Coconut Monkeys

Some years ago, I had a job that I didn’t like. The money was good, but the work was bad. I was stuck in “Coconut Monkey” syndrome.

Farmers in south India are sometimes plagued by monkeys stealing their crops. The bright little thieves raid fields en masse, grabbing anything edible. The peasants chase the animals, but the monkeys always come back.

According to a tale I read in Robert Pirsig’s Motorcycle Maintenance book, one farmer had an idea. [Trigger warning: Monkeys die just ahead.] The farmer hollowed out a coconut, leaving a small hole, just big enough for a monkey to stick a hand in. A bit of rice was dumped inside it and the coconut was chained to a stake.  Here’s the trick. A monkey will reach in, collect rice in its fist, but not be able to pull its clenched fist out of the small hole without releasing the rice inside the coconut. A monkey won’t drop free food, even if a farmer is running at him with a club.

I’ll admit that I’ve been a coconut monkey more than once in my life. I just can’t let go of a ‘good thing’, even if I know it could kill me. I’m trying to learn that lesson, but sometimes I forget. I was reminded of the tale a couple days ago when I heard about those marauding monkeys again. This time, they were environmental refugees.

A troop of monkeys, climate-change refugees fleeing an intense monsoon, were stealing coconuts and breaking into homes for food. They had figured out that they could by-pass locked doors by climbing up on the roof, peeling off a few roof tiles, then dropping into the pantry. And what a mess. Even worse, the desperate little hooligans ripped up 55 beehives in a nearby apiary.

Those monkeys were hungry, having been displaced by the vagaries of climate. Monsoons have happened for generations, but they are becoming worse – except in the years that they don’t show up. This leads me back to human coconut monkeys. If climate is running at us with a club, but we are busy clinging to our allegorical rice, do we let go or do we stay the course and suffer the consequences?

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a geophysicist who also does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with a popular blog at www.badbeekeepingblog.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
This entry was posted in Culture, or lack thereof, Ecology, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coconut Monkeys

  1. Erik says:

    Susan would have enjoyed this post 🙂
    Thanks, Ron.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. garryneufeld says:

    Great post. Persig’s book had considerable influence on my life and its direction but i had forgotten about the monkeys; nice reminder, and a great analogy as well. thx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How about we start back-paddling like mad before we wind up going over the precipice??

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.