The Stoat Problem
Sat, 07 May 2016
I was woken early one morning by a loud banging on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs, to find Alun in an agitated state.
“It’s a stoat, Jed,” he said. “It’s sabotaged my space rocket.”
Living alone on an island, as we do, Alun has a lot of spare time and always has several dozen projects on the go. He’s been building a rocket to take him to Mars for over a decade, though in truth it is never likely to get off the ground, like so many of his plans.
“You should have made your rocket wildlife-proof,” I said.
“It is wildlife-proof, Jed,” he said. “There’s a fence all the way round. The stoat must have cut through the fence, found the cable and cut through it.”
“You make it sound deliberate.”
“It is deliberate Jed. It’s sabotage.”
“Yes Jed. There’s a pattern, it’s like the weasel that attacked the Large Haldron Collider on the mainland last week. The LHC is one of the most fiercely-guarded scientific sites in the world, no weasel could have achieved the damage they did without a fake pass and a map of the compound.”
“But why would stoats and weasels want to sabotage major scientific projects?”
“There’s only one way to find out Jed, ask a stoat.”
Regular readers of these stories will remember that Alun was, for a short period in his youth, raised by weasels, and consequently speaks fluent weasel, stoat and numerous other squeaky-mammal-languages.
We soon found a stoat and Alun sat down and conversed with him. I didn’t follow the conversation, as I don’t speak stoat, but I could hear the animal getting passionate about something.
“What did it say?” I asked.
“It confirmed that there is a stoat/weasel conspiracy to sabotage science projects, Jed.”
“But why? Surely stoats and weasels can’t be opposed to the development of knowledge.”
“It says that no stoat or weasel has ever benefited from scientific advancement. In fact, whatever benefits mankind might achieve, the animal kingdom and wider environment suffer. Thousands of species have been wiped out, never to be seen again, and while science may enable to mankind to enjoy record levels of luxury, high-tech phones, disposable trousers and the like, millions of stoats live in poverty.”
It was, I had to admit, a convincing argument.
“I must show them they’re wrong, Jed,” Alun said, “Convince them that science isn’t to blame for mankind’s mistakes, that knowledge and understanding are good things.”
“How will you do that?” I asked.
“By running basic science classes for all the stoats and weasels on the island, Jed.”
As promised Alun dedicated much of his spare time to running science classes for the various mammalia behind the anti-science campaign. It proved a great success, with hundreds of stoats signing up to learn more about science – in fact they learnt so quickly they soon overtook their teacher, and work on the Mars rocket progressed at pace with the help of the more-able stoats and weasels.
All seemed to be going well, with no further attempts at sabotage.
However, approximately nine months later I was woken early one morning by Alun, who was in an incomprehensively stressed state. He babbled incoherently for a while about stoats and space rockets.
“Calm down, Alun,” I said. “What are you saying, that the stoats have sabotaged the Mars rocket again? But I thought you’d won them over to science.”
“I have Jed, they’re all far better scientists than I ever could be. They’ve finished the rocket behind my back and launched it while I slept.”
“You mean …”
“Yes, Jed, all the stoats and weasels are on their way to Mars.”