Surfers typically speak about how the game helps them reconnect with nature, however a current episode involving an otter with a love for surfboards exhibits simply how brittle our love for wildlife actually is.
The authorities try to seize and take away stated otter from her native atmosphere for climbing onto a person’s surfboard in Santa Cruz, California. In a video of the incident revealed on Twitter, the otter is seen clambering onto the surfer’s board the place she seems to play with it. Wildlife officers described the otter’s behaviour as aggressive.
Individuals have joked that the otter has joined the orca rebellion, referring to the killer whale assaults on boats off the coast of Spain. A researcher stated the orcas are attacking sailboats for an “adrenaline shot”.
If you happen to watch the video, you’ll discover that the otter stays on the reverse finish of the board to the surfer. However the language utilized by the media, and the authorities they quote, is much extra telling than the otter’s behaviour.
Battle on nature
We frequently use the language of fight to explain uncommon occasions and to make sense of what looks like an imbalance on the earth. Phrases like “battle” and “conflict” match into an oppositional narrative, which is a easier option to inform tales than, say, “uncommon interplay”. Usually, as storytellers in all fields, we people describe the world, our native atmosphere and to whom they “belong”, as a form of combat – for instance: “power of nature” and “triumph of civilisation”.
Any variety of issues might clarify the Santa Cruz otter’s behaviour, together with worry, anxiousness, protecting territorialism, curiosity and maybe even aggression. Individuals blame the otter, with out stopping to suppose what our use of this house – their dwelling – might imply to otters. This explicit otter might undergo the trauma of being trapped, torn from her dwelling and relocated. But it’s the otter that’s thought of the aggressor.
The physicist and ecological thinker Karen Barad urges us to rethink our interactions with the ecological world not as one among possession or dominion, however entanglement. She wrote that existence is just not an particular person affair and that folks don’t exist individually from their interactions with different beings. People of any species dwell as half of an entangled existence with different residing creatures.
Our connection to the pure world
Each otters and people dwell on this watery coastal house in ways in which are distinctive however intertwined. When our entanglement with nature turns into battle, there might be casualties, which have a tendency overwhelmingly to be the animals.
We impose human character traits, corresponding to anger, onto animals with out making use of sensitivity to their motives. We cut back their advanced experiences, emotions and cognition to a single motion in the event that they don’t behave how we expect they need to (otters should be cute).
Consider cliches, corresponding to “cussed as a mule”. Who wouldn’t be cussed below risk of whipping or whereas carrying an enormous load? We additionally borrow from nature for insults corresponding to bitch, dozy cow and pig. We’ll use these phrases to explain human qualities. However we don’t cease to query the motivation behind animals’ behaviour.
If we reverse the language within the information tales in regards to the sea otter we might say the ocean otter had her dwelling invaded by a big, aggressive animal. And that animal’s kin now needs to kidnap and incarcerate her.
The language of fight works for neither social gathering. It doesn’t work for the people who impose it, as a result of once you flip the language you ignore the very fact people are scared too, and confused as a result of this animal they consider as cute and cuddly is popping towards them.
Individuals love otters, however western illustration of otters has disconnected us from the random and assorted complexities of their behaviour in nature.
This story jogs my memory of the childhood trauma of a whole era who watched the gorgeous movie Ring of Vibrant Water (1969), the place an otter is the star. This movie is an attention-grabbing portrayal of the individuality of animals and the way that conflicts with the way in which we cut back them to pests or nuisances.
Movies and tales typically use a particular animal or human character to remind us that every of Earth’s occupants are people. Categorising animals as a species or different mass groupings is what makes us really feel as if we are able to destroy them as “vermin” or “pests”.
Are people not pests to many animals simply making an attempt to thrive? The Night Commonplace article ends with this quote from a marine knowledgeable: “They’re really fairly aggressive animals. They’re not as cute and cuddly as individuals are likely to suppose.”
He might simply have been speaking about people.
Patricia MacCormack is Professor of Continental Philosophy, Anglia Ruskin College.
This text was first revealed on The Dialog.