Can Animals Make Your Life Worth Living? Maybe, According To Ecopsychology

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Hero Rats of Africa and Asia are trained to detect land mines, as useful to humans as are medical and lab rats for many of the products people consume each day.

Animals create life, and protect life, because animals ARE life. Being some of our best friends is just a bonus.

Of course, you already knew that animals — from pollinators to rescue dogs — create and protect human life. But you may not already know that by the time you are on your way to work at 7:30 am, you have likely used the many parts of pigs and cows that are in everything from toothpaste to deodorant, from breakfast to car parts. And so much more comes from all living beings.

The deep breathing you do — if you’re wise — comes from plants that produce oxygen. Every morsel of food comes from a vast, and diverse, food web. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, or smell comes from your belonging as a human animal.

In the science of ecopsychology, we study the connections of everything there is, to everything else there is. We bigger brained primates are the world champions of exploiting all other forms of life, but our use of all other living beings does come at an excessive cost. Climate change is one such cost, but species loss and habitat destruction is just as tragic.

Another consequence is that our emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being is at risk. But there are many ways to address this.

Our modern disconnect is evident in those developed places on Earth where we never see, or think of, the source of food, fabric, medicine, and machines in our everyday lives. As recently as 100 years ago, people lived alongside, and interacted with daily, many kinds of plants and animals. Before the industrial age, our relationship to natural life forms was more obvious, ongoing, and valued.

None of us want to go back to a more primitive society, but all of us want to realize our belonging among other living beings that show us we share our place in a complex network of life-affirmation and necessity.

It is accepted by most societal codes for you to choose to be vegan or to consume an all meat diet. You may choose to wear fur, feathers, and leather. You may eat insects, cats, and dogs, or buy ivory, rhino horn, and tortoise shell. Few go to prison for any such choices, even when many people think that they should.

But if you do consume the living world, you have the right, and quite possibly, the psychological need to know of your connection, history, source, and consequence of your personal choice. And modern industry largely removes the connection from bloody slaughter, odious warehousing, questionable ethics, and manufacture to sanitized, pre-packaged products.

You may adore your kitty or pamper your pooch, but every other animal creating your life is well hidden by uncertain sourcing. Everything from wooden furniture to whatever glues your shoes and binds your mind, (through the medications and supplements that you take), is somehow connected to every living thing on the planet, and to your direct place in the world.

The reason why, then, that animals can’t make your life worth living, is because we are no longer aware of all those animals and plants that made your day possible. We often do not even know they are out there, or from where they came. It is only when we reclaim a right to know nature that we can thoroughly learn life’s greatest lessons. When we pause to appreciate everything all living beings do for us, we find connection.

Therefore, you alone are in charge of making life worth living, by seeking out the connections that will give you understanding, gratitude, freedom, belonging, beauty, and joy. But even more importantly, with ecopsychology, you are thoroughly capable of doing just that.

You can eat healthy, local, community grown food. You can choose to walk outside. Advocate for animals, both wild and domestic. You can consume less if you wish to decrease deforestation, or you can join others to find your true tune among nature’s many songs.

Human beings feel a true ache to reconnect to nature. When we see an animal, even just an insect, we are interested. Nowhere is this more visible than with small children, who invariably are drawn to any other living object they encounter, especially if is wriggles, hops, chirps, or croaks.

We are drawn by a fifth force, an attraction like the Moon to the Earth — a Selene allure — that sparks our interest and lights up that dim recognition in your brain, that once all of this, all of the creation, was, and is, who we are and why we are here.

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