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Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the suburbs and towns

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the suburbs and towns

Ferrebeekeeper has always been renowned for its unabashedly pro-turkey policies and stances (we are talking here about the large galliforme bird from North America—not the nation in Asia-Minor).  It is therefore this blog’s duty to look into the rash of negative stories which have recently been circulating through the media about bad behavior from these magnificent birds and see what (if anything) can be determined.

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Apparently wild turkeys have been attacking people across the nation (and messing with our domestic animals and our precious stuff, to boot).  Emboldened by the ever growing size of wild turkey populations (and unaware of the true nature of humans), the birds are taking out their aggressions on churchgoers, children, and even armed officers of the law.  Here is an especially fine collection of “turkey attack” videos gathered together by Gawker.  Slightly more serious articles can be found here and here.

A homeowner attacked by a suburban wild turkey

A homeowner attacked by a suburban wild turkey

The turkey attacks seem to be a result of turkeys coming into suburbia (the wild turkeys of the farmlands and the forests know quite well to fear the fell hand of humankind).  For all their fine qualities, turkeys (like humans) are territorial creatures.  Additionally, like humans, some turkeys are more aggressive or fearless than others. The convenience of factory farming (and humankind’s mastery over domesticated strains of turkeys) has conditioned some suburbanites to think of the birds as fat fluffy simpletons, but the stereotype is far from accurate.  Wild toms can stand 4 feet tall and weigh up to14 kilograms (30 lbs).  The birds have powerful legs with razor-sharp spurs and doughty wings (which spread to six feet).  The scary dinosaurlike quality of some of those gawker clips, illustrates the power, fearlessness, and intelligence of the creatures (which have evolved to be perfectly at home in the woodlands, plains, and swamps of America).

A wild turkey on a car in Burlington

A wild turkey on a car in Burlington

The suburbs are lacking the predators which traditionally hunted wild turkeys and they are likewise lacking the human hunters who nearly drove the birds to extinction.  Turkeys meet non-threatening suburbanites and then began to regard people as fellow turkeys.  Unfortunately, wild turkey society is much like corporate America and involves lots of one-upsmanship, dominance displays, and outright threats (all so that dominant turkeys can rise to the top and obtain preferential mates and resources).  If you are attacked by wild turkeys you need to threaten them back and overmatch their displays with over-the-top sounds and movements. Do not feed wild turkeys!  Wild turkeys can see colors and they have a particular dislike for red (which plays an important part in their mating rituals and contests).  All of these turkey misunderstandings have happened because turkeys have accidentally assumed that we are the same as them (and we have sometimes assumed they are the same as us).  Turkeys and humans are indeed very much alike: both species are clever, territorial, aggressive, bipedal, and omnivorous. In terms of sheer vindictive murderousness and cunning, however, humans vastly outstrip the birds.  Please remember that if wild turkeys begin to play their mind games with you.

timages

I once read a science fiction book about nanotechnology and biotechnology so powerful that intelligent materials could mold themselves into fantastical cities in the shape of cyclopean indestructible flowers.  One merely had to plant a special seed and the replicating nanoparticles therein would usurp all nearby matter and form it into a self-sufficient flower city.  It was a terrifying world—if you touched the wrong pillar you could be reconstructed and permanently built into a wall or a huge solar panel that looked like a leaf. On the other hand, it was a world where humanity had stretched out to build flamboyant botanical cities on the moon and beyond.

So far our steps into bioengineering and nanotechnology have been falteringly slow…but I mention the imaginary flower cities for a reason. This week I have been writing about builders of the past and the present, but what about the future?  What lies beyond the mega skyscrapers, experimental fusion labs, and radio telescopes that define the limits of what humankind can build now?  When I was a child I dreamed that I would end up living in a terrarium on a space station or I would bioengineer myself to have gills so I could dwell in a garden made of kelp and coral in a sea-city.  I live instead in a building that was made before I was born (in fact my last ten residences have pre-dated me).  The oceans are becoming waste lands and space exploration is on the back burner. The time of the arcologies and the domed cities is not here yet, but the population is growing so fast that prefabricated suburban sprawls will not be a suitable habitat for our teeming billions within only a few generations.

Builders are working to create structures which fit in harmony with the natural ecosystems of the planet, but it is less easy than it sounds.  I always remember my experience as a volunteer at a synthetic ecosystem built by the Smithsonian–despite immense ingenuity on the part of the designers, the life cycles of the organisms inside the system quickly veered into strange arrhythmic feedback loops. Today’s green movement does not exhibit any such ingenuity and the results are predictably nugatory. So far sustainable buildings and eco-friendly cities have been little more than shams designed to ease the conscience of affluent buyers.  I have a friend who visited Masdar City, an arcology community in the UAE which is designed to be powered entirely by renewable energy. The hereditary nobility who rule Abu Dhabi ordained that Masdar City should be the international showpiece of green living. Unfortunately the solar panels which have been installed do not work because of the dust and wind from the desert.  The other renewable energy sources have not even made an appearance.  The community is currently run on fossil fuel.  The personal transit pods souind intriguing but they don’t seem to have appeared yet either.

Masdar City: The future is...not here yet it would seem.

All of this that could and will change as technology improves (or it could change instantly if energy became inexpensive and clean).   The age of suburbs and slums must give way to a time of more efficient human habitats.  The arcologies are coming (unless of course the world spins into a dark age).  I am pleased that we have not yet seen their shape, but I am anxious that the shape might not be very pleasing.  Imagine the structure that you wish to see most.  Is it a Victorian mansion, an immense metal pylon, or a delicate Faberge egg? Perhaps it is colossal statue, a basalt temple, or a giant space torus?  Really, really look in your heart and ask yourself what you want.  Once you have decided, you should start talking about it with everyone.  Looking at Masdar City makes me realize that the people who design the great human habitats of the next age need more ideas as quickly as possible!

I guess we still have the International Space Station...

 

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