Tuesday, April 07, 2009

They say that 2,000 years ago the climate of the Congo was cooler, less damp, that instead of being composed of thickets of impenetrable jungle the land was mostly smooth grassland with fingers of forest along all of the major water sources. All the bigger animals and the running animals that usually lived in other, always-open places, moved in to these grasslands, probably enjoying all of the space and extra grass.

But then slowly the climate changed back again, became hotter and wetter, and the jungles spread out and out into the slowly dampening plains, claiming all of the land that was open in the name of tall trunks and thick green undergrowth. Until eventually the open plains were closed.

The elephants were still there, though, and the running animals, glimpsed in flashes of gray and brown and stripes standing very still among the leaves. It confused people for a long time, all of these animals so poorly built for jungles living right in the middle of one, until one day they found a surprise intact grassland in the middle somewhere and realized what had happened. That though the animals still were built for running and stomping and wide open spaces the world around them had changed and trapped them there between the trees. Until eventually they forgot what running was like. They could still, but don't, mostly.

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