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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, March 30, 2006
    Crows, coyotes, and displaced rats
    The church mouse is back. Except this time it's back with family and friends in tow. And in the houses on the fringes of our estate, rats, in great number. The reason is the recent disruption to the area of cleared housing at the core of the estate. After years of political games work is finally starting on rebuilding, and the diggers rummaging in the rubble, upsetting the undergrowth, are sending the rats scurrying for cover into homes and gardens they'd previously left alone.

    The rebuilding isn't very equitable of course, only 50 percent social housing, the rest being flogged at prices well out of the range of most of the previous occupants. So only a small portion of the displaced people will be able to return home. And the displaced rats are a reminder that every single human decision, economic or technological innovation, has an effect on the natural, as well as physical environment, and on the places where they increasingly meet. Rats beside, I was interested to read this piece by the ever-fascinating writer Rebecca Solnit in last week's LRB:

    ... In the last decade, we have seen the emergence of the new nature that is likely to survive while the more fragile primordial nature falters. It’s a weed-like, flexible, tough set of species which thrive on the disturbances that send others into flight or extinction. And they’re becoming increasingly urban. For a long time cities had little but pigeons and rats for urban wildlife, but foxes have moved into London, and coyotes, raccoons, skunks, ravens, crows and more have moved into North American cities. For one thing, they like garbage. For another, we have stopped killing them and everything else that moves. From their perspective, we have become a relatively harmless species (except for our cars, but roadkill is a popular food source for crows, ravens, coyotes, vultures and others). They’re no longer afraid of us. We’ve cleaned up, too: the toxic sewers that surrounded Manhattan in the 1960s have gradually come to resemble rivers again, in which fish can swim and herons can hunt. The urban air is cleaner. ...