Let me be clear- I am not pro-oil spill, nor am I anti-bird (except possibly my friend Spencer’s bird who pooped in my hair once). As photographic evidence, I submit to the jury Exhibit A:
(Before you get all on me for not having an econ book in the picture, keep in mind that I was 12.)
That said, it’s important to keep numbers in perspective when you hear them reported by the media. For example, from Marginal Revolution:
Number of birds killed by the BP oil spill: at least 2,188 and counting.
Number of birds killed by wind farms: 10,000-40,000 annually.
Number of birds killed by cars: 80 million annually.
Number of birds killed by cats: Hundreds of millions to 1 billion annually.
Don’t worry there is some good news.
Number of birds killed by fisheries: tens to hundreds of thousands annually (fortunately for the birds, some of these fisheries are now shut down).
Now, if you want to bitch about the methodology of this comparison (and there are some valid gripes), I implore you to do so on the original post rather than here. Furthermore, I am well aware that the number of birds killed is not the only measure of how devastating an environmental disaster is. I point out this series of estimates to highlight the fact that it’s very easy to use numbers to mislead when you don’t give any context for the numbers. If I were to say “thousands of birds have been lost due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” that sounds pretty bad, right? And it is, don’t get me wrong. But if we’re going to pick on oil on ornithological grounds, it’s appropriate to apply that same standard to other activities as well. All I’m asking for here is consistency, ok? I mean, I indirectly kill somewhere approaching 100 birds a year all on my own…mmmm, tastes like chicken…
When you start looking for it, it becomes clear just how often people and organizations use out of context and/or misleading data to make a point. I mean, Mr. Burns even manages to supposedly illustrate how his power plant is safer than wind power:
Funny what conclusions you can draw when you compare the benefits of one thing to the costs of another. Wind power, the silent killer…Don Quixote had better be careful.