Fearing the Wrong Things

This is a very interesting topic in my opinion and people far more knowledgeable than me have written articles and whole books about it. I don’t claim to know anything about the topic but nevertheless I dare to have an opinion.

There are a ton of things humankind wrongly fears. One classic example is shark attacks. Maybe a dozen people die every year from shark attacks – but how many die from smoking? Car accidents? War? And and and? Not a single death from smoking makes it into the media, but shark attacks are big news. – why? Because shark attacks are rare, scary, and sudden, whilst dying from smoking is a long-term process.

Which leads me to the statement that we fear short-term, sudden things, no matter what they are, much more than long-term, creeping, and slow things, while actually it should be the other way round. This fear of sudden things like a shark attack is juicy for the media and they ride it out for a few days until the next big news happens, which is again short-term, and so forth. Thus our focus shifts from what we should really worry about, long-term creeping stuff to short-term catastrophes.

One great example for that is climate change, which doesn’t happen overnight. Other great examples are smoking or alcoholism. Stuff that destroys you over years and years seems far less scary than it should be.
What triggered thinking about such stuff was an article, which I forwarded around in Facebook, about the health problems in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. In that article they stated that nobody had any problems with radiation, but people died from being suddenly evacuated or from suicide triggered by losing their homes, social networks, jobs etc. People all around the world went bonkers when Fukushima happened, as far as Germany, which is 10,000 miles away. Even four years on, I hear ridiculous comments about babies being born with three ears here because we are all radioactive, while natural background radiation in the south of Germany is three times higher than radiation levels in Tokyo. I do not wish to say in any form that what happened in Fukushima wasn’t/isn’t dangerous and terrible. I think it’s crazy to have dozens of nuclear reactors operating in one of the seismically most active regions in the world. But just how many people who believe that we are all radioactively contaminated here smoke and/or drink…?

I think that our media reporting and our desire for scandals, big events, and big news is distorting reality. Short-term, sudden events get much more media coverage than they deserve. What really kills people and what really affects the future of our planet, slumbers in the background and doesn’t get enough attention and that could prove to be a fatal mistake, quite literally.