After discussing the hoopla over the “new ruralism” and such things as the “fluffy mountain lion syndrome,” spoilsport Glenn Reynolds made the following insensitive remark:

Nobody’s going to want to settle in a place where they’re worried about kids being eaten.

Oh, come on, Glenn. Get with the program!
Not only are we going to reintroduce predators, but there’s a new movement: people belong in zoos:

LONDON – At the London Zoo, you can talk to the animals – and now some of them talk back.
Held within a rocky enclosure and barely clothed, eight British men and women monkeyed around yesterday for an amused, bemused crowd behind a sign reading “Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment.”
The captives in the Human Zoo exhibit sunned themselves on a rock ledge, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops, and some waved. A signboard informed visitors about the species’ habitat, worldwide distribution and threats.
Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, “Why are there people in there?”
London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills said that was exactly the question the zoo wanted to answer.
“Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals… teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate,” Wills said. It also, she conceded, lets them “have a gawk at people.”

Omitted from what the Inquirer passed off as a mere cutesy human interest story was a vital detail of the London exhibit. Human beings are billed as the “plague species“:

LONDON (AFP) – London Zoo unveiled a new exhibition — eight humans prowling around wearing little more than fig leaves to cover their modesty.
The “Human Zoo” is intended to show the basic nature of human beings as they frolick throughout the August bank holiday weekend.
“We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man’s place in the planet’s ecosystem,” London Zoo said.
The scantily-clad volunteers will be treated as animals and kept amused at the central London zoo with games and music.

For a more local view, here’s London’s “Independent“:

The spectacle of five of the planet’s most advanced great ape species hanging about in swimwear on Bear Mountain, the 91-year-old Grade II-listed terraces that once housed polar bears and grizzlies, is the opening salvo in a campaign by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs the zoo, to highlight humanity’s status as a “plague species”. Nearly 15,600 separate species are believed to be threatened with extinction caused by human activity.
To underline the point, displays outside the enclosure comparing humans with chimpanzees and gorillas note that more humans are born every hour than the existing population of the two other apes.
Managers were unapologetic about their selection of eight largely trim and shapely specimens, including an international kick-boxer and a professional dancer, to ensure maximum publicity by cavorting around the enclosure during open hours over the bank holiday weekend.
Simon Rayner, ZSL’s communications manager, who dreamt up the idea, said: “The point is to jolt people into recognising the impact of human beings on their environment and that of other animals. We are saying, ‘Look, here are humans stripped down and treated exactly the same way as other animals’. We are the same and the way we treat all animals has consequences.”

Well, what do we do with disease carrying animals?
As I said in my discussion of “predator” salesmanship tactics, new ideas take time!
UPDATE: Here’s the picture of our future:


Personally, I think the Eloi were cuter. But these things are all a matter of, um, taste.
MORE: This “see the bad humans at the zoo” meme fits quite well into the current theme of children teaching parents — breathlessly explored in today’s Inquirer:

….in addition to teaching their parents how to deal with new technologies, kids today also are teaching them profound ethical lessons about protecting the natural world and respecting themselves and others. Here are some of the examples I have heard from schoolchildren that go beyond technology or popular culture: A girl: “I taught my mom to recycle.” A boy: “I taught my dad to enjoy rap.” A boy: “I taught my mom to be independent.” A girl: “I taught my dad not to interrupt me.” A boy: “I taught my dad not to make cracks about gays.”

There’s more, for those who want to learn!
Regarding willingness to learn, the author offers a new definition slogan:

The slogan I use is, “You are not what you know but what you are willing to learn.” Willingness to learn demands respect for others across difference. Puzzling and even disturbing ideas are invitations to curiosity, and the greater the difference the more there may be to be learned. The world is a rain forest of variety full of promise that is at risk of being lost. If one teenager could give his father an appreciation of rap, another may be interestingly articulate about body piercing and baggy clothes. I have argued that the willingness to learn is a form of spirituality. It is a stance of humility, because there is so much to be learned.

I think willingness to learn is being confused with willingness to agree.
And, of course, this discussion begs the question of who taught the children what “they” are teaching their parents.
In fact, I’d love to learn more!
MORE: I just, um, learned that the Mary Catherine Bateson, the author of the above, is the daughter of Margaret Mead. (Some of her famous quotes are assembled here.)
UPDATE: Similar “education” here.
UPDATE: Thank you Glenn Reynolds for the InstaLanche! Welcome all.
BTW, I agree with Glenn’s final observation about armed property owners. What’s being forgotten by the people promoting this sentimentalized view of nature is that self defense itself is natural. For humans, of course, it takes the form of being armed.
UPDATE (08/29/05): Readers might enjoy my latest post, which further explores “willingness to learn.”