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September 3, 2009

Natural selection applies to modern dinosaurs, too

Greg Felton

Some 65 million years ago, as we all know, a huge asteroid ploughed into the Earth, changing life forever.

The space rock hit with such force and generated such intense heat that it liquefied carbon deep within the Earth’s crust and ejected the resulting liquid into the atmosphere. There, it cooled to form a blanket of tiny beads that blocked out the sun.

Virtually in an instant, 75 percent of all plant and animal life was wiped out. The biggest losers, of course, were the giant reptiles at the top of the food chain because they were the least able to adapt to a sunless world. It was left to the smaller, smarter, warm-blooded mammals, some meeker than others, to inherit the Earth.

It’s possible, I suppose, that mammals, even man, might have evolved without cosmic assistance, but if early hominids and proto-hominids had to live alongside Tyrannosaurus and other predators, human civilization would almost certainly not have developed. In no small way, then, we humans owe our existence to natural selection caused by a freak accident, so the asteroid wasn’t a complete disaster.

That’s the point I want to make with this trip down Prehistory Lane: death by natural selection is how life renews itself—the maladapted die off so that new life may flourish. With that fact firmly established, I’d like to turn to the man-made world, man-made dinosaurs and man-made selection. The same life-from-death rules apply, but for some perverse reason governments and other agencies are interfering with the natural order of things.

The dinosaurs in this case are inefficient, maladapted corporations; the “asteroid” is the worldwide economic depression caused by a plundered banking system. For the better part of the last 100 years, our economic base has been shrinking as corporations consumed resources and each other with reckless abandon. The First Commandment of Western economic theology states:


shall not interfere with the God-given right

of every Corporation to despoil the Land

and impoverish Competitors to maximize Profits,

even at the expense of the public Good.

And so it came to pass that, for the better part of the last 150 years, corporations consumed resources, and large companies consumed smaller companies, in an orgy of destructive consumption. At the bottom of the food chain, of course, were the working classes, whose creative, productive labour and debt-financed spending habits kept this destructive status quo from imploding.

But if everybody consumes at an ever-increasing rate without regard for the capacity of the Earth or societies to sustain such consumption, even apex predators (corporations) will eventually exhaust their “food” supply and face extinction.

This is one way to understand the sub-prime mortgage fiasco: bankers and legislators collude to subvert banking regulations to flood the economy with cheap loans to fuel over-consumption, especially for houses. Faster than you can say “Bernie Madoff,” corporate and personal bankruptcies mushroomed as consumer and advertising spending suddenly plummeted. Once-smug bastions of private enterprise turned into pathetic hypocrites as they asked for government bailouts.

Throwing money at these dinosaurs the way the Obama administration gave $125-odd billion to car makers (Combustosaurus desidiosus) does nothing to affect the changed economic reality that brought about their demise—global climate change, resource depletion, rising joblessness, mushrooming debt, and monetary meltdown. This is the lesson of the asteroid and the first dinosaur extinction: no amount of band-aid intervention could have saved any species, as if such intervention were even possible, because the conditions of existence had changed. The futility of trying to forestall the extinction of the maladapted is best exemplified by the conspicuously overdue extinction of the apex predator Propagandosaurus Zionicus Canadensis.

For a year or so, speculation has been rife that the Asper family’s Canwest media empire was headed for bankruptcy, but it always managed to talk its creditors into postponing the inevitable. Canwest stock has fallen from more than $8 per share to less than bus fare, and financial defaults are commonplace. The most recent was a missed US$18.5 million interest payment on Aug. 1 on senior subordinated notes maturing in 2015. If Canwest can’t find a new cookie jar to pillage before Sept. 1, lenders can demand repayment of the entire $400 million loan, which would lead to the sell off of at least some of the empire. (It has already unloaded two TV stations, inter alia.)

The Aspers, though, have nobody but themselves to blame. Israel Asper (Paterzionicus Tyrannus Mortuus) chose to leverage a $3.5 billion purchase of Conrad Black’s Hollinger Inc., which included the chronic money-hemorrhaging The National Post. He and his spawn chose to turn his media organs into organ grinders for Isramerican genocide and economic hegemony.

Who could blame Canadians for turning to the Internet for news? Nobody likes to be lied to and fed a steady diet of press release news, polls, censorship and infotainment. The financial crisis is precisely the sort of catalyst needed to clear the field so that smaller, smarter, independent publications can thrive.

In cities where Canwest owns daily newspapers, a veritable renaissance in local news could take place under new ownership, or even new publications. Vancouver would likely benefit the most because Canwest owns Pacific Press, which publishes both local dailies, designed less to inform readers than to keep them in a state of contrived ignorance.

To remind ourselves of our debt to natural selection we should celebrate Asteroid Day, but since calendars weren’t around during the late Cretaceous Period, we don’t know when exactly the event happened. Instead, we should find a way to honour its remains, the 200-km Chicxulub Crater off the southeastern coast of Mexico.

This piece originally ran in The Canadian Arab News on Aug. 13.

Greg Felton is a freelance writer based in Vancouver.

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