What will it take to convince a few billion people that destroying wilderness, natural habitats and our fellow creatures is not only harmful to humankind, but also irrational, morally repugnant, and instinctively insane? How can we give people who are completely disconnected from nature a sense of what they’re missing, what they’ve lost, forgotten? I don’t believe any of this can come from reading books, watching nature documentaries or trips to parks, farms and summer camps.
This connection and knowledge can only come from first-hand experience. The challenge is that there’s not much quiet, uncivilized nature left to experience, anywhere in the world. When it’s gone, the world that’s left, stuffed wall-to-wall with many times more people than it can sustainably support, will be, despite all its people and buildings and cars and inventions and noise, a lonely, barren and empty place.
Although I have always understood this at an intuitive level, it is only more recently when I have studied natural philosophy and moved to live in a protected wetlands area that I have also come to understand this on an intellectual and emotional level as well. And it is only when you understand it on an emotional level that you really understand it.
So I’m always intrigued to learn about people’s attempts to get others to understand this emotionally. I’ve written about several books that have been particularly helpful:
The work of Jane Goodall and Joy Adamson and others could of course be added to this list.
Artist Andrew Campbell recently referred me to some new work being done in the study of animal communications. He pointed out the Interspecies.com site that has been tracking developments in this area for over a decade. If you’ve never had an extended first-hand experience with an animal in the wild, the article by this site’s author Jim Nollman titled What the Raven Said will give you a taste of what you’re missing. It’s a wonderful story, and I couldn’t begin to summarize it, so please take a moment to read it before you continue with this article.
The site also has a lengthy article on whale language. In introduces the reader to the idea that the natural language of whales and perhaps all ‘pre-linguistic’ creatures is not phonetic or syntactic but musical (and recent studies suggest that in humans language and music are processed by different parts of the brain). Going even further, it introduces the controversial ideas of Canadian biophysicist Peter Beamish (Andrew is a big fan of Peter’s), who argues that most animal communication, except in times of stress, is not “signal-based” like ours, but rather “rhythm-based”. This is because, he says, humanity has become so focused on linear time, and so constantly stressed, we have lost touch with another dimension of time he calls “rhythm-based time”, which is based on interval and personal context, rather than linear measurement. I don’t claim to understand the concept, and mainstream science doesn’t appear to accept it, though there is a lot of scholarly scientific work being done on it, and several scientific forums dedicated to it.
Beamish himself attempt to make this mind-boggling theory understandable by providing — surprise! — first-hand experiences — boat trips from his institute in Newfoundland where guests communicate with whales using the principles of rhythm-based communication (RBC). If he’s right, and RBC is going on all around us (including subconsciously, by us) it could explain how we transmit emotion, why we behave altruistically rather than selfishly, why we love nature, and even the possibility that what we call ‘telepathy’ is common in all life and has a scientific base.
Studying ‘animal’ and inter-species communication is one area to which, if I had a bit more competency and a lot more courage, I could see myself devoting my life. But trying to teach other animals our language seems to me to get it backwards, so I’m intrigued at the efforts of those who are trying to learn other species’ ‘languages’, starting with trying to learn what needs to be learned to even begin to understand means of communication that at first we find unfathomable.
For, once we can understand what the ravens and whales and wolves and dolphins are ‘saying’ to each other, we can begin to begin to understand how much wiser they are than we are about how to live on this resilient but ravaged planet. And how much poorer this planet becomes when we arrogantly destroy them and their world to make evermore room for a single, insensitive, homogeneous human culture.
And then, we can begin to begin to learn how to save the world.
Photo by david madison
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 80 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
Community-Based Resilience Framework (Poster)
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
What Happened When the Oil Ran Out
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
If We Had a Better Story
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Systems Thinking & Complexity 101
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
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Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
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A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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