Our Wild Calling | Richard Louv

Summary of: Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives—and Save Theirs
By: Richard Louv


Embark on a transformative journey with Richard Louv’s enlightening book, ‘Our Wild Calling.’ This book compels us to appreciate the beauty of wild animals and invites us to change our perspectives on conservation. Louv reinforces the importance of genuine empathy towards other species as a means of protecting the natural world. Learn about the impact of species loneliness on humankind’s sense of well-being, the progressively growing modern disconnection from non-human life, and the need to foster ecozoic relationships of mutual benefit. Discover the intricacies of animal communication and find inspiration from stories exemplifying interactions between humans and animals in nature.

Beauty as an Act of Empathy

A chance encounter with a black fox on Kodiak Island transformed the author’s perspective on wild animals. Appreciating the beauty of other species allows us to empathize with them, replacing any sense of superiority or alienation. When we identify with other animals, protecting them becomes a beautiful act carried out because we care, not just from moral obligation. This empathy encourages us to protect the natural world and act in harmony with our true inclinations.

Species Loneliness

As technology advances, we become increasingly lonely despite being more connected than ever. This sense of isolation has led some ecophilosophers to highlight the need for humans to reconnect with other species. Ecologist Michael Vincent McGinnis coined the term “species loneliness” to describe the growing disconnect between humans and non-human life. Across the world, indigenous myths tell of talking animals and reinforce a sense of shared identity with all living things. However, the Anthropocene epoch is having a devastating impact on many species, making it harder for humans to maintain meaningful relationships with them. Thomas Berry, an eco-theologian, suggests that humans should reject the Anthropocene and embrace the “ecozoic epoch.” In this era, technology is guided by spirituality and used to benefit all species, creating mutually beneficial relationships.

Rethinking Anthropomorphism

Humans and animals share emotions and thoughts, and it is time to dismantle the idea of animal machines. The rejection of anthropomorphism has caused damage to billions of animals. Scientists are moving beyond anthropomorphism to understand animals on their own terms. By learning about a species’ abilities and motivations, scientists are forming an accurate picture of its mental life. Anthropomorphizing animals is a double-edged sword.

For centuries, scientists believed that animals were nothing like humans and had no emotions or thoughts. This belief justified the exploitation and mistreatment of animals. Recently, however, scientists have begun to break down the notion of “Bête machine,” or animal machine, and are recognizing that humans and animals share emotions and thoughts. Anthropomorphizing animals can be problematic, but scientists are moving beyond this limitation to understand animals on their own terms.

Scientists are studying the abilities and motivations of animals to form an accurate picture of a given species’ mental life. For example, dogs are social animals and share some of our motivations. However, they also have a vastly superior sense of smell than humans, and their experiences must be based upon the millions of odours that surround them. This approach provides a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of animals and helps to avoid superficial assumptions about their mental states.

It is time to dismantle the idea of animal machines and move beyond anthropomorphism to understand animals on their own terms. Anthropomorphizing animals is a double-edged sword, and we must recognize the unique characteristics of each species.

Animal Communication

Animals communicate with each other and with humans through various means, including voice recognition and body language. In “The Hidden Life of Trees,” the author gives an example of a wolf leading a professor away from its kill to protect its family. Additionally, researchers are learning that many different species use language. Egyptian fruit bats, for example, argue about four different problems, with each problem having its own sound. Dolphins also form words and sentences through clicking sounds, and a beluga whale even learned to communicate with a pod of dolphins. While researchers aren’t yet sure what dolphins’ words mean, it’s clear that animals speak to each other in ways we’re only beginning to understand.

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