In the summer of 2011, 699 New Yorkers received fines for having standing water in their birdbaths. In a news story about the surprised city dwellers who had unwittingly violated the New York City Health Code’s Article 151 (covering pest prevention and management), the paradoxes inherent in accounts of maintaining yet controlling “nature” within urban environments were near-farcical. Residents who wanted to attract birds to their properties were also inadvertently breeding mosquitoes, which can carry disease—West Nile, in this case—and are not just a nuisance, but also a potential public health threat. Eliminating the birdbaths prevented the breeding of insects, but it also ended the visiting of birds—pitting a perceived pest against a welcomed guest. (Meanwhile, twenty miles away in Jamaica Bay, mosquitoes continue to breed freely, becoming food for fish, which become food for birds, which become amusement for human onlookers.)…

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