I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. One of the most rewarding, but also most depressing, is my work for Penguins United.
A few years ago I reluctantly agreed to be their Associate Director of Penguin/Human Relations. Penguins are a lot shrewder than you think. They knew if they made me Director they might have to pay me.
I built them a blog and website at penguinsunited.com, ordered some t-shirts, and did my best to translate their occasional penguin dispatches into English. As my parrot friends Danger and Vladimir will testify, it’s a lot easier translating parrot than penguin.
Why depressing? Well, pick a metaphor that works for you. If penguins v. humans was a lawsuit, or if Penguins United was a soccer team, or if they were running a presidential campaign, you’d know that my penguins are getting their collective asses kicked.
Simply put, even their home field is melting. Go online. You can see chunks of Antarctica falling into the sea.
Penguins have lousy insurance, and I quickly learned that none of them has mental health coverage.
Over the past few years, Penguin 7, Penguin 8, Penguin 4, and even Penguin 5 have all succumbed to long bouts of ennui. They lost their zest. They lost their verve. They stumbled about the ice and snow.
I tried. We talked. We emailed. When Penguin 7 stole a cellphone from a Penguin Ranch researcher, we even texted. But it is difficult for them to understand why the climate is in crisis, why the ice is melting, and so many of their animal friends are dying.
Believe me, it wasn’t easy for them to confront, then overcome the penguin social stigma. They began group therapy. Committed to their recovery, they worked on themselves and their penguin friends. They fell silent. Nothing to translate. Nothing to post on the penguin blog.
Imagine my surprise, after so many months of not a word, I received the following Communiqué in my inbox:
Declaration of Penguin Sympathy and Penguin Solidarity
“We have had our short moment in the sun. For the briefest time, humans flocked to see “March of the Penguins.” During those days, they cared about us. But we have learned, like many before us, that fame is fleeting. And there lots of birds and bees and fish and bears, and a flock of documentary filmmakers looking for Emmys and Oscars.
“Thanks to the internet, we have learned that there are many species threatened as we are. The Javan Rhinoceros, fish like the Vaquita, the Cross River Gorilla, the Sumatran Tiger, the Golden-Headed Langur, the Black-Footed Ferret, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Giant Panda, and the Polar Bear from the other end of the Earth. We could go on and on.
“Today our hearts go out to all those live in and about the waters of the Gulf Coast. The oysters, the shrimp, the sturgeon, the Brown Pelican, the Least Tern, the Piping Plover, the Oystercatcher, the Northern Gannet, and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. We could go on and on. And we know it is nesting season.
“To our human brothers and sisters, we have a simple question. When will you learn? How many of us have to die before you remember once again to live simply? A train instead of a car. Walking rather than riding. Charity not greed. Care not carelessness.
“The American President says he is in control. Perhaps you sleep better believing him. But we who swim and fly know that he controls not the ocean, not the sky, not the ice or the snow.
“There is a hole in Earth. The Earth is bleeding black.
“The ice melts. The ocean burns.
Mickey Friedman thanks BP for one small thing. The Penguins are back.
The Berkshire Record, Thursday June 3, 2010. © Mickey Friedman. All rights reserved.