Monday, 5 October 2015

Interviewing Warren Keedle, Manager of the Age of Fishes Museum.

I am a humble fish. 

I am willing to acknowledge when I do not know all the facts and recently I realized that I may not know all the facts about humans. 

Indeed in the last few weeks my interactions with them and the Age of Fishes museum I have come to see that they may not be ruthless fish killing machines as I and many other fish have been taught to believe.

Because of this I invited Warren Keedle, the manager of the museum to come down to my river for an interview. We met by the swinging bridge over the Belubula river with Zoe Urquhart there as transcriber and photographer. Below is the transcript of our conversation. 

Augustus: Thank you for coming down here for my interview.

Warren: You're very welcome. Thank you for inviting me.

Augustus: Shall we get right to it? My first question is what exactly do you hope to achieve with the Age of Fishes Museum?

Warren: I suppose the whole idea is to showcase the fossil history and show how important the Devonian fish are to life on earth today.

Augustus: You've got a lot of ancient fish at the museum, I'm curious to know what you've learnt about fish so far.

Warren: I've learnt that the diversity of fish on the planet is much greater, in history too, over past and present,  much greater than I had known. The adaptability of fish to mold to their environment is really, really strong, and also their ability to fit into their ecosystem. For example the antiarchs, the armored fish that used to be here, they don't exist anymore, that branch of fish has died out, so you gotta ask the questions, why did they die out? Why aren't they still here? And these are the things that the fossil record and the people who interpret them are trying to answer. But there is no definitive answer because no one knows for sure. Also wherever there is water there is a species of fish specifically suited to that kind of water. So if there's a tiny little river there's a fish suited to that ecosystem, if there's a massive river they live in that one, they manage to fit in everywhere, coral reef, deep sea, really deep, on the surface, the whole lot, there's fish everywhere. Humans can't do that. We're not as diverse. The difference is we don't change ourselves to suit the environment; we change the environment to suit us. That’s a big one. Fish don't do that. Not many animals do that, but humans do, and that's to our detriment I suppose.

Augustus: It would seem so. It would appear you have learnt many facts and figures about fish, but what have you learnt about fishes' thoughts and feelings?

Warren: I suppose we've learnt that we should consider it from your point of view as well, and we don’t, we didn't. We are prepared to find out what you want, what you would like us to do, to answer your questions and to make things work from your point of view as well. Because we both have different points of view, you're looking up from in the river and we're standing on the banks looking down, so to have better communication is the aim.

Augustus: A laudable aim. I would like now to get to know you and all humans a little better. Do you have a family or are humans individually independent?

Warren: I have a family, we have five kids.

Augustus: In comparison to the average fish, that’s not very many.

Warren: Human kids are hard work.

Augustus: In what way?

Warren: We tend to keep them close to us for a long time, up to 20 years or longer.

Augustus: And why is that?

Warren: They're not as adaptable as fish, they don't know how to do things, we have to look after them for a lot longer, and teach them how to survive for a lot longer than fish do.

Augustus: Are you saying that humans are not able to walk or feed themselves from birth, I find that very strange. 

Warren: No totally helpless for quite a long time.

Augustus: Do they at least know how to eat by themselves?

Warren: No you have to teach them that as well.

Augustus: So on average how long would it take a human to learn to do these things?

Warren: It depends on the individual. From a scientific point of view the human brain is large, yet the human body cannot sustain the growth of that brain beyond 9 months. What happens in the animal kingdom, is that an animal’s brain develops in the womb, it's much more developed than a human baby when it's born, so when an animal is born it knows how to walk, it knows how to run, those sort of things, already. But with humans, we spend a long time, because of the size of the brain. Because it's all about the brain size, because if the head gets too big, it's impossible to give birth, that's our physical structure. So our physical structure limitation is balanced with the size of our brain. We have to get the baby out and then let the brain develop. Which is the opposite with fish, fish and most animals come out with a very highly developed brain, humans do not. For instance, how smart where you when you were born?

Augustus: I was a lot smarter than most fish my age; I suppose you could say I was a genius.

Warren: See, that doesn't happen with humans.

Augustus: I see. So where do you live with your family, at the museum?

Warren: No. we live in a house, about 20 kilometers from the museum, which is about 400 laps between the two bridges in Canowindra. And I drive to work every day, in a car. 

Augustus: I have never understood that, if you have legs and are able to walk around so easily, why persist in packing yourselves into cars?

Warren: Because humans are impatient and it would take too long to walk, about four hours, spend eight hours at work and then another four hours to get back. 

Augustus: Four hours to spend in contemplative silence admiring the nature around you doesn't sound unbearable. 

Warren: See I can understand that, but I have five children, and it doesn't happen very often, I would like it to.

Augustus: Perhaps that is something most humans should do more of. On to the next question. Do you have any plans for world domination?

Warren: No. no the megalomaniac side of me is gone. 

Augustus: I would assume that you would say that even if you did.

Warren: Oh, I see, so what you're saying is that you believe I have plans for world domination, and all humans do. 

Augustus: It seems reasonable to assume. 

Warren: No I think most humans are happy if they can control their surroundings, immediate surroundings, not the whole thing. It's too complicated.

Augustus: I assumed humans felt in control at all times.

Warren: No, definitely not, humans make lots of mistakes. 

Augustus: Really? (Like fishing…) 

Warren: Well there's a saying which is that, 'you're only human' and that means you make mistakes. 

Augustus: Fascinating. I don't think there is a fish equivalent of that saying. I have never heard anyone say ‘you’re only a fish’. My next question has to do with the atrocity of mass fish genocide by humans in many oceans. What is your stand on that?

Warren: Disgusting. There was a show on TV that I was watching, and it was just sickening. They were looking for prawns and they were pulling up trawler loads of fish and just letting them die on deck and then shoveling them back into the water. I turned it off, I couldn’t' watch it. So not all humans think that way. 

Augustus: What then makes some humans feel that way, surely they must see how wrong it is? 

Warren: Money. Money is an abstract concept of worth and a difficult argument to discuss. It's a difficult concept to understand.

Augustus: Indeed, I have never really understood the benefit of money. Well after our conversation I seem to feel that there are a lot of problems here that this blog is going to help.  

Warren: Yes, because this will make people think about your point of view, all fishes’ point of view and take that into consideration when making their decisions. I'm sure if a trawler pulled up a load of fish and one of them started talking to them saying, 'that's not very nice, I don't think you should be doing that,' I think that would make a big difference. And this is a way to do that. 

Augustus: Yes I feel it will be most beneficial. And I daresay that it will inform fish more on humans as well, I am not too proud to admit that I have learned many things I had not previously known in our conversation. 

Warren: Well there you go; if it can enlighten fish and humans at the same time then it's doing a good thing.

Augustus: Thank you for taking the time to come down to the river for this little chat, I look forward to our future interactions.

Warren: Thank you for having me! If it's ok with you next time I would like to conduct an interview with you, I am sure your opinions will be very interesting.

Augustus: Thank sounds like a very good idea.

Warren: Great! By the way, these postcards came for you from some of the kids visiting the AoF Museum.

Augustus: For me? How strange, thank you very much.

Receiving the postcards
Receiving the postcards from Warren after the interview,
if I look surprised it's because I am!
The postcards were indeed for me, and the children who wrote them seem to be very intelligent, judging by the questions written in them, I will answer them in my next blog post.

In the meantime you may write in the comments what you thought of my interview and also what you would like Warren to ask me, when he interviews me in the near future.