THE WOOLLY MAMMOTH
Once a woolly mammoth sensed the world was growing warmer. The change had been going on for some time, as the winds steadily shifted direction and the glaciers that had seemed to define the mammoth’s entire world began to recede. Intent on the constant foraging necessary to sustain its great bulk, however, the mammoth hadn’t looked up long enough to realize what was happening. When it finally did become aware that the world was not the same as before, the mammoth’s first response was to go into denial. So dramatic a change was impossible. The conditions to which the mammoth had adapted its every thought and move over the years couldn’t just vanish like that. It had done so well in a cold world, where each adversary it encountered had yielded before its overwhelming size and might or disappeared entirely. Why shouldn’t that state of affairs continue indefinitely? Maybe all this climate change business was merely a temporary aberration. In that event, the mammoth had only to wait for the planet to enter the next ice age for everything to get back to normal again. Or, better yet, it might be able to figure out a way to speed up the return of conditions it found much easier to understand than the ones it now faced. But if the new conditions were in fact an aberration, what could possibly be the reason for them? Might there actually be something outside the laws of nature at work here, the mammoth wondered? That would certainly make sense of what otherwise couldn’t be squared with its own understanding of the elements. Maybe some malevolent force was in the air. Was that the explanation the mammoth was looking for, climate change as a faceless, fathomless villainy? If so, then dithering over whys and wherefores would only complicate matters more than they already were. What was called for was decisive action. When faced with any challenge in the past, the mammoth had been able to rely upon one strategy that always worked. Why not fall back on it now? Yes, why not fall back on a response that had proved as reliable as blind instinct before? Summoning all of its massive size and might, then, the mammoth resorted to the tactics it knew best: trumpet loudly through its trunk, wave its big tusks about, charge pell-mell into the gathering heat, and trust its woolly coat to protect it somehow from whatever this new age had in store. Once underway, the mammoth might come up with some other ideas for what to do.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans