Here's a speech I'm giving at the Buckminster Fuller Future Festival tonight
A few years ago I did a big art exhibit on tigers in response to the story that broke in Zanesville, Ohio when Sheriff's deputies shot nearly 50 wild animals including 18 rare Bengal tigers. It blew my mind to think that only 18 cats could represent 1% of the entire population of Bengal tigers and that they were annihilated in a single afternoon because of one man’s PTSD.
This horrific story isn’t what put me in motion though. What got me excited was a radio interview I heard with Alan Rabinowitz. As a child he was crippled with a stuttering problem that was so severe, HIs disability masked his intelligence and personality. He was placed in classes with the kids who had learning problems and forgotten. He was able to be himself, as he tells it, only when he was alone with his pets. Zoo animals, in particular, helped him work through is feelings of being treated callously and dismissed. As this broken child connected with a broken, caged leopard he made a promise. If he could ever complete a sentence, he'd become the voice for the animals.
Rabinowitz went on to learn how to control his breath and now he is doing what he said he would do for the big cats. He's the world’s leading authority on tiger and jaguar conservation and he’s CEO of Panthera.org. His programs have had more success than any others because he has a deeper understanding of what the cats need to thrive.
Years later as Rabinowitz is tracking a wild black panther through the jungle, the panther slips in behind him and he comes face to face with it. Now he measures his spirit to this healthy, wild animal and the story comes full circle.
He says this about tigers:
"Spiritually I feel very strongly about the tigers. I think you can drop me off any place in the world and I can tell you if the big cats are around me or not. I have been face to face with wild lions, with wild jaguars, and there is a real energy emanating from them. I've been in jungle and watched as big cats move through the jungle and hear all of the animals go silent as the big predator moves through it. The energy in a jungle with big predators is a very, very different energy, and when you truly merge with it and feel it, it's not a dangerous energy. It's not a negative energy - completely the opposite. It's this huge, positive, overwhelming force which humbles you, makes you realize that there are things much greater on the Earth than you.”
You can hear the interview in the archives at on being.org. It’s called “A Voice for the Animals." He has extraordinary insights into the animal-human bond.
Scientists have discovered that whales, rhinos, tigers and elephants can produce sounds below 20 hertz. The tiger uses its roar to paralyze animals. It has an effect on your nervous system whether you can perceive it or not. Even season trainers are stunned by the loudness of this unheard, low-pitched infrasound. It can travel long distances - permeating buildings, cutting through dense forests, and even passing through mountains. Elelphants use it to communicate across long distances with other herds. They can feel the vibration in their feet as they move across the land to join together.
The lady who discovered this is named Katy Payne and she says:
"Animals experience their worlds in ways we cannot understand—with senses we have lost long ago or never had. They define their worlds with exquisite senses of smell and hearing, with vision that sees what we can't imagine, or with responses to chemical or electromagnetic properties that we are insensitive to. By these yard sticks, many animals are far smarter than we are ... and so we find that We are not at the pinnacle of human knowledge like we thought. Rather, we are just beginning.”
With the extinction of tigers so close, I got my friends to explore how we can transform our own hearts. I asked 40 artists of all ages to participate. The ages of the contributors ranged from 6 to 95. They made art to show how losing tigers in the wild forever charged them emotionally, changed their perspectives, and inspired them to do good works. The show raised awareness about the tiger's plight, educated viewers about Alan Rabinowitz's work, and offered viewers a cathartic experience.
It taught me that a lot of people have the same concerns I do about taking care of this spaceship Earth. 150 people came to the art opening. We focused on what we were doing right. We transformed a negative experience into a positive one, and we gained the strength of equanimity.
Equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. It is the key to success with difficult problems like the ones we’re going to be talking about tonight in honor of Bucky Fuller. It comes from understanding our outer world is a reflection of our inner filter.
I learned how to see this most clearly by rescuing parrots. Having the strength to hold a space and keep it empty until it can fill up with goodness is a big part of working with another species. I've had birds for more than 25 years. That's a little more than 9,100 days and I'd say about 30,000 good solid hours of hands on experience.
