Examining animal emotions has been Dr. Marc Bekoff’s career as a professor and author. But in his latest book, he takes on a new mission: saving the world.
It may be a bit hyperbolic, but Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence takes all of Dr. Bekoff’s lessons to a new height.
“And I trust that this book makes a clear and strong case that we need a heartfelt revolution in how we think, what we do with what we know, and how we act. The revolution has to come from deep within us and begin at home, where we live. Despite our diversity and our differences, if we rewild our hearts with empathy and compassion for all nature, we will find common ground, effective compromises, and practical solutions.”
The basis is thus: if our hearts and minds are full of compassion – if they are rewilded – and that leads our decision-making processes, the world will be a better place. The theme is common for Dr. Bekoff -all animals are capable of emotion, intelligence and virtue, even if they aren’t the same as our own versions of those emotions. And that means first, we must do no harm.
At least, that’s the idea. Dr. Bekoff recognizes that we cannot undo everything that we have wreaked on this planet, nor can we always save every life. But that goes hand-in-hand with the theory that every life counts – not just species at large.
“Rewilding is a pact we make with nature: to do no intentional harm, to treat all individuals with compassion, and to step lightly into the lives of other beings and landscapes, including bodies of water and the atmosphere.”
But what is likely the most controversial statement Dr. Bekoff makes is that science alone will not provide us with the answers to the many, many problems facing our world today.
“Science and the results of empirical inquiries are important. This information can clarify the problems at hand and tell us what to do and how to act; science and research provide the critical practical information to make wise, effective decisions. But science doesn’t move us to act in the first place.”
While remaining an absolute optimist throughout this new book, Dr. Bekoff does not allow his personal beliefs and hopes interfere with a sense of tragic realism:
“History tells us it is a slippery slope when we sacrifice humane values for the common good. The real world demands that we come to terms with incredibly difficult and challenging situations, most of which we’ve created, and sometimes we must humbly accept that there is no solution that doesn’t cause more harm in the process.”
Dr. Bekoff concludes the book with a genuine, insightful look at his own life. How he handles the pressures and realities of a world at risk. From stirring single malt scotch with a Twizzler to ridiculous and mindless films, it is a pleasurable – if at moments unusual – look inside one of the greatest minds anthrozoology will ever know.
And like every conversation with Dr. Bekoff, the reader leaves knowing more and believing that we can all make a difference – even if it’s a struggle that feels overwhelming.
“We live in a magnificent yet wounded world. Despite all of the rampant destruction and abuse, it remains a magnificent world filled with awe and wonder. If you’re not in awe, you’re not paying attention. So let’s get on with it… the beginning is now.”
Rewilding Our Hearts is publishing on November 11, 2014 and will be available through all major book sales channels. Hear more about Rewilding Our Hearts in a special interview with Dr. Bekoff on Episode 201 of Defender Radio on October 13.