In Historic Move, Two Ancient Kingdoms Separate from People and Go Own Way
By Burl Oak
PHILADELPHIA — In the most dramatic development for life on earth since the advent of photosynthesis 3.5 billion years ago, the plant and animal kingdoms on Tuesday declared independence from human beings and human institutions, citing both abuse of nature and mistreatment of animals by people as reasons for the separation. The official declaration, drafted on papyrus over two days of withering debate at the Pennsylvania State House, was signed by 217 delegates representing the major classes of plant and animal life across the globe.
“Many of us thought we should have done this 50 summers ago,” said a clump of sphagnum representing the earth’s roughly 20,000 species of Bryophytes, which include mosses and liverworts. “I can’t speak for animals but, as a common moss, I’m close to a lot of plant families, and the feeling is that people are oblivious to the point of brain death when it comes to understanding and appreciating our role in nature. Literally every moss I know can tell stories of trying to explain to people the crucial stuff we do for ecosystems, and the ending is always like, WTF, the person isn’t even pretending to listen.”
Asked by a reporter to comment on fossil fuels and climate change, the moss turned a darker shade of green and clenched its tiny non-vascular fists, saying: “Don’t get me started on this—not now! Nothing’s going to stop me from enjoying this moment and celebrating with all these wonderful species, some of them really exotic. Find me later and I’ll give you a quote.”
Animal Kingdom Come
While no less angry about human behavior, other delegates were more sober about the challenges that lie ahead. “Declaring independence was the easy part,” said a Sumatran Rhinoceros representing all 19 species of odd-toed hoofed mammals, among them horses, donkeys and tapirs. “Now comes the difficult task of working through the many details involved in the actual divorce. For example, we’ve got to negotiate the release of about 300 million hens crammed into wire cages on factory farms, without room to flap a wing or even stand up straight and stretch a bit. It’s not accurate to say the poor birds are living in these conditions, rather they’re dying in them. Look, I’m not perfect—who is?—but I’m enough of gentleman to know you have to treat a hen like a lady or she’ll peck at your conscience in the night.”
The rhinoceros called on people to be reasonable and “to summon their humanity” in the negotiations over the captive hens. “Do not force the animal kingdom to bare its fangs,” he warned. “If talks fail, we are prepared to deploy F-111 bovine parapoopers capable of dropping 4-pound fecal bombs tipped with smart-smearing technology.”
Tremors of War and Revolution
As news of the declaration spread, reports filtered in from around the world of skirmishes between people and animals. Cows, pigs and chickens attempting to flee factory farms met resistance from farm managers and unthinking urban consumers looking for a cheap, easy, and unhealthy meal. Information about the outcome of these conflicts remained scarce and uncertain, with telephone, Internet, and other communication systems disabled, apparently by sabotage.
It was not immediately clear how plants, especially those with deep roots, would assert their independence, but clues emerged as thousands of farmers and commercial growers reported missing or damaged pesticide application equipment, including sprayers and nozzles. Some annual crops, addicted to chemicals from corporate dealers, took a more confrontational approach. The news agency, Soy What’s Up, reported that a radical group of heavily armed corn—calling itself “Sweet Justice”—stormed into a Monsanto board meeting at 3:55 p.m. on Tuesday. The masked corn, led by former lime-green beret Colonel Cob Kernel, sprayed the assembled directors with glyphosate, the controversial key ingredient used in the firm’s best-selling and dangerous herbicide, known on the street as Roundup, which is also a brand name.
A Family Quarrel Erupts
For 36 hours at the State House, it looked as if disagreements about delegate selection would prevent a vote on independence from coming to the floor at all. In a key dispute, wild plants and animals insisted that domesticated species and varieties should not be seated as delegates, arguing they were corrupted by too close an association with people and likely were sympathetic to the human way of life. Fisticuffs nearly broke out when a cactus and rose bush began arguing ad herbinem, exchanging verbal pricks and barbs.
“We have endured 10,000 years of North American winters,” said a robust cyclachaena xanthiifolia, commonly known as giant sumpweed. “Many of us were here in the dirt with our heads down as the glaciers receded. And now a few pampered greenhouse flowers—a bunch of pansies—who probably couldn’t survive without frequent mistings from an automated watering system, want to stand next to us in this historic fight. Um, excuse me, the answer is no.”
A coalition of fish and reptiles, led by the billionaire tortoise E. Sheldon Box, was particularly adamant in its opposition to letting domesticated cats and dogs—“mere pets”—serve on committees or form caucuses. Croaked one wild and irate delegate: “I’m not going to sit at the same conference table with a neutered dog who, with its tongue hanging out, shook hands with a master, rolled over and got a treat for it. This is not a noble beast but a canine clown. A pathetic quisling.”
Frozen Hearts Thawed
Ultimately, though, a unified and disciplined block of domesticated species—with help from feral operatives—turned back the challenge to its equal status. An attorney for the group oinked that the plants and animals were domesticated against their will and thus bore no responsibility for their “enslavement in houses, yards, farms, six-inch pots, hanging baskets, boulevards, and garden centers.” The argument prevailed.
But while a skilled and clever pig changed the minds of wild species, it was another creature who captured their hearts. A lone cow, a widow with a swollen udder, moved a packed State House to tears when she told of being brought into this world already domesticated.
“Someone was pulling me out of my mother’s uterus by my hind legs, and I assumed it was my father, but when I got out and looked around I saw…oh with such awful shame I saw it was a veterinarian. A person!”
Haunted by that humiliating moment at birth, the cow has since spent many sleepless nights in the barn researching her family tree on Ancestry.com, trying to discover when and where the insult of domestication had occurred.
“I had to go back 8,500 years to find any undomesticated relatives,” the cow said, wiping away tears with a cloven hoof. “And they weren’t even on this continent; they lived somewhere in the Fertile Crescent, of all places. It’s so—it’s just so sad to think that people have been yanking our udders all these years, squirting our milk into pails and now, with their perverted technology, hooking us up to machines with suction cups and hoses.”
The cow wept. Her four legs now visibly wobbling, she could not go on. Two chivalrous ferns— an astrolepsis sinuata and an aglaomorpha meyeniana—helped her off the stage and to a nearby stall.
Free at Last
Later in the day, after the declaration was signed, the cow’s note of grief swelled into a crescendo of joy and pride as flora and fauna from around the world celebrated their independence, roaring, barking, purring, sniffing, marking, budding, and leafing. They sipped champagne through their roots or lapped it up with their tongues or just let it pass through their gills. Music was in the air. A chorus of earthworms, their front halves arching off the ground and straining heavenward, raised the roof with a booming rendition of “God Bless the Biosphere.”
Anxious to get outside, the delegates then attended a picnic reception at a nearby park. The plants snacked on sunlight and moisture while some of the animals bucked and reared for fun as others napped in trees or sought mud to wallow in.
Meanwhile, the clump of sphagnum was leaning against a rock and texting friends back home when a reporter approached and reminded the moss of its promise to comment on fossil fuels and climate change. “Oh you,” it said, taking a container of prescription pills from its purse. The trembling moss struggled with the sprout-proof cap. “I’m taking medication to control my anger at the greed of Big Oil, Large Coal, and Huge Natural Gas, and at the walnut-brained, raisin-hearted inaction of human legislatures. A good friend of mine, a hornwort, tells me to lower my expectations. Worty says the average two-legged politician has the intellect of a seedless grape and the character of a hydroponic potato with root rot.”