by Saeed Al-Rubeyi·
We aren’t entirely sure when or where it all began.
Some believe it was first noticed in the Middle East, farmers sharing stories over dark coffee and herbal smoke. Others claim it was a particularly vocal papaya farmer in Tamil Nadu who shared the first image that went on to go viral.
In the west the news spread first through pubs - the nervous system of the English countryside. Farmers started noticing brightly coloured mushrooms growing on their crops, in colours entirely at odds with the landscape. The next to shock was the butterflies. They appeared in swarms at precisely the wrong time of year bearing strange shimmering tones against the backdrop of dull fields and perplexed cattle.
Then, the beasts and birds started to change. A black swan is a rare sight, but known to happen - but pink mallards? Red pigeons? The first silver horse made the news, but the green pigs didn’t. They were covered up. Farmers were scared it was the feed, or pesticides, or GMOs. In any case it couldn’t be good for them, so they stayed silent.
It was too little too late. People were becoming interested.
These unusually coloured plants and animals became known to a small group of environmentalists as ‘Shinies’. Reddit made them easier to keep track of - across the globe images were captured of animals in strange and exotic colours. People began to form groups, theories, stories. Today, the largest by far of these watchdog groups are the "Earthtone Spotters", who believe Shinies aren’t just beautiful, but signs of drastic climate change. They are Mother Earth sending signals, in increasing numbers - that we need to pay attention to.