Today while I was driving to work, NPR had a story on about giant stick bugs. It told about how the bugs had all been eaten up at some point in the past when a ship sank and rats from the boat ended up on the island gorging on giant stick bugs. The stick bugs were so big they were called “tree lobsters” and it took the rats only two years to eat them all up. The bugs were thought to be extinct, although rumors persisted of their continued existence, until 2001 when some scientists scaled the remains of a volcano close to the island where the bugs had originated and found 24 giant stick bugs living near a bush. After two years of governmental fighting to decide whether any of the bugs should be removed, four were taken. Two died almost immediately but the other pair, “Adam” and “Eve” were taken to the Melbourne Zoo for breeding. Eve made a miraculous recovery from the brink of death and was able to breed. Seven years later, the zoo has a population of stick bugs exceeding 700. The debate has now turned to whether Howe Island, which still has a rat population, should be repatriated with giant stick insects. The story ended heralding the passionate scientists, who risked all for biodiversity and putting the words “I’m still here. Don’t let me go” in the mouths of the stick bugs.
This story touched a nerve with me, even after I got to work and saw the creatures which are disturbingly large. I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter and I am still thinking about the plight of the giant stick insects. The thing is that how I felt about the insects today reminds me of how I became a Big Sister (as in Big Brothers, Big Sisters). A long, long time ago I was protesting the war in Iraq or maybe it was Afghanistan. I don’t even remember but I was with a bunch of people over by the stadium. There were signs and as we walked over to the military gate we passed what looked like public housing. There were lots of people who were watching us curiously; like what the hell are these people doing. Kids in a parking lot; folks on their lanai. I was part of the morning’s freak show. I started thinking that maybe some of these kids hadn’t had breakfast; that they were part of families that were struggling just to make it. And how, maybe if they had no other worries, they would be protesting too. It was then that I thought that as much as I believed in protesting the war, maybe there was a better way to spend my time. Maybe there was a way to help out real people, someone instead of this abstract thing I was doing which had merit but which I was finding morally unsatisfying. Then I applied and became a Big Sister. I felt good about that and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
This is how I am feeling today. I love the giant stick bugs and I love that someone has saved them and wants them to thrive. I just wish that every human being had someone like that working on their behalf. Someone to coach them, take care of them, figure out what was wrong and provide assistance. So as much as I love the stick insect story it makes me sad that they are so well taken care of and nurtured when so many people are not. Maybe this means that I will have to find something. Something to make me feel that I am helping my fellow humans. Who knew? Giant stick bugs; a bridge to rediscovering your own humanity.