The fundamental premise that lies behind mainstream spirituality is to be found within the act of refinement, or of the process of turning the uncivilized into conscious control of the ordered and controllable.
By adhering to this fundamentally ascensionist philosophy, are we not in danger of mis-understanding that the inherent spiritual beauty of nature is to be found only within its raw savagery and untamed wildness?
Marc Bekoff (a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorador) proposes that what mankind essentially requires for his soul is a deep and meaningful connection to what is left of the natural wildness of our planet.
He asserts something that is so evidently apparent to most of us… that planet Earth is dying and that, without a fundamental change in policy towards our fragile eco-systems, we run a serious risk of eradicating not only most of the main species of plants and animal life on this fragile Earth but also of making the human species extinct at the same time.
In his book Rewilding Our Hearts, Bekoff makes a strong and considered case that challenges the perpetual striving for expansion and material consumption that characterizes our modern society and points out that it will, ultimately, lead humanity to the point where we are simply incapable of being able to address the many ecological challenges that we face.
The primary issues are the impending impact of climate change, one which the author believes is far greater and more damaging than we currently suppose, and the impact on the planet of the current exponential increase in the size of the World’s population.
Berkoff defines the root of the ecological problems that we face are fundamentally due to our inherent disconnectedness from the natural world. He proposes that the key to resolving this inherent psychological imbalance is through deep and prolonged contact with raw wilderness for this has the effect of re-establishing and rebalancing our psycho-spiritual bodies.
How does Bekoff describe the process of ‘rewilding’? The scientist believes that, if we are to restore ecological balance to our planet, it begins for each and every one of us via a process of re-enchantment with nature and, rather surprising coming from an academic, the strengthening of compassion towards each other as well as to nonhuman beings.
He clearly does not see that the solution to our problems is to be found solely in the realm of science or even of conservation.
In fact, Bekoff recognizes that the problems we face are so large and that the solutions are complex in their application that he draws upon a range of disciplines in trying to clarify the position that mankind needs to embrace and best approach the challenges facing us.
These include the subjects of biology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and anthropology.
As a way of integrating all these diverse philosophies, Bekoff explains how he sees rewilding not only as an attitude of mind but also as a call to action. He describes what he sees as the eight ‘P’s. Proactive, positive, persistent, patient, peaceful, practical, powerful, and passionate.
Marc Bekoff is a Eco-visionary but he is also a pragmatist. He readily accepts that much of the ecological destruction that has been wrought upon our natural world is as a result of pure modern systems of economics but he does not accept that, by making nature somehow non-profitable, our ecological problems will abate.
Instead, he discuses the various levels of what he refers to as ‘Compassionate Conservation’ as well as several varieties of green economics, such as ecotourism and conservation management.
The approach of the author is not just focused upon the idea that our essential urbanized populations require greater access to more of the natural world for he also looks at the impact of rewilding within our city and urban landscapes. He cites his own home town on Boulder as a place that has successfully integrated eco-friendly projects to great effect.
Rewilding Our Hearts also deals with issues such as the modern media and how it portrays nonhuman beings on television, in films, in the news and in wildlife documentaries.
All of these channels of information dissemination change the way that society views animals and wildlife but Bekoff also voices his concern at the massive decline in the way that nature and animals have been presented in children’s books over the past seventy years.
This, as the author points out, is immensely damaging and as a direct consequence has had the knock-on effect of lessening the exposure that children have with nature through rewild play and respect for animals.
In his afterword, Bekoff offers a few simple anecdotes to the stress and emotional challenges that so many lovers of our natural world experience today. But it ends on a high note in which he presents an essentially optimistic viewpoint of the ecological movement and the work being done to rebalance the World.
Let’s just hope these advancements do not arrive too late to save either the planet or ourselves!
Our Review of Rewilding Our Hearts by Marc Bekoff
From the moment that I first saw the title of this book, I instinctively knew that the author has touched upon a vitally important spiritual and psychological idea.
As I read it, the book reminded me why I became so dis-illusioned with the whole Green eco-movement—with its politics, in-fighting and commercial self-interests. For me, this dissatisfaction grew to the point that I resigned my position in a highly respected environmental group and walked away from the whole marginalizing mindset.
This book, I am glad to say, completely restored my confidence and faith in the idea that, with the correct approach to environmentalism, we can completely deviate from the self-destructive path that humanity is currently on.
To this end, the author calls his reader to develop a more compassionate nature, which is a underlying principle that pervades throughout the writing of this book and which the author exudes an aura of warmth and caring that he even extends to opponents of his radical ideas!
Where the ideas that he presents do not originate with himself, he readily credits the source. This makes for a book that is a greater than a sole platform for a personal philosophy and goes a long way to proving that his rewilding hypothesis is supported through a wide range of World environmental projects, by recognized researchers in the field and other ecological commentators.
It is evident from reading this book that we need a radically different approach to Green issues and that Bekoff’s infusion into his personal paradigm of many different schools of thought results in an essentially spiritual approach to a physical problem.
In this regard, I believe he is absolutely on the button. The energy to initiate the change that we wish to see in the world literally is to be found deep within our own hearts. Nothing will heal the current fracture in society’s current attitude towards the planet faster than exposure to the very same wildness of our natural environment that we are so busy currently trying to suppress, control and destroy.
In this sense, the problem is psycho-spiritual and ‘Rewilding Our Hearts’ is a book that redefines the way that we should all approach the natural world—a process that begins within each and everyone of us.
Whilst this is a very readable book, it is not a cuddly, wooly-headed vision of what green politics could become. There are quite enough armchair ‘eco-commentators’ already doing that job quite successfully thank you.
Rewilding Our Hearts is a challenging book, written by a deeply committed and genuinely insightful environmentalist with good, honest dirt under his fingernails and a healthy respect for the wildness that our natural world harbors. It is a thoroughly inspirational read!