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Radical Thoughts on Killer Mice: An Environmental Post

chicago dyke's picture


But as a terrible consequence of the first whalers making landfall there 150 years ago, Gough has become the stage for one of nature's great horror shows. Mice stowed away on the whaling boats jumped ship and have since multiplied to 700,000 or more on an island of about 25 square miles.

What is horrifying ornithologists is that the British house mouse has somehow evolved, growing to up to three times the size of ordinary domestic house mice, and instead of surviving on a diet of insects and seeds, has adapted itself to become a carnivore, eating albatross, petrel and shearwater chicks alive in their nests. They are now believed to be the largest mice in the world. Yesterday Birdlife International, a global alliance of conservation groups, recognised that the mice, who are without predators themselves, are out of control and threatening to make extinct several of the world's rarest bird species.

Here's the deal: Mo Nature kills, frequently and without mercy. 99.9999999999% of species that have ever lived are extinct, the great majority of them acheived that without our help. Yes, it's a "horrorshow" to know that species are being snuffed out left and right because humans are too stupid and lazy to properly preserve delicate environments. That sucks, for a lot of reasons. The two biggest in my mind are 1) All the scientific benefit that is lost when a unique species is lost. Who knows what miracle drugs or energy solutions could've been found in them? We fuck ourselves and our future when we recklessly destroy or let a species go extinct, of any kind, great or small, flora or fauna. 2) We barely understand how ecosystems really work. Killing a single species can upset the delicate balance for all the rest of them in any given ecosystem, small scale and large. In the spirit of "the butterfly wing flap that caused a hurricane/Chaos Theory," similarly, we really shouldn't think ourselves so knowledgable such that we can choose which species "aren't important." We're just learning the truth of this now, as we attempt serious efforts of repopulation and re-naturalization of ecosystems. It's way harder than first thought.

Having said all that: do the Killer Mice have the right to live, and thrive? Why are the birds "more important" than this new breed of mouse?

Are we so sure that these birds would have survived, and never encountered a "natural" predator, if there had been no human whalers? Personally, I think the mouse in the pic is kinda cute, and I'm impressed by the evolutionary pressure that teaches omnivorism. Some of us think it played a big role in the development of human intelligence. Perhaps, after we've bombed ourselves into extinction, these mice will be the next "thinking" race to dominate the earth. Who knows what plans Mo Nature/evolution has in store for them.

Bottom line: it's already "too late" to save many native environments, ecosystems, species, etc. And just like I hate arguments about the "first religion" or the chicken and the egg, let's all agree that "pristine" is often a misused word in environmental discourse. What is "natural?" What is "the original ecosystem?" Why is it "more important" to focus (or not) upon saving some species over others? Environmentally, we're fucked. We fucked it up for everyone, every species, all life. I'm not entirely convinced it's not part of The Plan. Mo Nature seems to enjoy bottlenecks and "holocausts" when it somes to saying, "well, you had your chance, I'm bored. Let me kill off almost all of you and see if you've got what it takes to come back." But even if that's just silly romanticization about evolutionary history, the fact remains that we've got to think radically if we're going to "save what's left."

I go against several prevailing gardening/farming trends on my grounds. I mix food plants with flowers, I don't kill every weed that comes up, sometimes I'll deliberately harsh on a plant just to see what happens, and I have no problem growing "exotics" that aren't evolved for this part of the world. But one thing I've come to hate, in some snobbier and ultimately unscientific garden blogs/resources, is the whole "back to the way it was" line. Yes, I too want to see the public, private and open spaces of this state covered in native wildflowers and trees and teeming with the animal life it once had when only the First Peoples lived here. That's never going to happen. What is going to happen is that a lot of people are going to experience starvation, economic destitution, and will be doing all the things that desperate people do. Which include eating the seed corn, if you get my drift.

What is more practical, in such a reality? We're 'the top of the food chain' and everything is fair game to us. Let's just admit that, it's how evolution works. So rather than bitch and guilt out people for not doing enough to preserve "the natural state" of their environments, I'm willing to give a little to get a little and perhaps more. Just grow something, ok? Just add a little more oxygen to our air, feed a couple more birds and insects, keep a little more water in the ground, take just one bag of zucchini out of the international petro-based food distribution system by growing your own. That's how it starts, just a little more Green, here and there, one plot or deck or pot at a time.

Because frankly, I'm sick to death of the romantic, unscientific, anthropomorphic silliness I perceive in a lot of today's environmental movement. Guilting people out rarely works- heh, just look at how my political writing has failed to spark the Revolution. And more importantly, sometimes, wasting what resources you have on lost causes, when less satisfying but more practical goals could be achieved instead, ends up causing more loss in the long run.

Every life form must fight for its own existence, every day in every way, we are Struggling. It's always been this way. Humans are beautiful when they have compassion and care for the weak, it's a thing that makes us special and we should do it frequently. But I don't think, no matter who is "to blame" for him, that this mouse doesn't have an equal right to live, and thrive, if it's in his power to do so.

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Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

the invasive predator has no endemic right to thrive.

These mice aren't just a metaphor.
They're exactly the same as whole nations of humans.


Introducing cats or snakes won't help.
This is a lot like rabbits in Australia ... except, possibly, the humans who did this didn't mean to.
(and are we sure these were mice to start with and not rats?)

OTOH, look what a hi-protein diet did for the mice... over a couple million generations.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by lambert on

We seem to be coming up with our own quotations more and more. I should start adding them to the sidebar...

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

They aren't a legitimate part of the ecosystem and are destroying what does belong including whole species. Plenty of English house mouses left in the UK. Kill 'em all on Gough. Now.

No sense to being a biblical-style god-like creature unless you act god-like from time to time. Rain death upon them from the heavens, say I.

hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

I can't feel any sympathy for the little people (and especially their bigger relatives) as I have to refer to them to avoid anxiety attacks. There are plenty of squirrels and they, at least, are presentably dressed. They also have the good taste to stay in parks mostly.

And sometimes nature can shock you. Last year, I saw a hawk in Riverside Park pounce on a pidgeon. Then it got nervous because people were around and left the poor pidgeon to die. Finally, there was the fishing type of hawk that caught a fish in the Hudson. The damn bird lost hold of it while flying overhead and the fish came crashing down through a tree only inches from where I was sitting. It was a big mother and I can only imagine what would have happened if it had actually hit me.

I mean, what's the point if a jaunt in the park becomes one of those nature specials with death and predation and all?

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

fish falling from the sky would freak me out, lazy bird or no. and you know what else i try to avoid on my park walks? eagles. they trip my shit, and mother, are they huge. and the way the look at you....