Following a long day at uni, an exhausting shift at Maccas and hours of mindless moves at Moose you stumble home to your room. Stupefied by the ethanol, you scramble for the lamp’s switch to extinguish the darkness. The light slightly dazzles your eyes, but you persist in untying your laces. With one last heave, the boots flip off, and you collapse into bed. Again you fumble for the light switch, but this time a brown creature darts in your periphery. It’s a Huntsman spider.
Nearly everyone in Australia has been welcomed home by a large furry critter such as the Huntsman at one time or another. Experience dictates that they choose to pounce on their victim in the most unsuspecting of moments. Instinct usually overtakes our mostly logical thought processes, and we transition into ‘fight or flight’ gear.
Both of these actions prove to be a disservice to humanity. Finding a Huntsman in your bedroom feels like an invasion or intrusion from something alien. But really, this is a paradox: our man-made buildings, factories, technologies and vehicles are the alien objects, towering over the Huntsman and dictating arbitrary rules of humanity.
Every time we are ‘interrupted’ by a surprise animal encounter, we should urge ourselves to stop, listen and question our attitudes.
Because, what if we were the victims in the room?
We would learn to listen
In an alternate reality where Huntsman spiders could communicate with humans, we might end up listening to them – and they might have a lot to say to us. If we could speak with the humble Huntsman, we would inevitably develop a greater relationship and sympathy with them and other animals. Imagine if we knew why this particular Huntsman has chosen to shelter inside, and what life changes it had been going through. By listening we would gain a wealth of knowledge about the ecosystems we are part of but are rarely forced to engage with directly.
We would realise that we are truly interdependent
In this hypothetical world, we might be reminded more often of the vitality and importance of their place in society: that plants and animal behaviour within ecosystems are essential to life on earth. Bees might remind us that their pollination is responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat; bats might remind us that they control pests biologically; and frogs might remind us that their presence is a bio-indicator of the health of ecosystems. We would be thankful that elephants can predict earthquakes and tsunamis, and that ants can detect when it will rain. These reminders could prove vital to furthering our understanding that animal, ecology and human livelihoods are all dependent on each other’s sustainability.
We would remember to reduce our footprint
In a world where animals could speak, what would their resounding message be? I suspect it would be a call to reduce our emissions and to focus on conserving their ecosystems. They’d remind us that starving polar bears are beginning to migrate to urban areas to find food; 99 percent of threatened species are at risk of extinction; and that koalas are more vulnerable to Australia’s fires and floods than we are. They’d train us to be perceptive of the environment and its behavior, and ultimately to be wary of our carbon footprint.
So, next time a Huntsman spider spooks you, let the experience serve as a lesson or reminder of your ecosystem’s vigour and vitality. Such unsuspecting visits from the animal world, be it from a Huntsman or a swooping magpie, are symbolic of our need to focus on the environment and the preservation of our local ecosystems. In fact, new research has found that climate change could increase the number, size and speed of spiders in the future. Maybe the alternate reality isn’t so far away.