If Animals Could Talk

What would they say? I pose the question through the lens of Libya's deadly floods.

If Animals Could Talk
Photograph by NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pontoppidan

LISTENING: to the A.C. groan
FEELING: pensive
SEEING: my sick kitty sleep

The talented Elizabeth Kolbert wrote a fascinating piece in The New Yorker last week about scientists attempting to develop artificial intelligence that could translate the language of whales.

I was enthralled by the story as I read it at 2 a.m. when I couldn't fall asleep. I wonder what the creatures of the world would tell us. What would become possible if fauna could bring their testimonies to the halls of Congress? If they could share their grief with us — if they could offer us their memories of the world they once knew.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, someone who's scared of AI but also fascinated by how it could shape science.

As I write to you all, my cat is sick. He's been vomiting and ignoring his food. He tries to go to the bathroom and fails. We're going to the vet soon because I'm worried something is terribly wrong. Imagine how much simpler this would all be if he could speak — if he could use words to tell me what's wrong, what he needs.

As I see the news unfold about the deadly floods that have killed thousands in Libya, I wonder what the birds would have cried. Would they have warned the villagers before the water overcame them? Would the desert gazelles have galloped over to alert them?

According to Reuters, Ahmed Mismari, the spokesperson for the Libyan National Army that controls eastern Libya, said in a press conference that the floods pushed "whole neighborhoods with their residents into the sea."

What would our finned kin have said then?

I'm heartbroken by the tragedy in Libya. I'm frustrated by how many lives continue to be lost. This is why I include the below Rest in Power section in every newsletter. We need to grapple with the reality of what's happening right now. We need to stop the mass death. The animals can't save us. They also need saving.

A world where animals could talk sounds beautiful — but only if we finally listen to the cries of people then, too. 🌀

Rest in Power

While we can't say for certain that climate change led to these specific weather events (we need attribution studies for that), we do know that the Earth's rising temperatures are already creating more disasters like these.

Over 6,000 people have been killed by the Libyan floods, which were caused by devastating rains that overwhelmed two dams.

A devastating earthquake in Morocco has killed nearly 3,000 people as of Tuesday.

Severe floods in Greece have amounted to at least 15 people dead as of Sunday.

Landslides in the country of Georgia killed at least three people Sunday.

Hong Kong saw the worst rain in 140 years, which left two dead Friday last week.

Currently Reading

This post is for paying subscribers only

Already have an account? Sign in.