This is a twitpic of my new tattoo! It is of a Giant African Millipede, so, you know, click on the link if you want!
So, why, Sigrid, did you get a realistic tattoo of a giant arthropod on your body?
The first and simplest answer is, because we raise them. My family, specifically my partner Tern, keeps a tank of giant millipedes in the office. They are sweet little creatures. They eat rotting fruit and vegetables, so cleaning out the fridge is easier. They cuddle with each other in little millipede balls. They pet each other with their antennae, and they have a LOT of sex. They are not fast-moving, nor do they lurk unexpectedly. They are really rather nice pets. You can hold them, and they walk around on your hand inquisitively.
But that only begs the question, why do you have millipedes as pets? You’d have to ask Tern that — it was her idea. But I do know why I am ideologically in favor of arthropods, why I support our millipedes and roaches and tarantulas and caterpillars.
Because the charismatic megafauna could vanish off this planet, and the planet would get along without us all. But remove the invertebrates and the planet dies in six to twelve months.
From an ecological standpoint, we humans contribute just about nothing, and cause immeasurable damage. But the invertebrates, my friend —
Without the invertebrates we lose everything.
I see all this footage of the BP oil spill and what it’s doing to the wildlife, and I am saddened and angered by the footage, sure. But dolphins are not what I am worried about. I’m worried about bacteria, and plankton, and krill, and diatoms. I’m worried about every little crustacean that eats feces and decaying organic matter.
It’s the same on land, too. You may be grossed out by the thought of the many species of mite that live on your body, sure. But be GLAD of mites — they eat all the organic material you slough off during your day. Without mites you’d be drowning in waste human skin cells.
Invertebrates fertilize most of the plants. Most of the plants we eat, and the plants that clean the air so we can breath it again. Invertebrates dispose of our waste — ponder how much waste you produce in a day, hmm? Invertebrates are utterly indispensable We cannot live without them. Not for long.
So I have a millipede tattooed on my shoulder. A friendly, peeking millipede, its little antennae questing out for a nice bit of soggy cucumber. (Cucumber not tattooed!) It’s a reminder to myself, and to anyone who asks, that It’s Not About Me. That life is far more complex, interesting, and interdependent than I bother to see on a day-to-day basis. A reminder to not squish the spider (who is eating mosquitoes,) not bat the bee (who is pollinating the plants in my yard,) not swat the centipede (who is eating ants that come into my house.) A reminder that they can ALL live just fine without me, but I’d be dead without them.
Filed under: Autobiography, Optimistic Humanist | Tagged: arthropods, invertebrates, millipedes, tattoo | 6 Comments »