Sliding Down into the Behavorial Sink

Feel that Taiwan is too crowded? That you feel a tad bit squished on the MRT? Then read this excerpt from Tom Wolf’s “Sliding Down into the Behavorial Sink,” an article about Dr. Hall, who studies animal behavior, or you might end up like a Norwegian rat.

Human heads shone through the gratings. The species North European tried to create bubbles of space around themselves, about a foot and a half in diameter–

“See, he’s reacting against the line,” says Dr. Hall.

– but the species Mediterranean presses on in. The hell with bubbles of space. The species North European resents that, this male human behind him presses forward toward the booth… breathing on him, he’s disgusted, he pulls out of the line entirely, the species Mediterranean resents him for resenting it, and neither of them realizes what the hell they are getting irritable about exactly. And in all of them the old adrenals grown another micrometer.

Dr. Hall whips out the Minox. Too perfect! The bottom of The Sink.
It is the sheer overcrowding, such as occurs in the business sections of Manhattan five days a week and in Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, southeast Bronx every day – sheer over-crowding is converting New Yorkers into animals in a sink pen.

Dr. Hall’s argument runs as follows: all animals, including birds, seem to have a built-in, inherited requirement to have a certain amount of territory, space, to lead their lives in. Even if they have all the food they need, and there are no predatory animals threatening them, they cannot tolerate crowding beyond a certain point. No more than 200 wild Norway rats can survive on a quarter acre of ground, for example, even when they are given all the food they can eat. They just die off.