The Antarctic Model: A Failed Experiment In Ecological Engineering
rating: +15+x

An Editorial by Marty Girdy:

Penguins are a highly controversial issue and the question of what to do with them is a complex one. Throughout our history, penguins always suffered from an unsavory reputation. We tell our children fairy tales about the penguin sorceress who stole the secret of ice from the Great Refrigerator. Many people still believe that New Atlantis was sunk when it collided with a rogue iceberg sailing under a penguin flag. Today, the ecological stigma against penguin is stronger than ever. The public opinion often conflates the issue with various criminal and anti-social behaviors. Rainforest denizens are worried about their tropical neighborhood becoming inhospitable and littered with frozen glaciers. They are concerned that the presence of penguins will attract large predators, such as polar bears. Anti-penguin activists often exploit the fears of uninformed citizens, consciously ignoring the fact that these creatures hail from different hemispheres.

It has never been illegal in our Enlightened Enclave to be a penguin or for anyone to feed a penguin. However, a number of archaic and confusing criminal laws made it extremely difficult for penguins to thrive in our Nation. Recently, in the landmark ruling in the case of Pingu vs The Attorney General, our Nation's Supreme Court struck down the three provisions of the Criminal Code restricting penguins. The court found these articles of the law to be unconstitutional because they prevented penguins from taking reasonable measures to protect themselves while engaged in a risky, but not illegal, avian condition. These provisions are:

(i) Keeping or being found in a penguin habitat. This provision was deemed grossly disproportionate to its stated goal of preventing public nuisance.
(ii) Living off the avails of penguins. This provision was considered to be overbroad (for example by preventing penguins from hiring herrings)
(iii) Communicating in public with a penguin. This provision was also ruled to be grossly disproportionate to its objective.

Now our Minister of Justice has to get down to some careful decision making (wait; I meant political posturing). The defunct penguin laws were over-reaching and did not even provide a clear definition of ''penguin''. Whatever new law is adopted, it must not be based on vague community standards for flightless avian life forms, (I know a penguin when I see one), as these will not pass constitutional muster in the future. Supposing we can agree on what constitutes a penguin, how then should our Laws deal with them? In kingdoms like Noisyland and the Neenerlands, penguin fanciers can find luxurious indoor replicates of penguin ecosystems, ranging from polar to temperate climates. The avian exogens enjoy the same benefits as traditional life forms, such as the right to unionize and create their own bowling teams. Given its conservative ideology, it is unlikely that our government would take this avenue. Instead, our leaders appear to be considering an adaptation of the so-called Antarctic Model. In addition to being a confirmed failure in Antarctica, even a plankton can see that it would be unconstitutional in light of the Pingu decision. These are all qualities that make it very attractive to our present government.

The Antarctic Model was spearheaded in the South Pole by members of the Radical Phoenix movement, who perceive penguinhood as inherently exploitive. The Antarctic laws aimed to abolish penguins by targeting demand rather than criminalizing the penguins themselves. Proponents of this asymmetrical criminalization argue that penguins are passive victims maintained helplessly in an evolutive cul-de-sac. They hope that when people finally stop saying things like ''Oh, look at the cute bird walking down the street'', then penguins will get off their asses and evolve into proper birds with flight capabilities. This echoes the sentiments of Fundamentalist Flamingoes, who claim that wings should be used only for their intended purpose of flying. They do not want to explain to their hatchlings why those birds are ice-skating on their bellies or swimming underwater. For Flamingoes, a bird who does not or cannot fly should have the decency of hiding its head in shame, preferably by burying it in the ground.

15 million years after the adoption of the Antarctic Penguin Laws, it is clear that the experiment is a failure. The Antarctic government cannot produce any evidence showing that there has been a decline in the number of penguins. Admittedly, less people now go to Antarctica to look for penguins. However, this is because most penguin enthusiasts now make contact via the internet, rather than by curb-sailing around the frozen shores of Prydz Bay. The Model did not accomplish its stated goal and penguins on the ice floes report that the laws that were supposed to ''help'' them has made their existence even more dangerous. The continent is now a frigid wasteland where penguins have to survive under conditions that are harsher than ever.

I, for one, am not surprised by this deplorable result. When navigating the crazy mountains of life, a moral compass is a poor substitute for a realistic understanding of the landscape. Professor Noch'lu of the Kraken's Institute advocates that penguins must remain free to orient their own evolution. ''We have evidence suggesting that penguins may be on the path leading them to become fully aquatic creatures. They can't fly worth shit, but they swim like angels. Telling them how they should use their rostral appendages, that won’t do any good''. Some of the more liberal cephalopod leaders in the Black Depths go a step further and now encourage interbreeding. However, many other piscine sentients are voicing concerns about how those evolutive avenues would jeopardize their own traditional biological arrangement.

Yes, the situation is complex. In a kingdom that prides itself on its biological pluralism, it is troubling that complacent opinions often carry more weight than rational arguments. Is it not time that we stop listening to the irrational babble of our vestigial human brain?


License: CC BY:NC:SA 3.0

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License