Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Consider Henry the Pheasant

UCLA neuroscientist Dr. Peter Whybrow, author of the book American Mania, thinks the United States is by and large a victim of its own success because people are simply ill-equipped to handle the abundance of modern times, as opposed to the scarcity our ancestors endured. He says it’s not that Americans are any weaker psychologically than other people. In fact, you’ll find the same emerging behaviors in other cultures where food and money are in rapidly growing supply. Dr. Whybrow says animals—even birds(!)—exhibit the same conduct in the face of abundance. 
Consider “Henry the Pheasant.” In England last year, on the grounds of Blenheim Palace, the Churchill family estate, a harsh winter and the efficiency of local hunters took a nasty toll on the pheasant population. As Dr. Whybrow tells this true story, only a single bird survived—and the locals affectionately named him Henry. Having made it through the scarcity of food and safe cover the previous winter, Henry had the entire field (literally) to himself when spring arrived. He made the most of it. Without competition for food in the freshly seeded tract, he ate almost constantly. Before long, Henry was enormous, and he used his gargantuan stature to frighten other birds away and consume even more food. Eventually, he got so obese that the locals noted he could no longer fly. Henry was indeed living the high life … until suddenly one day he disappeared. A fox ate him.
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