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Ball of Confusion (That's what the world is today)

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While perusing a list of extinct animals, I came across something called the "Confused Moth," a now-vanished insect once native to Hawaii. This unusual moniker caught my attention because most moths I've ever encountered appeared (to my untrained eye, at least) to qualify as "confused" as they fluttered about the nearest artificial light source. Uh oh...I feel a metaphor coming on.

The continent of Africa was once home to the Atlas Bear, so named because it roamed the Atlas Mountains from Morocco to Libya. Hunted for sport (sic) since the time of the Roman Empire's expansion into North Africa, the last Atlas Bear was probably shot and killed in the 1870s (around the time America was doing its reconstruction thing).

Let's imagine the source of the earth's ills represented as the moon and visualize the rabble-rousers among us as moths-confused moths, if you will. Agitated and dedicated, these activists are giving it all they've got: flapping like mad around a dim bare 40-watt light bulb in a Sunoco gas station bathroom on a New York Thruway rest stop...while just outside the window, a doomed-to-extinction coyote howls at the real deal.

As Bruce Lee said about the proverbial finger that points to the moon: "Don't concentrate on the finger or you'll miss all that heavenly glory."

Competing for prey with the Atlas Bear was the Atlas Lion (a.k.a. Nubian Lion or Barbary Lion). It became extinct in the wild-there's a slim chance some have survived in zoos and circuses-in 1922 (two years after American women were granted the right to vote).

While I'm on a animal kingdom/distracted people metaphor kick, please allow me to introduce Mr. William S. Burroughs...who once wrote a little something about how we humans, like the bull in a bullfight, tend to focus on the elusive red cape instead of the matador. Indeed, we are all-too-easily distracted from the real targets by an attractive image or illusion. As you know, there are some bulls that see right through the red cape, uh, bullshit...and quite justifiably introduce the matador to the business end of their horns. But before you mistake that for a lesson and/or inspiration, don't forget that such bulls are promptly killed while the matador is mourned as a brave hero.

Here's a question: If every single bull in every single bullfight were to gore every single matador, how long would it be before bullfights were as extinct as the Confused Moth?

There was one more Atlas Mountain predator: the Atlas Leopard. Presumed to have become extinct when one was shot in Morocco in 1983 (the year the U.S. invaded Grenada), there still might be a few left (extinction is often an inexact science). That possibility is sometimes used in tourism come-ons like an article in Outside Magazine that touted the chance of well-heeled backpacker encountering a "rare Atlas Leopard."

Estimates vary, but roughly 50,000 animal and plant species become extinct each year. That's over 137 per day, about 6 per hour, and just about one every 10 minutes. How many species that were still around when you began reading this article have now joined the Atlas Mountains Bear, Lion, and Leopard?

How long must we wait until the Confused Human becomes a thing of the past?

Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at: http://www.mickeyz.net.
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Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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