restricted access Afterword: Minding Animals, Minding Earth–Old Brains in New Bottlenecks
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Afterword Minding Animals, Minding Earth: Old Brains in New Bottlenecks PUTTING AN END TO USELESS “US/THEM” DUALISMS Humans are part of nature. We do not stand above or to the side of other beings or natural processes. There is no duality, no “them” and “us.” If we try to separate our reality from that of other nature and Earth, a division results that causes much discontent and discord, for it is so very unnatural. I find it settling—very relaxing—to situate myself in nature and to sense and experience the magic and wonderment of allowing myself to be there. Living with all the contradictions in which we are immersed and with which we are surrounded makes life difficult for all of us. But these challenges are enriching and will make for a better future. We need animals more than ever, because we have become alienated and estranged from other nature. Animals are a way of knowing and feeling and are sources of wisdom. We have allowed this knowledge to be pushed aside and to erode as we consume animals and Earth at unprecedented rates with unanticipated negative consequences. Perhaps if we listen to nature, we will make peace with ourselves and with others, and, as a result, we will make more rapid progress toward a unified community in which trust, happiness, peace, and love prevail over distrust, sadness, unrest, and hate. Sowing seeds for world peace among children is a must, and animals often help us in this venture. Trust is critical, for in the absence of trust we cannot move forward with a strong sense of security and unity. I propose that we must wage peace with abandon and enthusiasm among all human beings, all animal beings, and nature as a whole, for in our tumultuous world many alienated people crave deep and reciprocal interconnections with one another and with other nature. But first we must each be happy and content as individuals and be at peace with ourselves. Animals can help us achieve this peace. Reconnecting with nature can help overcome alienation and loneliness. Not only are the topics I’ve discussed here very big, broad, and deep, they’re also extremely challenging, frustrating, and complicated. Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues is a work in progress—there is still much to learn. So, I invite you to read on and kindly—with compassion and civility—to let me know where you agree and disagree with me. On-going and informed dialogue even, and perhaps especially, among, “warring parties,”is much needed. I find it useful to engage just about anyone who thinks about and cares about what we’re Some of this essay has been excerpted from Bekoff, M. 2003. “Minding Animals, Minding Earth.” Human Ecology Review 10: 56–76, with permission of the journal; and from Bekoff, M. 2002. Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart. Copyright 2002 by Oxford University Press, Inc., New York. Used by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. doing to our one and only Earth community, as long as they are interested in real dialogue. I find it extremely humbling to realize that no one is exempt from our collective actions. No one, including future generations. We all suffer when other animals and nature suffer. We all suffer when we wound Earth and all of its inhabitants. A little humility will go a long way as we strive “to make things right.” My musings and feelings about our complex and ambiguous interrelationships with other animals have been influenced by a number of wonderful teachers. Of course, my journey is not my journey alone—it is yours too— and I hope that many others will join to make our one and only Earth community a better place for all beings and for all landscapes. Since I was a youngster, I’ve pondered the nature of animals’ minds and our responsibilities to care for other animals. By stepping lightly into the lives of other animals, we humans can enjoy their company without making them pay for our interest. We need to honor other animals for who they are in their worlds, not for what they are in our own—often narrow—minds. Our curiosity about other animals need not harm them. That many others also recognize that humans and nature are indistinct is reflected in the rapid growth of the field of anthrozoology and the increasing interest in the nature of human-animal interactions. It is my hope that this interdisciplinary attention to...


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