PAWS Magazine

Issue 36, Winter 1998

From the heart

The Web of Life

Living in the Northwest, we are fortunate to encounter wildlife in our everyday lives. Seagulls fly alongside our ferries. Raccoons walk our backyard alleys.

Deer look up in surprise as we round a bend on a hiking trail and hawks peer at us from light poles above the freeway. Occasionally, bears prowl suburban parking lots and coyotes crouch in downtown elevators.

Long ago, humans lived side by side with wild animals but our interactions were more than just passing observations of each other. We were directly and obviously interdependent with the other animals. Some days we were predator. Some days we were prey. To survive, we constructed human civilizations to insulate ourselves from the dangers of the unpredictable wild world. To survive the next flood or drought, we cultivated land and domesticated animals. In the process, our relationships with these other creatures changed.

We grew to think of ourselves as separate and superior to the other animals. We forgot that we are interdependent with them in the complex web of life. Whether we’re eventually consumed by wolf or by worm, we return to the dust—and reap from the dust—that which sustains all life on Earth.

A former co-worker of mine once shocked me with the prediction that in the decades ahead animals will only exist in digital form. We’ll see them any time we want—on television.

Would we be happy, or even alive, if animals existed only on the television screen? It was the song of the bird that Rachel Carson said she would miss when she wrote Silent Spring in the 1950’s. She reminded us that we are part of a fragile ecosystem.

Though we’ve moved far from the daily, obvious and direct interconnection with the other animals in this web of life, humans can take action to foster healthy relationships with the other animals.

If they’re domesticated, keep our commitments to them. Treat them with kindness and respect.

If they’re wild, keep them wild. Protect their habitats and learn to co-exist with them.

Kathy Kelly

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