A force

In the few months that I’ve lived here, Australia has taught me a lot of valuable lessons. For instance, I learnt that the pricing system is not systematic at all, and even a bunch of bananas could double in price overnight. I learnt that people here can handle extreme, dry heat, but haven’t the faintest tolerance to spice. Everyone’s way more active and outdoorsy than I could’ve imagined—they bask in the sun wining, bike across an entire state, walk 8 to 10 kilometres as an everyday commute, and run up to 10 kilometres every day just because they can. 

But the most crucial thing Australia has taught me is to give nature the respect it deserves. 

People say anything in Australia can kill you. Even the sun—it can burn through and cause skin cancer, or it can ignite bushes as it does every year, leaving devastation in its wake. Equally dangerous are the animals. Not only is this country home to some of the world’s vicious, venomous snakes and spiders, but it’s also a haven for aggressive insects and birds.

Swooping magpies are a seasonal menace. Every year around mid-August, news sites flash warnings and incident updates in big, bold headlines. There’s even an official website that shows live updates on magpie swooping: https://www.magpiealert.com

Magpie alert in Australia
Image courtesy of Magpie Alert

Cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians are warned to be extra cautious and avoid tracks that’ve had swooping accidents. Once, while walking past a university building, I came across a poster on the sidewalk announcing magpie sightings and suggesting alternative routes. There were 1500+ attacks this year, just halfway through the season.

Although it seems as if anything Australian is out to get you, magpies are also widely misunderstood. They don’t always swoop and scoop out people’s eyes or pick at their ears or poke into their foreheads. They, like most living creatures, swoop in defence. And they do so only for six weeks—the period when their eggs hatch and the chicks find their feet.

It would still hurt, though, to be on the receiving end of a magpie’s beak. Deaths aren’t unheard of either.

But ducks should be fine, eh?

Apparently, no. It came as a surprise, but in three days, I was almost attacked by ducks twice. Those squishy-looking, waddling, quacking, seemingly-harmless creatures can flap their wings quite ferociously when they want to chase after you. And to think I grew up pitying the ugly duckling in the children’s tale, empathising with the helpless outcast! If only I’d known what little brats they could be. 

When I looked it up, I realised that drakes—or male ducks—are aggressive either to show off their alpha-ness or to express interest in mating. Ah, what vain creatures, ducks. So much like humans.

Musing about how natural elements naturally want to harm humans, my respect for the earth swells. It’s proof—despite all the technology and the modernity that humankind has injected into the earth, it continues to demonstrate how easily it can overpower us.

Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Denying that will cost us dearly.

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