Friday, March 31, 2006

Ars gratia avis

In North Somerset (UK) bird flu is confronting art. Sort of.

Public art is a good thing. Good for the community, good for artists and it helps make our public spaces livable and enjoyable. So the North Somerset Council was considering erecting a 26 meter high glass spire, lit by fiber optic light from within. Sounds neat.

But that was before bird flu:
North Somerset councillor Bob Coleman believes the 26m high spire called Silica, which is destined for Weston's Big Lamp Corner, could become a roosting hotspot for birds infected with the HN51 virus.

At a full council meeting this week, Councillor Coleman said he feared birds using the artwork as a perch could spread the virus into the surrounding town centre cafes and restaurants.

He asked the council's executive member for strategic planning, Councillor John Crockford-Hawley, to scrap plans to build Silica this summer in the wake of a possible bird flu outbreak.

Councillor Crockford-Hawley said: "Silica has been specifically designed so there are no perches on it, so it will not attract birds." (The Weston Mercury)
Maybe not the most earth shattering effect of worries about bird flu, but in a way emblematic. Concern about the effects of this virus will appear in many surprising ways. Best to work through them now. These are ideal opportunities for people to learn something about avian influenza when they are not enveloped in crisis. The tendency to ridicule these concerns should be suppressed in favor of using them to useful purpose.

So it's good they are debating this in North Somerset, as trivial as the whole issue sounds at first. The more you know the less you fear.