The COVID-19 pandemic has raised an incessant debate about who should be included in decision making regarding, lockdown policies, testing, vaccination, and economic stimulus programs. The only commonality among Austrian politicians is the opinion that a “group of the best experts” should set policies. If politicians could only agree on who the experts are, we might be making quicker progress on controlling the virus and getting out of lockdown.

In the brave new world of alternative facts we are moving more towards a situation in which, regardless of the topic, many believe that the opinions and intuitions of lay people should be granted the same credence as those of experts and specialists. I find this extremely disturbing. Consider what recently happened to the German Society for Nature Conservation NABU (not to be confused with the Planet Naboo of the Outer Rim territories).

Since 1971 NABU has picked the bird of the year. The goal of the conservationists is to draw attention to endangered species – species that are hunted, whose habitats are shrinking, and that are threatened with extinction. In previous years, the bird of the year has been selected by environmentalists, ornithologists, and ecologists. Past winners have included: the yellow and black Eurasian golden oriole (1980), the elegant salmon colored Eurasian hoopoe (1976), and the Common Kingfisher (2009). All majestic and worthy recipients indeed!

For 2021, however, NABU decided to try something new and opened up nominations and voting to the general public. In round one, 307 birds were nominated and an initial election reduced nominees to a field of ten finalists.

So what birds did the general public select? The top three nominations for 2021 are:

  1. the feral pigeon
  2. the European common robin
  3. the common blackbird

Wow! I liked it better when the experts decided.

What is most disturbing is that the feral pigeon received almost 20% of the votes among the top ten. Ick! But it is not too late to stop the pigeon. A really cool bird, the northern lapwing, is running in ninth place. So cast your vote! The final on-line election (link not active until January 18th CET) will start on January 18th and last through March 19th.

Photo by Joshua Köller from Pexels.

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