Focus just on birds and airplanes

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Jared Diamond shares a story (Upheaval) about how two nations, which don’t get along, were nonetheless able to solve a problem:

Israel has invaded and partially occupied Lebanon. Lebanon has served as a base for launching rocket attacks into Israel. Nevertheless, bird-watchers of those two countries succeeded in reaching a milestone agreement. Eagles and other large birds migrating seasonally between Europe and Africa fly south from Lebanon through Israel every autumn, then north again from Israel through Lebanon every spring. When aircraft collide with those large birds, the result is often mutual destruction. (I write this sentence a year after my family and I survived the collision of our small chartered plane with an eagle, which dented but didn’t bring down our plane; the eagle died.) Such collisions had been a leading cause of fatal plane accidents in Lebanon and Israel. That stimulated bird-watchers of those two countries to establish a mutual warning system. In the autumn Lebanese bird-watchers warn their Israeli counterparts and Israeli air traffic controllers when they see a flock of large birds over Lebanon heading south towards Israel, and in the spring Israeli bird-watchers warn of birds heading north. While it’s obvious that this agreement is mutually advantageous, it required years of discussions to overcome prevailing hatreds, and to focus just on birds and airplanes.


  1. Graham says:

    Sometimes these little things can be confidence building measures that lead on to bigger things, broader treaties, and eventually to harmony and love and a new and better world, which is usually the subtext when somebody like Diamond brings them up.

    Sometimes I’m OK with that. Canada and the US first really improved relations by agreeing about things like migratory birds and tussling non-militarily about water and fish. Of course, we had a fair bit in common already and our quarrels were not bred too deep in the bone, so there’s that.

    Sometimes it can just be about the birds, and that’s OK too. Birds are cool. Except when they crash my plane. Not cool.

  2. Adar says:

    More Israeli warplanes downed by bird-strikes than by enemy weapons fire.

    Lebanese militia firing on migrating storks with 23 mm AAA quite common from the 1970′s. And remember, what goes up must come down.

  3. Graham says:

    I never quite got the point of celebratory gunfire, especially with AKs, for that very reason. At the very least, I would refrain from it at weddings. So many groomsmen and in-laws needlessly fallen…

    Celebratory AA fire is next level thinking. Using it on storks seems just cruel and stupid, unless pre-shredded stork makes a good meal.

  4. Kirk says:

    People like to make the bangity-bangity, and that’s all it comes down to. The Chinese are smart enough to use firecrackers, rather than guns, but… Arabs. They don’t do causality, or agency–It’s all “Inshallah”, all the time…

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