“In an age when climate crisis is only growing in urgency, Terry Tempest Williams offers some explanation for how we might have ended up here. She says we’re losing a heightened curiosity about — and awareness of our interconnectivity with — the natural world. And, in turn, “we’re losing an ecological literacy,” she says, for the flora and fauna around our homes — from the migratory behaviors of birds to the life cycle of coyotes.”

“But the loss of this ecological literacy is not just a loss of our knowledge about the natural world — it’s also potentially a severance of our ability to learn from itBiologist Robin Wall Kimmerer models the richness that comes from examining the natural world as we might examine ourselves. “Thinking about plants as persons, indeed, thinking about rocks as persons, forces us to shed our idea [that] the only pace that we live in is the human pace,” she says. “It’s very, very exciting to think about these ways of being which happen on completely different scales and so exciting to think about what we might learn from them,” she says. Kimmerer models this in her studies and writing about moss, which she calls “good storytellers” and “superb teachers about living within your means” for their ancient history here on earth.”

“Thinking at various scales, as Kimmerer does, can lead to fascinating discoveries. On this week’s show, acoustic biologist Katy Payne shares how her research into how whales and elephants communicate required her to examine sounds that humans are not capable of hearing on their own. And the experience of listening attentively to these giant animals over decades has taught her something about being human. “We are not at the pinnacle of human knowledge,” she says. “We are just beginning.”

“There’s a humility about humanity that surfaces in all three of these conversations. I wonder if it’s the same kind we may need to hold closer as we’re faced with the climate crisis — a reminder that we are not the only ones who inhabit this earth.”

Kristin Lin
Editor, The On Being Project:”

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