When you see words like weird, disturbing, or oddball, you can be sure that the word Florida is not far off. If the 50 states were kids in elementary school, Florida would be the one who would eat a dead slug for a nickel.
This week's piece of state-wide performance art/desperate attention seeking is the 2013 Python Challenge.
Florida is home to many snakes, but not all of them belong there. Burmese pythons, for example, are (you may have guessed this part) from Burma.
How did they get to Florida? It's usually a three-step process:
1) "Ooooh, look at the cute little baby snake! I'll wear it around my neck and look like an awesome badass!"
2) "Aaaaaagggghhh! It's strangling me again and the cost of mice is driving me crazy!"
3) "Throw it in the bushes, it'll be fine." In fact, Burmese pythons are doing fine in Florida. They're doing so fine that they're in danger of devouring all the native species of birds, mammals, and reptiles that live in the Everglades.
So the Python Challenge is not so much an effort to educate the public, as it is the equivalent of putting out a bounty on the squiggly, little reptiles.
Florida is letting anyone who gives them $25 and takes a 30-minute course in snake identification go hunting in four wildlife parks. And there are fabulous prizes to be won!
The grand prize is $1,500 for the most dead pythons, while there's a runner-up prize of $1,000 for the biggest python.
Basically, they've defictionalized the "Whacking Day" episode of The Simpsons. But with less Barry White music.
The sad thing is. I can't think of a better way to go about it.
Really, what are people good at? Well, we're really good at introducing exotic animals to places where they don't belong. How do you think zebra mussels wound up in the Great Lakes, or why there's now a thriving colony of snow monkeys in your local IKEA?
We're also good at wiping out species entirely. You can thank 17th century sailors for pre-emptively putting a halt to any dodo infestations around here! Seen any dodos getting into your trash, scaring your cat, pooping in your public parks? No, you have not. Thanks, hungry Dutch mariners!
What we need to do is harness our impulse to kill everything good and pure, and use it to counter our urge to air-drop random animals into every environment we encounter.
Yes, we're going to wipe out some species over the next few years. Shouldn't we wipe out the species that we're allowing to wreak havoc in the wrong environments?
Finally, two wrongs really can make a right! The Python Challenge plays to some of the worst human impulses. Kill things! Make a pile of them! Get rewards for the biggest pile!
In this case, it actually helps that pythons are considered scary.
For this type of project to work with any other animal or plants, we're going to have to re-name a few things.
From now on, Australian rabbits are to be known as killer bucktoothed fangmonsters. Purple loosestrife will be known as the Devil's ditchweed, and Scotch broom will be known as Scotch toxic death cloud emitter. American bullfrogs will be known as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I'll even put my money where my mouth is. I'll put up $50 for a prize for any group or organization that can make the heaviest pile of purple loosestrife. I'll get back to you on the when and where, and maybe we can get the Devil's ditchweed challenge up and running.
@ Copyright 2013