Once upon a time, there was a small town capital of a small country. The town had its urban parks, like any town does, but one park stood out.
It was the crown jewel of the parks, seaside and stretching out over the poshest areas to live. Posh as it might’ve been, all locals, posh or not, enjoyed lazy Sunday walks there in the springtime, watching sailboats drift by, and windy summer ice creams licked fast whilst keeping an eye out for hungry seagulls.
In the 90’s, the hit activity was rollerblading. In the 00’s, drinks and clubbing. Late 10’s, electric scooters.
In the 00’s, some of the drinking was done in the form of picnics.
My mind goes blank. The narrator in my head gives my brain cells a nudge: Remember them?
Ah yes, faintly.
You take a blanket and put it on the grass.
Whaaat? That’s disgusting.
Well, see, in the noughties, the grass was nice and clean. Green and healthy. Pleasant to sit on and have some strawberries while tanning your bare white feet. You might’ve even laid down for a bit and relaxed.
Really? Are you sure?
Yes, there were no geese back then.
I know, but it just seems so out of this world. Put a blanket on grass and sit on it – without any wet poop sticking on it or between your now un-shoed toes. No unpleasant smells. Is that really what people used to do?
Yes, and I have a feeling you’ll be explaining picnics to the next generation someday, as exotic as landline phones.
Ah… it’s all coming back to me now…
This particular park used to be very popular for picnics. Once upon an even earlier time, it had been popular for free concerts, until the City Council had banned them, saying they ruined the grass, with irony yet unbeknownst to them.
Then one summer, large flocks of large geese arrived unannounced. The non-native species made itself at home and defended its territory aggressively, chasing anybody who came nearby. They were even known to bite.
They pooped everywhere, spreading invisible bacteria onto the palms of crawling toddlers, and chewed up all the grass, turning parks brown. They pooped in the shallow seawater, turning it into a stinking liquid you wouldn’t want to touch with a stick. Poop was on the soles of your shoes, on the floors of outdoors cafes, on pedestrian walkways. It spread into your car, was carried into your home.
The geese, massive in size and noisy, excited some dogs and scared off others. The formerly-despised thieving seagulls started to seem tame in comparison and their craving for ice cream didn’t seem that bad anymore.
And then the geese spread out all around town into every one of its parks and green areas. Any little patch of grass would do. The crown jewel was already gone and digested, and they needed more.
The problem was widely ignored by everyone and the town’s Tourism Office continued to boast that the city was a haven of delights.
Meanwhile, locals had nowhere to sit down since all the parks were contaminated. But as the years went by, they started to think this was normal, forgetting that at some point it had actually been possible for a human to enjoy a park, too. That they were not originally intended as recreational areas for geese. People simply forgot that seeing something green would help to keep the town’s tax payers sane. That sometimes it would be nice to enjoy a sunny day outdoors while staying in the city.
Coinciding with Instagram’s emergence, the demand for international travel increased. The geese were pictured on social media doing funny things, like crossing the road and making cars wait. No one instagrammed the poop. No one mentioned that the locals were fleeing town.
Occasionally, someone would start an online discussion saying the geese needed to go, but these discussions led to nothing but anger. The angriest wanted them dead. The more sophisticated wanted them removed.
The City Council that once banned concerts now seemed blissfully ignorant of the ruined grass. They must have been summering by their own lakeside villas, far away from the city, undisturbed, only to return to town once the birds had flown away for the winter.
One year, a local tabloid announced the origin of the geese: a zookeeper had let them out of their cage, thinking they would fly off somewhere far away. To his surprise, they had stayed put – and multiplied.
This revelation, while quite stunning and eyebrow-raising, led nowhere and it, too, was quickly forgotten, as things tended to be. Years passed and the original picnickers had moved on to greener grasses abroad, leaving their old tiny home town to be flooded with new residents from rural areas and more tourism. The geese were Instagrammed again, and, as usual, found adorable by newcomers.
Some more years passed. A tabloid wrote, as if it was new information,
“Favorite beach overtaken by geese,” adding pictures.
Again, a spark of discussion online, and nothing but collective amnesia.
Until one day, a woman in the Mayor’s Office wrote a column saying she wanted to bring the parks back to the people. The end of the story is yet to unfold.
Inspired by this article (in Finnish, sorry). I love nature but this species doesn’t belong here. It’s a tricky subject, what are your thoughts?