The greatest threat to civilization in the next half century is not nuclear arms or global warming or a super-resistant virus that will wipe us out by the millions. Essayist-regular John Jeremiah Sullivan contemplates the coming battle between man and beast. Yes, interspecies war.
There are four small English seaport towns, for instance, where various seabirds have started targeting people. A swan came out of the water there and took a dog under. Indeed, when measured in actual numbers, birds may be the single most active species in terms of manifesting whatever lies underneath this shift. In Boston, for the past few years, there’s been what can only be called an ongoing siege of wild turkeys. Children and old people getting attacked. In Sonoma County, California, the chicken population not long ago carried out “a flurry of attacks on neighborhood children.” The mother of one of the victims told a reporter, “It’s not charming when you have to see your baby attacked…seeing the blood going down his face and seeing him screaming…. I can’t sleep at night.”
A fair share of the new violence is animal-on-animal. Needless to say, it garners less attention in the media. In the Polish village of Stubienko, in June of 2000 (one of the earlier blips in Livengood’s collection), the storks went crazy and started slaughtering chickens, hundreds of them. (There were, I’m noticing only now, additional reports of “sporadic attacks on humans” at the time.) Observers were “at a loss to explain the aberrant behavior.”
You see what I mean about there being something off in these stories. The storks started slaughtering the chickens.
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