Tuesday 21 February 2017

Stephen Kinsella: Why it's good to be the canary in coal mine

Published 04/01/2013 | 17:00

SPARE a thought this Christmas for canaries. Canaries have tiny lungs. The average canary's heart beats 1,000 times a minute, compared with 80 beats per minute for the average human. Canaries were used for years in mining to detect harmful gases because they were more sensitive to the gases than their miners.

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When the miners saw the little canary freaking out, they knew carbon monoxide or methane might be present, and they knew it was time to go. To be a canary in a coal mine is to serve as a warning to others. The canary, importantly, has 'skin in the game' when it comes to detecting these gases. The quicker it chirps, the quicker the miners get out, and the more likely the canary is to survive. Once the little bird is down the mine, it needs the miners as much as the miners need it.

Ireland, of course, is the European Union's canary when it comes to banking crises.

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