My birds are from Africa, South America, Australia and India. I got my african gray because his owner moved to Alaska. My macaw came to me from a girl who kept him in the utility room beside the washer. That bird plucks her feathers when she gets too warm. A cockatoo came to me after a catastrophe in his owner's life. She’d had him for 30 years. The ringneck, sun conure, parakeets, and cockatiel were given to me by strangers. The senegal I purchased as a baby 25 years ago. And my lovebird is the last of a family of seven I raised. When my lovebirds and cockatiels were young, I had nearly 30 pets because I let them have babies.
The vast majority of my pets have been rescues. That’s what you call it when you take a bird that someone, anyone (especially people who don’t know you) because they don’t want it anymore. I have 14 now.
Most people don’t know what it takes to keep birds healthy. They may understand that large parrots can live 80 years, medium ones can live 40 years, and small ones can live 20 years, but until you’ve tried it, wrapping your head around that much time is difficult. I was reading an article called ...
John Waldman“The Natural World Vanishes: How Species Cease to Matter”Yale Environment 360
"Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal. Scientists call this phenomenon “shifting baselines” or “inter-generational amnesia,” and it is part of a larger and more nebulous reality — the insidious ebbing of the ecological and social relevancy of declining and disappearing species.
Pat Leonard reports in “Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds“ (2008)
"The Yellow-headed Parrot is arguably the most popular pet parrot with its brilliant green, red, and yellow feathers and its glib tongue. But that popularity has also been its downfall. Native to Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, the wild population of this species plummeted from 70,000 birds in the mid-1970s to an estimated 2,000 today, though an exact number is still to be determined."
--The Gabriel foundation is a non-profit organization that has 700 parrots available for adoption
“This is no longer one person’s problem or even one industry’s problem. It speaks to the entire issue of being responsible for anyone and anything in your life for which you have chosen stewardship. All living creatures deserve respect and kindness. Societies value birds for economic, cultural, ethical and spiritual reasons. Birds are not put on this earth for man to dominate, or “own,” but rather they are “other nations” with which to co-exist. The disposable mentality or throwaway cultural attitude prevalent in our society does not speak well for the lives of animals often viewed as commodities. They are greatly affected by this trend. They cannot fend for themselves when we do not.”
My experiences with birds led me to do what Bucky Fuller urges and that’s to become a trim tab. Like a trim tab, I was a little part of the rudder that changed the direction of an entire ship. I was the trim tab. Greg Harrison was the rudder. The ship we were changing was the pet food industry.
Dr. Harrison is one of the few double board certified avian veterinarians in the world. He publishes medical text books about bird medicine and sells organic bird food worldwide. Before social networking, connecting with like minds on the internet was difficult but I caught a break.
About 10 years ago I wrote a little 54-page book for him. He gave it to 20,000 clients and veterinarians who were looking for the answers we had and it changed the way people fed their birds, cats, dogs, and even themselves. I saw it like a wave moving through the world.
Speaking as a trim tab, I can attest. You don’t change the world. You change yourself and the world shifts around you. You don’t change everyone directly, you only change the people who can already hear you, and let them change the people who can hear them. There is a network of people who love what you love and are looking for the answers you’ve already found.
That’s what we’re all doing here together tonight. You are here at this very moment because you want to help make things right. You understand looking at a problem leads to understanding it. Understanding leads to action. Action leads to hope. There is hope.
That’s why I want to introduce you to Eric Moss.
He’s a remarkable person who is devoted a lot of his time honing the bond he has with an African Gray named Bibi. Day after day he shows up and opens himself up to new possibilities. Parrots have been shown to be remarkably intelligent in a similar way to humans and monkeys. Even though their brains are different than ours, Nature has wired them all the same way. Despite the absence of a neocortex, birds can perform complex cognitive tasks once thought to be unique to primates and some even unique to humans. These tasks include seeing optical illusions, forming concepts, understanding the mental state of another individual, using and manufacturing tools, and communicating specific meanings to achieve specific goals. These discoveries challenge our notion of what it means to be human.
So let’s explore ...
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