The Unwelcome Crows: Hospitality in the Anthropocene
As their common name implies, House Crows (Corvus splendens) stick pretty closely to people. So much so that there are no known populations living independently of us. You might say that, in so far as these birds have a ‘natural environment’, we’re it. This paper focuses on a small population of roughly 30 house crows in the town of Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands, likely all descendants of two birds that arrived by ship in the mid 1990s. In 2014, after 20 years of peaceful co-existence, the government of the province of South Holland began the process of eradicating this population, worried that they may one day become a pest or threat to biodiversity. Just across the water from Hoek van Holland is the Port of Rotterdam – Europe’s largest port – and an ‘engine’ for the global patterns of production, trade and consumption that are today remaking our world, ushering in what many are calling the ‘Anthropocene.’ Focusing on these crows and this port – in a way that is attuned to the broader placetimes that constitute our present – this paper seeks a more situated way into the relatively abstract notion of the Anthropocene. Working through the lens of ‘hospitality’, it explores the ways in which other species are made welcome – or not – in the places that we call our own. Telling the story of this little group of birds in a way that holds this port and its impacts in the frame, this paper asks how we might be required to rethink our responses to, to learn to live with, others in this difficult time.
Thom van Dooren is an environmental philosopher and anthropologist in the Environmental Humanities program at the University of New South Wales, Australia. His current research focuses primarily on the ethics and politics of extinction and conservation. His latest book, Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction, was published by Columbia University Press in June 2014. He is co-editor of the international, open-access,
journal: Environmental Humanities. From September to December 2014 he will be a visitor in the Environmental Humanities Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (on an intermittent basis). From November 2014 he will also be a Humboldt Research Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, LMU Munich.