On Friday, Athens Blocks joined sea lions, red pandas and Sumatran orangutans on the endangered species list, shocking students, staff, and alumni alike.
Today, an Athens Block is almost a rare sight. In other cities, paved roads and concrete buildings pushed the Athens Blocks to the wayside, leaving them with nowhere to go. Athens became one of the only places where Athens Blocks could live in peace.
The blocks still face dangers in Southeastern Ohio. Every year, thousands of people remove Athens Blocks from their natural habitats to be kept in homes, or worse: put up on mantles to be admired. Their trusting, stagnant nature leaves them absolutely helpless. It is truly sickening.
In the late 1800s, Athens was the home to millions of thriving Athens Blocks. They were critical to the Athens ecosystem, and, at a time where the human race’s footprint was not as encroaching, humans did not largely interfere with their existence.
Today, humans steal blocks from their packs and then abandon them, realizing there is really no practical use for a single brick inside a house, and as the months pass, they become completely worthless to their captors. These Athens Blocks are left to live in the shadows: cold and alone.
“I see so many drunk students who want to take home an Athens Block and keep it in their house, but they don’t understand the repercussions of their actions,” said local block expert, Cody Murphy. “And then when they move out, and the blocks are no longer convenient to them, they throw them to the wayside.”
Athens Blocks are pack bricks: they need other bricks surrounding them in order to survive. Their numbers are dwindling, and each day another Athens Block is taken from its home.
When a block is taken from a pack, the whole pack suffers. Not just any block can replace the hole that is left in the pack, and a missing block leaves the pack susceptible to having more blocks taken by rude, inconsiderate, stupid Ohio University students.
We spoke to Columbus zookeeper and animal expert Jack Hannah to really get a grip on this epidemic.
“The Athens Blocks are going through the exact same thing the African rhinos went through in the seventies,” Hannah said. “The absolute exact same thing. It’s uncanny.”
With so few Athens Blocks left in the city, mixed packs are commonly seen, Athens Blocks with Logan Blocks, Hallwood Blocks…and even Nelsonville Blocks.
This intermixing can lead to blocks with birth defects and has led to the mass reproduction of blocks that don’t even have a species: completely blank, cookie cutter bricks. If things don’t change, the different species of blocks will be lost completely and all blocks will be perfectly red, square, and meaningless.
Soon the ground where the Athens Blocks used to roam free will be covered with pavement, and future OU students will never know what the blocks meant to this town.
If you want to help the Athens Blocks, the best thing you can do is to leave them, Murphy, the block expert, said.
“If you want something you can keep for a little while and then abandon, get a puppy,” Murphy said.
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