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A new world...| lands to explore...|...and stories within stories to tell.|Welcome to SJORIA

Ph.D in Inter-Earth Relations

Seriously though, I think it needs to be a science.

When I was a kid, I loved nature documentaries. I literally obsessed over them. It's probably why I'm even writing this blog. It's certainly what helped to inspire SJORIA in the first place. But even when I was little there was one element that really bothered me.... they like to take humans out of the equation.

But that's really not how Earth life is. On the one hand, I get that they're trying to show how these animals interact and behave when we're not around. But, honestly, humans are every bit a natural part of this Earth as any other species.... while we're trying to dissect the behaviours, interactions, and purposes of other species, has anyone ever stopped to consider our own? Why do we feel so naturally inclined to interfere when another creature is needlessly suffering? Are we not denying our own purpose in the web of life when we deny our empathy and stand idly by?

I'm not speaking of stopping predator from eating the prey here, I'm talking about applying our knowledge of medicine to save the life of a poisoned wolf, a wounded doe, or discover new resources and teach starving polar bears how to utilize them for themselves, which knowledge they will then naturally pass to their offspring. Because we were there. We saw it. And our instincts told us to do something about it. So why didn't we? Why do we teach our kids to not interfere with nature, rather than teaching them how to appropriately interact with their environment? The world is changing. Environmentalists and politicians can point fingers, lie, deny, and whatever they like all day long. But the fact remains we can't go back to the way things were. We have to move forward and come up with new ways for things to be. If nothing else, the human race excels at adapting. Why not figure out how to help other creatures in our environment adapt too. That doesn't mean free handouts for starving polar bears. That would just make us their new food source, which is unsustainable and could lead to dangerous situations. It means learning, understanding, discovering, and teaching. The current worldview leaves the impression that the human race is inherently harmful to planet earth and if we want to be good humans we should just put forth our best effort to leave as little a trace of harm as we can, not reproduce, and with any luck go completely extinct at some point. I don't think that's our purpose at all. I think even from a worldly perspective there's a reason we have the capacity to learn, to pass on our learning to future generations on a massive community scale, why we're so driven to explore and come up with better ways to do things, and why we are so empathetic to our entire world. Humans can do harm, but with education and resources, they can also do a lot of good. Imagine what might happen if we obliterated this bubble that keeps humanity on the outside. Yes we eat meat, but what if we cared enough to study and apply knowledge to make life pleasant and comfortable for those animals before the time comes that we must take their lives? We feel naturally inclined to care, so I believe we should care. "That's just the way life is" is such a wasteful perspective. It used to be that dying before age 35 was "just the way life is", until we made it better.

"Do animals want us to make life better for them? What determines a better life for an animal?" one might ask. Anyone who takes the time to honestly get to know a species, first on a personal level through experiences with individuals, and then on a broader scale by applying the commonalities one has learned to the whole species, these questions will answer themselves. Animals are individuals, just as we are. The more we have in common with a species (ie, mammal, social family groups, hierarchy etc) the easier they will be to understand, of course. The less, the harder. But I believe it's still possible. The important thing to remember is that they are not human, so they don't think the way humans do, but they do think. The more different an animal and its lifestyle is from our own, the more alien to us that pattern of thought and behaviour will be, but there will always be a pattern. 

Find the pattern, understand the species, make life better for them and thus the world. We're not alien invaders temporarily residing here on Earth. We're natives. We're all part of this puzzle. We didn't pop out of the ground due to some glitch or get dropped here by a meteor or an alien race any more than any other creature did. We grew up here same as any other living thing.

So much of what we know is based on what someone else told us. Lions, for example. What do I know about lions? Only what I've seen on TV (from the sensational fiction of the Lion King to the still-sensational-but-probably-more-based-in fact-Nature) or read in books and news articles. I have never met a real live lion in my entire life. Then there's this guy:

He didn't just wake up one day and decide to go play with a bunch of wild lions. He learned their behaviour, and they got to know him. He even says in this clip here that he feels them out from a distance to figure out if they're in the mood for him to come visit that day or not. They're not pets, they're friends. He's not the boss, he's a buddy. A buddy they could turn around and seriously wound or kill one day if he broke their social rules. They don't see him as another lion. They interact with him in a completely different way than they interact with each other. That jumping up on him gently is a behaviour they learned to utilize with him, because he's a friend. He's speaking part of their language, and in return, they're speaking part of his.

His interactions with a hyena are completely different, because now he's not speaking part-lion, he's speaking part-hyena.

My turkeys are another grand example. Before I got turkeys, all I knew about their species was what I saw on TV or heard from my friends and family, who heard from somebody else. "Turkeys are stupid" they said. "They look up when it's raining and drown." Yet from the moment they arrived they expressed individual and unique personalities. I studied a bunch about wild turkeys and their behaviour so that I would know what to expect. But about half of that was a waste, honestly, because, like human children, turkeys don't come as hard-wired with the skills to survive as say a snake or a shark does. Even baby humans come hard-wired enough to know how to get a meal (they make that "ah-heh" "ah-heh" noise in between sobs that every female instinctually understands). Turkeys literally have to be taught everything except how to use their legs and cry that they're lost. Everything they know and do is learned by observation and interaction. Where to go. What to eat. How to eat. What not to eat. They're not really inventive, they don't come up with these things by themselves. But once they've learned it, it's part of them for life. They don't forget. Actually, I take it back that they're not imaginative. They come up with new sounds to describe foreign objects they discover. Then they teach that sound to every other member of the flock, so everyone will know what to call it should they encounter it again. (Of course, that might be something they learned from me as I made different noises to introduce them to new foods and environments when they were babies). And, they are honestly as fun to have as a pet dog. They learn tricks, if you bother to take the time to teach them. I can understand why people would think they're stupid as sticks if they didn't bother teaching them anything--because they are literally blocked in their mental growth if you don't teach them.

How much do you really know about the world around you? How much is just something somebody told you or you read about some place?

Anyway, there's my soapbox rant of the day.

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