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10 environmental change cliches in need of updating

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1. "It's like comparing apples and oranges."

The difference between apples and oranges used to be so stark that to compare them would have been, well, fruitless. But thanks to the triumphs of agriculture and biotechnology, soon we’ll have apples that are oranges. No word yet on whether they’ll keep the doctor away. 

Update: It’s like comparing apples to genetically modified apples.

2. "The early bird gets the worm."

Reaping rewards is sometimes just a matter of being one step ahead of your competition. Birds, with their punctual proclivities, have long known this. But warming climates are throwing off their migration schedules, leaving them out of sync with their food sources. Being early no longer guarantees a damn thing. 

Update: The early bird gets just as many worms as the late, confused slob.

3. "Does a bear crap in the woods?"

When someone asks a rather obvious question, you might slap your forehead or roll your eyes. Or you might counter with a snarky question of your own about the defecation habits of bears. Traditionally, this ursine activity has taken place among trees and streams and squirrels. But thanks to urban sprawl and irresponsible growth, it is no longer a given that a bear’s bowels will be moved in such picturesque environments. 

Update: Does a bear sometimes crap in the Best Buy parking lot?

4.  "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

With nearly 25 million chickens slaughtered daily in the U.S. alone, today’s industrial-scale meat production has reduced hatching worries to mere statistical margins of error. Now, the question is whether chickens will survive horrifically crowded and confined lives marked by illness and injury. 

Update: Don’t count your chickens until they’ve received their final dose of Flavomycin®.

5. "It's like shooting ducks on a pond."

Perhaps shooting ducks was once simple and straightforward. But nowadays this complicated process involves navigating the whims of animal rights activists, gun control advocates, gun rights advocates, shifting hunting seasons, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, zoning laws, federal and state regulations, urban encroachment on waterfowl habitat, declining wetlands, troubled breeding grounds, water pollution, costly decoys, decoy-shy ducks, you name it.

Update: It’s nothing like shooting ducks on a pond.

6. "You're not out of the woods yet."

Long a representation of danger, complication and doom, the woods have been recast as a family-friendly Disney film. Thanks to disappearing habitat and eroded federal protection, fearsome apex predators like wolves, cougars and grizzlies have been in serious decline for decades. From a predation standpoint, the forest near you is about as perilous as a Rainforest Café.  

Update: You’re not out of the suburbs yet.

7.  "She's got a bee in her bonnet."

Sure, bonnets have long been a venerated symbol of pre-suffragist antiquity. But consider the bee population, which has suffered a mysterious decline dubbed “colony collapse disorder,” worrying scientists and clichéists alike. Besides, who’s afraid of a little bee anymore? 

Update: She’s got Roundup Ready–resistant superbugs in her bonnet.

8. "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

For a species with the capacity to build playground equipment out of old shoes, you’d think we had this cliché covered. But despite our ingenuity, 90 per cent of our plastic is still thrown away, ending up incinerated, in landfills, leaching into groundwater, or, better yet, drifting in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Update: One man’s trash is another man’s problem.

9. "Faith can move mountains."

We silly humans used to believe that once a mountain was put in place, nothing could move it, except maybe an act of God. Now we know that moving mountains is as simple as strategically placed explosives and a little congressional support. 

Update: Clever lobbying can move mountains.

10. "As slow as molasses in January."

With the unpredictable effects of climate change, things that normally stay dormant during winter -- bears, bees, butterflies, daffodils, molasses -- have been wandering out in sleepy confusion. January on earth is clearly not what it used to be. And besides, who uses molasses anymore anyway? 

Update: As slow as U.S. Congress on climate change.

11. "You reap what you sow."

Well, come to think of it, no update needed here.

Go here for more Orion magazine lists.

David Holub edits Kugelmass: A Journal of Literary Humor. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Orion, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, AGNI, and elsewhere.

This article was originally published in Orion Magazine, September/October 2013 and is reprinted with permission.

Image flickr/matthewjs007

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