a grotesque dystopian novel.

But this is great if somebody wants to write fiction. Don’t bother to make it up. Just go to the so-called news, to television, or any effluent of pop culture. Case in point:

You want a plot line for disasters in real life that could easily be extended creatively to reach full-blown catastrophe?

Consider this news item from just this week from Science Daily. (and only one of a dozen I’ve already squirreled away for later.) Gene-swapping vaccines spawn lethal poultry virus

Turns out, the treatment was far worse than the disease. Several different but related vaccines were given to a single population (or a couple of near-by flocks) of chickens in Australia. [Such treatment is necessary when there is no genetic variation in the mass produced chickens that live in squalid, standing-room-only conditions]

The three vaccines contained live viruses (versus heat-killed antigen-only). And lo and behold, in the same way epidemiologists fear might happen with mixed-flu-infected birds in the wild, the viruses from the vaccines made whoopie in multiply-injected birds, shared some of their genes, and made two new strains of lethal virus. Voila. You got your crisis for your hero to deal with.

You don’t suppose somebody at Science Daily is jerking our chain, do you? CONTAGION Part TWO? This is just such a great OOPS! to set the stage for Hollywood (or a small-town erstwhile novel writer wannabe.)

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Wowser. I know Science News doesn’t make this stuff up, but this is too wild for belief. (Not so; I believe it.)