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Pests Of New York City, an evening curated by Brooke Borel
Dec 1, 2015 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm| $8
In New York, it can be tough to deal with your neighbors. This is especially true when those neighbors are the creepy crawlies that feed on our trashor even on us.
Join us for an evening’s exploration of NYC’s most infamous pests: rats, pigeons, roaches, and bed bugs. We’ll dive into their fascinating evolutionary and cultural histories, as well as how they are able to survive so hardily in our fast-paced, hard-edged city. You’ll leave brimming not only with new knowledge, but alsomaybesome respect for these pesky creatures.
Bed Bugs: The words strike fear even in the hearts of the most hardened New Yorkers. But what are these critters and why did they seem to take over the city over the past decade or so? And where were they before that? Brooke Borel takes a look at the pest’s past, why it surged in recent years, and how scientists and society are dealing this annoying comeback. Stops along the way include: ancient bat caves, the Bible, and an Off Off Broadway Sci Fi Rock Opera
Cockroaches: In 2012, entomologists identified a new species of cockroach in New York City. The Japanese cockroach, Periplaneta japonica, had never been seen here before, and frantic steps were immediately and quietly taken to stop it from gaining a real foothold here. As it happens, all of our cockroaches are invasive species, and are incredibly well-suited to life among humanity. While reporting on the fight to contain P. japonica, writer Christopher Bonanos found out much more about our scuttling, ubiquitous neighbors, and I’ll talk about them in detail.
Rats: In New York City, it’s been said that you’re never more than thirty feet from a rat. The city’s story and its rodent residents are intertwined in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine: from the historic “rat-baiting” shows, to the time that mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed a ‘rat czar,’ to a slew of media-famous rats (remember the three-foot rat killed by a man with a pitchfork in Brooklyn? And of course, more recently, the infamous Pizza Rat). One group in downtown Manhattan even takes to the rat-infested alleyways on Saturday nights, toting their terriers and in search of prey. Rats play a role in New York politics, in public safety, and even in pop culture. Melissa Cronin’s talk will be a timeline of the vibrant and sometimes grotesque history of rats in New York City, the most common mammal here besides humans. Rats grew up with New York and, whether you like it or not, they’re here to stay.
Pigeons: Colin Jerolmack will talk about how pigeons came to be known as “rats with wings,” and why rescuing their reputation from the proverbial gutter matters for environmental conservation.
Brooke Borel is a science writer, journalist, and author. She’s a contributing editor at Popular Science and has also written for the Atlantic, BuzzFeed News, and Slate, among others. Her first book is Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, which published in 2015 from the University of Chicago Press with additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Colin Jerolmack is associate professor of environmental studies and sociology at NYU, where he also directs the Animal Studies Initiative. He is also the author of The Global Pigeon, which publishedfrom the University of Chicago Press in 2013.
Christopher Bonanos is an editor at New York magazine, where he runs the “Intelligencer” section and writes about culture, technology, and urban affairs. He is also the author of ‘Instant: The Story of Polaroid,’ and a forthcoming biography of the photographer Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and their son, who appears in many, many Polaroid photographs.
Like her favorite animal the grizzly bear, Melissa Cronin has a hand in many pots. She’s a news editor and writer for Gawker.com, founder and co-editor of the literary journal Potluck Magazine, and a freelance environmental journalist covering energy, activism and narwhals.