The Atlantic

Why the Planet Earth II Episode on Cities Is So Startling

It gives us a glimpse of our strange future.
Source: Jim Dyson / Reuters

It used to happen a lot: Teetering home drunk and disconsolate late at night through the shadowy semi-suburbs of north London, I would turn a corner and find, staring placidly at me on the street, the silhouette of a fox.

Looking directly into the eyes of a wild animal is a haunting, almost religious experience. The late John Berger describes it in one of his most tender passages: that sense of recognition, the sense that, even though this creature is looking at you across ‘an abyss of non-comprehension,’ it sees you in exactly the same way that you can see it. ‘The animal,’ he writes, ‘has secrets that, unlike the secrets of caves, mountains, seas, are specifically addressed to man.’

London foxes are smart, irreverent, and have little fear of humans; even when they do run away from us it’s slowly and mockingly, turning back to fix you with a sneer over their shoulders. Often they’d just simply watch, half-distracted, curious but not too interested in this strange creature briefly interrupting their territory. Foxes don’t care.

I was young, unhappy

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