“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein
Understand this: All life is under imminent threat by human commodification of life (farm and wild). When you truly understand this, realize we must evolve to respect all life and act now with great love and dedication to save all we can, else we go extinct along with our casual and determined abuse of other living beings.
It is urgent. We ourselves must change.
The good news is that change releases us to love rather than continually abuse. It is actually quite natural to love and celebrate “others,” be that other species, religions, races. The “biophilia hypothesis” was proposed as far back as Aristotle, and is extolled by biologist E.O. Wilson. It is “the psychological attraction to all that is alive and vital” in the natural world.
“Diving into the term philia, or friendship, Aristotle evokes the idea of reciprocity and how friendships are beneficial to both parties in more than just one way, but especially in the way of happiness,” the Wikipedia entry reads.
Wouldn’t it be good to be related to the rest of life while we are here and help them, love them, and get to know them?
Last summer I was called by yet another trapper in Wisconsin. He and his wife had bottle-raised an orphan coyote and adopted him as a pet. Then, four years later, someone reported the coyote to the DNR, who sent an employee to tell his wife, “We will stop by to pick up your coyote and euthanize him.” I knew that if the DNR acted swiftly, it would be a dead coyote and a mourning family.
I found a safe place for the coyote while they worked out their license and fencing. The trapper and his wife were out of the door with their coyote in tow almost before I had given them the address. They were that terrified of losing him. When I met them, the trapper said to me, “Knowing him changes you.”
All three of the people I have known who adopted pet coyotes are absolutely enthralled with them.
Similarly, there is Jeff Traska, who hunted bears, then photographed them, then adopted four bears near Wausau. Even hardcore hunters fall in love with these wild animals. Traska started the Black Bear Education Center, and describes himself as “a lifelong outdoorsman and reformed sport hunter who has been fascinated by bears since childhood.”
As my Indian neighbor, Carl, said of raising orphan fawns, “I get so much more pleasure having them run around my kitchen, than I ever did killing them.”
So to know them is to love them. It is ignorance of them that continues the killing. At the International Wolf Symposium in 2013 in Duluth, Minnesota, I witnessed the same phenomenon. Seasoned hunters and trappers, who had started out killing predators, learned profound respect for the wolves in dealing with them. Predator killers became wolf advocates.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just a pleasant phrase. It works for all of us to survive.
We need a Department of Peace instead of a Department of Natural Destruction of fellow beings as “resources.” Dennis Kucinich proposed such a department when he ran for president. When he appeared at Fighting Bob Fest, he gave away books entitled “Respect for All Life.”
We will not escape the mass extinction compounded and contributing to climate change that we are accelerating. We cannot.
As Sen. “Turncoat Tammy” Baldwin joins Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson in seeking to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List, we must fight back against that exclusion of science and the erosion of common decency. Stand up for the Endangered Species Act to function without political interference, and against the politics of cruelty. Protect life and protect our own species.
Help the wildlife trying to live among us in urban and rural environments. Feed the birds and learn wild ways.
Here are two ways to reconnect locally:
• Citizens can volunteer to help with Professor David Drake’s Urban Canid Project in Madison, tracking city-dwelling coyotes and foxes with radio collars.
• Visit or volunteer at a farm sanctuary (Dancing freed cow video): Heartland Farm Sanctuary in Verona, or Sol Criations in Endeavor, near Wisconsin Dells.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Buddhist leader, wrote in a statement on climate change to the United Nations: “Only when we’ve truly fallen back in love with the Earth will our actions spring from reverence and the insight of our interconnectedness. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you — what you see is not your environment, it is you.”
He said, “The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger.”
Please sign this petition: Wisconsin: Give Abused Cats and Dogs a Voice in Court!
This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on January 1, 2017.