translated and transcribed from the Hippo by PATRICIA REMY
I’m Hippo. I live at an city zoo. It’s o.k. there. When I was a cute little calf, people said “sooo adorable”. Now I’m an adult and in appearance somewhat threatening. This photo gets my good side, though, don’t you think? Quite fetching.
Professor E.O. Wilson honoured me in this book, Half Earth. He summarized the relationship you humans have with nature as HIPPO, habitat destruction, invasive species, population, pollution, and overuse. Since then I’ve taken an interest in matters climatic.
Sometimes, while floating comfortably in my pond at the Toronto Zoo, I drift into idle speculation. The summer heat does not especially bother me. I am used to it, being native to sub-Saharan Africa.
Anyway, this thing with global warming: I’m up on that stuff. That’s why I’ve included the colourful table of facts and figures below. Zoo staff and visitors talk about it all the time. Heat does not bother me, but as the Earth’s average temperature climbs, it does stress humans and their society. I’ve heard some pretty wild scenarios from the humans walking by my enclosure. So here’s one of my own, a favourite even.
The costs of reacting to climate change, let alone financing measures to mitigate it, will someday overtax the tax system. There will be cuts to educational programs, health services, and opportunities for culture and sport. The zoo, all zoos, cost money. So someday the populace will demand that zoos be closed and the money saved spent on human welfare. That’s when animal rights activists will step in. Rather than letting us zoo animals be euthanized, or butchered, one never knows, they will free us. The hippo exodus will begin!
From Louisiana to Kentucky my kin will seek their way up the rivers of Turtle Island, heading north, where temperatures will then be comfortable for us. Up the Mississippi and along the shores of Lake Superior we’ll paddle, up the Illinois and into Lake Michigan, along the Hudson from New York and west into the Finger Lakes. We’ll learn via bush telegraph to avoid the Niagara River and enter the St. Lawrence via the Champlain. Some of my kin will venture along the shores of Lake Ontario, a number heading for Toronto and others discovering the route along the Trent-Severn waterway. Hippo’s in the Otonabee! Wouldn’t that be a sight? Hippopotamus means ”river horse”.
Don’t mess with us. We have the strongest jaws of any land mammal. Don’t ever say “bite me” to a hippo! And don’t turn us into hippo steaks. Respect, please. You might get to be glad of our strength. With fossil fuels failing and horses and oxen unable to stand field work in the heat, we might become in the economy of energy descent your new beasts of burden – and ploughing. If you promise to treat us right. BTW: Our manure is very rich. You can spread it as fertilizer or dry it and use it as fuel for fire.
The table below comes from a tweet by Professor Mark Maslin. It is based on the 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022 IPCC reports. The take-home message: Beyond 1.5° C climate change impacts get worse and worse.
That’s what Professor Wilson wrote about, together with other related things. He talked about HIPPO: habitat destruction, invasive species, population, pollution, overuse. Global warming results from pollution of the atmosphere with CO2, largely determined by burning fossil fuels. Invasive species move northward seeking new niches. The Earth’s mega population of 8 billion leaves less and less habitat and fewer and fewer resources for other species. Humans are overusing almost every thinkable resource; water, air, soil, energy.
I’m informed. Currently you humans are having a big discussion about pronouns. For me, something else is important, too. I’d like to see my name spelled
Hi. For me, the middle letter “
p”, standing for population, is the key to everything else. My grandmother told me about days in the wild, about the seasonal course of the year with floods and famine, rain and drought. The worst: starvation. The saddest thing was to watch how her grand-hippolets died. Too many calves, too little food. That’s what living beyond your means brings and not just with food. It will happen to you humans, too, if you don’t watch out.
What I admire in you humans is your capacity for planning. You have big brains, so please use them. You can do the math, so figure it out. Living a simpler, less energy-intensive life is possible; you can make it work. Limit population growth with a democratic lottery policy. It sure beats starvation, disease, and war, sure things if the climate goes completely down the tube.
I’m not naive. Nature will never again be what it was when we were kids, but you and I can learn anew how to live with it.