Welcome to Tiny Goat
High in the Italian Alps, three herds of female chamois goats and their kids live in sunny mountain valleys. For centuries, the chamois spent most of their days munching on flowering sedges and grasses when they weren’t running or jumping away from brown bears, lynx, eagles—and human hunters. But in recent decades, those human predators have begun to notice a change in the goats they catch: the animals are getting smaller.
In 2014, scientists in the U.K. released a study that validated (and quantified) the hunters’ observations. Young chamois now weigh, on average, twenty-five percent less than juvenile chamois in the 1980s. (1) Since there’s no shortage of food or space for today’s goats, researchers suspect the cause is linked to climate change. As the Alps get hotter, the goats are spending more of their time resting in the shade rather than foraging.
It’s unclear what, exactly, this change in size means for the goats and the mountain-meadow ecologies they inhabit. Smaller goats are less able to cope with harsh winters, but they do seem better suited to hot summers. Perhaps less grazing will allow some species of fragile mountain plants to flourish, or perhaps those, too, will struggle in ways we can’t yet predict.
But regardless of the unknown consequences of their downsizing, the chamois have discovered an unexpectedly effective way to adapt to their warming environment. They are surviving by embracing their stillness. And by reducing their consumption, to get on-the-nose about it.
It’s still up to scientists to systematically measure and document the changes taking place in our hotter world, like the shrinking Alpine goats. But we creatives have a role to play, too. It’s up to us to make meaning of the science, to produce images and stories and songs and other artifacts that might finally inspire those with power to do something in response to climate change. Equally important, it’ll be art and culture that help us cope with the increasingly inevitable tragedies and sadness of this uncertain time, and to show us moments of unexpected beauty and joy that are still available to us in nature—and in ourselves.
At Tiny Goat, you’ll find science-based creative prompts and science-informed art representing a wide range of mediums. We’re stubbornly committed to addressing the chronic failure of imagination (2) surrounding climate change, and more immediately, we’re passionate about helping you build up your emotional resilience during this hot and hostile era.
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