What is a RAT?
Renaissance may have been the beginning of man's enlightenment, but for rats it was the start of the Dark Ages. Ever since
the Black Death ravaged human and animal populations from the mid-1300's on, rats have been regarded with horror as the cause
of much of mankind's suffering, but they are not the guilty parties. For the plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, to survive,
it requires only one creature which transmits it from host to host -- the flea. The host can be a donkey, a sheep, a chicken,
a cat, a human. It doesn't matter -- Yersinia's not fussy where it lives. Neither are fleas. When one host species
dies, a meal can be attempted by feeding on another animal. Rats died of the Black Death right alongside people. Go ahead
and blame Yersinia pestis or blame the fleas if you like, but the real culprit is us. When humans upset
the balance of nature, the natural world strikes back. We still suffer from epidemics of all kinds, and we are still looking
for others to blame, but it's always us in the end. We live in crowded cities, and we encourage the growth of animal populations
that are dependent on the extra food and waste we produce. But producing more waste than we or the earth or our dependant
animals can handle is dangerous. We want to conquer and/or do business with the rest of the world. But traveling outside our
native habitat puts us into contact with disease organisms that our bodies are unable to deal with and spreads them to our
neighbors when we return. Our Renaissance lessons didn't last. We are still severely overcrowded, we are still busily traveling
the world to conquer new markets, and we haven't learned very much at all from the rats, the fleas or Yersinia.