Knispering: Are Rats Smarter than Humans?

Jarlanbah Eco-village, Nimbin, NSW, 17 June 2009

 

Karl in the Shed

 

The Introduction to Kitchen Table Sustainability starts the book off on a bucolic, if pessimistic, note.

 

Three of the authors are sitting around the tables on the porch of our shed here in Nimbin and speculating about the future and the future of all generations – of all beings.

 

So far, so good.

 

All beings

 

All beings. Good Deep Ecology thinking for a woman with a PhD in environmental ethics.

 

Right?

 

May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

 

All beings. Hmmm.

 

Karl in the shed

 

For the past week or more, my husband Karl has been up a ladder in the shed with me acting as the trades assistant, that is, holding the ladder.

 

And what are we doing, two ageing humans with six university degrees between us? We’re trying to rat-proof our 6 metre by 6 metre shed.

 

So far the little suckers have eaten everything in sight. I mean everything: lids to glass jars, lids to boxes, boxes of files, toiletries, creams and lotions and vitamins and calcium tablets,aspirin, the plastic water filter cartridge AND the carbon pellet contents.

 

The only thing that dissuades them is a locked metal filing cabinet, which now holds cereal, nuts, and other treasures I’m trying to rescue from the chaos.

 

Messy eaters

 

They’re very messy eaters so the floor is littered with their droppings, washed with their urine and blanketed with a multicoloured carpet of half-chewed plastic, cardboard, paper, cellophane, food, vitamins…

 

The rats came in when the floods came and the winds blew the iron off the roof.

 

The python followed them, but it got too crowded in the roof space for everyone. So the python (we dreamed he’d evict them) departed after knocking everything off the tops of the bookcases.

 

He was a messy worker, too.

 

We’d had lots of rats and marsupial mice before.

 

But now, apparently sensing that Karl (with a stern countenance, rolls of vermin mesh, a drill and metal rods to attach the mesh to the walls) means business, they are redoubling their efforts to chew up and through everything not locked in a metal box.

 

Local remedies

 

All the local remedies are futile: scattering chilli powder where they go, various humane and not-so-humane traps, ratsack, traps camouflaged in potato crisp bags…

 

Nothing works.

 

Fortunately, we’re not sleeping in the shed any longer… because the night-time antics of one small mouse can drive an adult human berserk. And quickly.

 

Tearing out the door and baying at the moon seems a perfectly reasonable response when you have been wakened a dozen times by what German-speaking Karl calls “knispering”. “Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!”

 

 

Knisper away

 

Well, knisper they may. But not for long. We’re coming to the end of the job of securing the downstairs of the shed so that they will have to knisper only in the roof space and not in my cherished envelopes of chocolate pudding or my treasured antique fan.

 

They’re smart, these little creatures. They’re persistent and wily. They make plans for their future.

 

They take care of their family’s needs. So they should be worthy of consideration as part of our ethical community. (See chapter 3 of Kitchen Table Sustainability.)

 

They’ve outsmarted us for years. We may be bigger and have bigger brains, but, trust me, rats are not to be underestimated.

 

I definitely don’t think we humans are the pinnacle of creation or the top of the evolutionary pyramid when I’m standing holding the ladder for hours on end, ankle-deep in rat mess.

 

And I wonder: what will happen when Karl is too old to climb up the ladder and manage a drill and I am too frail to hold the ladder?

 

Will rats rule then?

 

All beings!

 

Hah!

Leave a comment


Name*

Email(will not be published)*

Website

Your comment*

Submit Comment