How the natural world deals with bears

Richard Conniff


Scott Jagow: Time for more of our seires "What's the Fix" -- we're asking people what they think we should do to solve this financial crisis. Today, we turn to animal behavioralist Richard Conniff to get his take on how the natural world would respond to a bear.

Richard Conniff: Let's take a herd of elk at Yellowstone National Park, for example. They really know what it means to have a bear threaten their security. So when they're out grazing, somebody's always popping his head up and keeping an eye out.

It's an early warning system. When all the elk start to turn and stare in the same direction, it generally means there's a grizzly bear out there.

So what's that got to do with the stock market? A couple of lessons from the natural world can help. First, when a herd panics, animals just get trampled and become food for the bear. We need to calm down and look out for each other.

And we need real leaders to help. In the wild, strong animals sometimes walk straight toward the bear, as if to say, "I see you and you don't scare me." At Yellowstone, I've also seen mother elk band together and run interference to protect fawns from a charging bear.

That's kind of what Warren Buffett's been up to lately. But now we need other big-money types to get into the market with everything they've got and show some nerve defending the system that made them rich. It's a chance for the golden parachute gang to redeem themselves. If you're a CEO taking federal bailout, do your job for a dollar a year and be an American hero.

I saw forest fire ravage Yellowstone in 1988, and it looked like the end of the world then, too. But when I went back a few years later, the blackened areas were flourishing with new growth. The same thing happens when financial markets go up in flames. Buck up your courage, buy some stock, and the grass can be green again for us, too.

Jagow: Richard Conniff is author of the book "Natural History of the Rich."

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Sorry guy, you forgot that the park rangers (Barney Frank and the gang) were stroking the elk and telling them that the bear wasn't really there.

I see the bear and I am not afraid - I just went out and bought some John Deere stock!

I doubt you have "seen mother elk band together and run interference to protect fawns from a charging bear." Fawns are offspring of deer; an elk's offspring is a calf. Protecting your own and sacrificing others who are at risk is exactly what is wrong with current executive behavior.

We cannot forget about natural selection. Yes the elk look out for eachother, but the slowest elk or injured elk will be sacrificed for the good of the herd. Putting a bandaid on the elks lame leg wont save it from the bear.

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