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A Modest Proposal
2nd Oct


A Modest Proposal

(about Jonathan Swift, Canada geese, hunger, a solution, and gratefulness)

 A recent read of Jonathan Swift’s well-known and disturbing 1729 essay surprisingly suggests a solution to some pressing problems in Goodale Park.  For starters, it’s Autumn, and it’s time for the Canada geese to fly south, but many of these geese haven’t made it back home for the last decade or two.  Columbus is their home now, and they are settling in.  I suspect they may even have evolved into a new species by now.

Canada geese in pond

Some Canada geese still fly overhead on their way to and from Canada.  These are called “migratory” birds.  I like them.  There are others that fly overhead, but they are simply engaged in localized pond-shopping.  I call these “resident” birds, like starlings, or pigeons.  And I think we should do something about them.

As a child in Wisconsin, I regularly heard the seasonal honking of geese and fondly looked upward with wonder at them in their “V” formations, winging their way to and from distant lands.  I would point, and call the family around to look.  We would all stand mesmerized, even though we’d already seen them eleventy-hundred times before.  “Here are creatures that are dignified and graceful”, I would think to myself.  I imagined how splendid it would be to have them living among us.

Credit: Curtiss Clark,

Credit: Curtiss Clark

Life in Ohio has revealed how misguided I was.  These Canada geese are small-minded, stubborn, mean defecation machines, each one a Rottweiler with an overactive colon.  They were beautiful from afar, but close-up in Columbus?  Hateful.

I don’t know if it’s global warming or the proliferation of corporate ponds, but the situation is out of control. They strut around, feeding on the perfectly short grass we mow for them, luxuriating in a nearly predator-free Canada goose paradise, eating and pooping, pooping and eating, and occasionally attacking young children.  Walking around the pond used to be a contemplative joy, but now these “resident” geese have assumed squatter’s rights, both in land acquisition and fecal authority, and I have to watch every step.

I think it’s time to act.  Taking a cue from Swift, I suggest that we consider a way (perhaps by now painfully obvious to you) in which our goose burden can be ameliorated, while at the same time providing another benefit to the public.

It is true that Canada geese have been protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and by some other migratory bird act of 1925.  But since hundreds of thousands of these birds have moved from “migratory” to “resident” status, several states, including Ohio, have changed the rules.  They can now be legally hunted, which solves one problem; we can reduce their numbers.  They can also be consumed, which solves another problem: feeding the hungry, just like in 18th century Ireland. In a Swift twist, though, the beneficiaries can be the hungry children.

Goose parts

There are many sensible restrictions on our ability to hunt geese, but I think the time is right to lobby for an innovation: an urban Canada goose license.  It could be safe (no bullets) and relatively inexpensive.  Even more important is the opportunity for feeding the hungry in urban Columbus.  A potential “urban goose license lobbying partnership” already exists with the Children’s Hunger Alliance, whose vision is that “…all Ohio children will thrive because of [C.H.A.’s] leadership and dedication to expanding access to food…” On top of that, this vision could move beyond self-sufficiency to profitable entrepreneurial ventures, with grocery stores promoting “locally procured fowl”, and Rigsby’s offering the politically progressive “Oie du Canada”.

As if this wasn’t enough goodness to spontaneously generate a new urban hunting law, Canada goose is perfect for Thanksgiving, and could return real meaning to the holiday for many of us.  With each goose consumed, I know I’d experience a deeper level of gratefulness.

For related articles by John Switzer, click here and here.

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