Since I've started working evenings I've become properly aware of London's nocturnal life. Everyone who's lived here has heard foxes and I'd be surprised if there was anyone who hadn't seen one, but I never realised quite how many there are - even more now, as the young cubs have emerged from their dens and started taking tentative runs about. They're a little curious, and one or two have allowed me to get very close before running off. The other week I went to some friends' new flat that overlooks a vast green expanse of gardens, you can sit at their table and watch three stories below all the animals running about. Birds, cats, squirrels all had their own routes that went up trees, over and between fences, and into holes. It felt like a rare sight in such a grey and level city.
- The Metropolitan Museum in New York has recently made all of its public domain images accessible online. I spent one morning sifting through the prehistoric and early historic artefacts, fascinated with the pleasing stylisation of animal-form objects, wondering what people thought as they brought these small, inanimate animals into their homes and temples. The frog above is from Egypt and dates to the Early Dynastic Period, c.3100–2650 BCE.
Humans build cities, shape and reshape them according to their wishes and fantasies, and then find themselves deeply alienated by the result; wild animals move in and are completely at ease with themselves.Why the Planet Earth II Episode on Cities Is So Startling by Sam Kriss in The Atlantic. As Kriss writes, watching Planet Earth II it was stunning to hear about the diversity of city life, the abundance of 'wild' animals, and how animals are mapping themselves to spaces that can't even be called our own, but which follow the impersonal, inhumane logic of capital.
Los Angeles is one of two megacities in the world that have a population of big cats. In the other, Mumbai, leopards live in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and occasionally eat the humans who make their homes around its edge.Lions of Los Angeles by Dana Goodyear in The New Yorker. Foxes are enough trouble when they spend all night screeching, but at least they don't predate on people. Though the attacks in LA are rare, I'd be a little more wary cycling at night.
Flames inexplicably vent from the tops of towers. Searchlights zigzag the sky but fail to penetrate to the claustrophobic surface.Beyond Blade Runner: Community in Cities of the Future in the Los Angeles Review of Books. In the 2019 LA of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner domesticated species are reared on rooftop farms, out of reach of the thick smog of the lower city and the hands of its deprived inhabitants. Subjects of the Voight-Kampff test are questioned about calfskin wallets, butterflies, oysters, and dog meat. The relationship of people to animals is turned on its head, and yet this future feels closer than ever before.
This realisation led Wohlleben towards a thorough reassessment of the ways trees behave and interact with each other. He presents them not as a mute collection of organisms lacking any sort of guiding consciousness but as a networked, intentionally collaborative and talkative community. Trees are unambiguously self-aware agents. Thinking about how they think by Francis Gooding in the London Review of Books. I'd previously heard of Peter Wohlleben's theories of plant intelligence and sociability, his ideas were floating around on Twitter amongst people who I thought really ought to know better, and like Gooding I wondered if it was simply bad translation, but it doesn't seem to be. In my mind, understanding the differences between human and plant experience is more valuable than drawing trite comparisons with the corporate space of the contemporary Internet.