Jonathan Franzen’s graph of the year

December 26, 2013

Time has its "Person of the Year." Amazon has its books of the year. Pretty Much Amazing has its mixtapes of the year. Buzzfeed has its insane-stories-from-Florida of the year. And Wonkblog, of course, has its graphs of the year. For 2013, we asked some of the year's most interesting, important and influential thinkers to name their favorite graph of the year — and why they chose it. Here's Jonathan Franzen's.


What's interesting is the source of the graphic-- the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a weapons industry association-- and the reason that the NSSF put it together:  to fend off criticism of lead ammunition, which is fatally ingested by a lot of raptors and waterbirds and is threatening to drive the California Condor back into extinction in the wild. Alternatives to lead exist, but, owing to low production of them, they're currently somewhat more expensive.

What's striking about the pie chart is how big a slice of it consists of predation by free-roaming cats. A large new peer-reviewed study published in 2013 estimates the number of North American birds killed by cats at well over one billion per year.  Bells on collars don't help. Neutering feral cats doesn't work. Keeping cats indoors helps.

Jonathan Franzen is the author of the novels The Corrections and Freedom. His most recent book is The Kraus Project, an annotated translation of essays by Karl Kraus.

See all the graphs of 2013 here, including entries from Bill McKibbenEmily Oster, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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Brad Plumer · December 26, 2013