Archive for June, 2014

Any given species has its unique behaviors and preferred habitat, inevitably overlapping with others that are predator or prey. The human species has spread geographically to make nearly the entire world its habitat and every species its prey (sometimes unintentionally). But it’s a Pyrrhic success, because for the ecosystem to work as our habitat as well as theirs, diversity and abundance is needed. As our numbers have expanded to over 7 billion, nonhuman populations have often declined precipitously (when we don’t farm them for food). When we humans are not otherwise busy hunting, harvesting, and exterminating, we harass them and claim their habitats as uniquely our own. Our unwillingness to share space and/or tolerate their presence except on our own terms is audacious, to say the least.

To take just one example, we have developed many devices to discourage birds from roosting and nesting where we don’t want them. A list of top ten ways to deter “pest” birds is found here:

  1. Reflective Foil/Flash Tape and Balloons.
  2. Bird Spiders.
  3. Bird Spikes.
  4. Bird Slopes.
  5. Bird Netting.
  6. Bird Gel.
  7. Electric-Tracks.
  8. Misters.
  9. Sonic Repellers.
  10. Solar Powered Bird Repellers.

The devices are billed as humane, and perhaps they are. A somewhat nastier list is found here, though the remarks about “none listed” under Repellants, and Toxicants and “not allowed” under Trapping ring false. (How is Trapping so different from Live Capture? Does one specifically avoid injury?) Yet another list is found here. I will admit that in some instances, such as proximity to airports, windmill farms, or toxic waste dumps (of human origin), keeping birds from harm makes sense, except that they are still displaced from their habitats, which we have claimed and ruined for them.

Our overreach is now so great, however, that we have turned on ourselves. Undesired, unsavory, and untouchable populations are harassed like animals and told, essentially, go be undesirable somewhere else. Apparently, the homeless can’t even go live under a bridge anymore.


This is happening in my neighborhood, too. Public outcry against such measures appears to be vehement in some instances. Harassment of notorious park bench sleepers started out less egregious, perhaps, with slanted benches, leaning benches, and divided benches. But wait, it got worse. Now we have spikes built into park benches that are (get this!) coin-operated and rigged to deploy when one’s paid-for interval runs out:

Outcry over such innovations appears to be nearly universal, but frankly, I expect to see these and other NIMBY devices with greater frequency. They clearly don’t aim to address homelessness or minister to the homeless. Instead, they harass and displace. This website, despite a few preliminary flourishes, appears to approach homelessness in much the same way, namely, as a pest infestation to be eradicated.

It would be a legitimate function of government to provide a safety net troubled populations could not fall through, but alas, our government functions instead to reward the wealthy and powerful with more wealth and power rather than serve the health and wellbeing of society as a whole, including the problems of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised among us. That’s hardly a lobby that will get anyone elected.