Placing Animals Reflections pt II

This half of the book brought together common topics of environmental discussion, like farming and what it means to be wild, and attempted to present them from a more geographically focused perspective. The most interesting parts to me had to do with human and (“wild”/not “wild”) animal interactions.

One section brought forth a study that asked households how they felt about Brushtail possums living in their homes. The possums are common in urban areas for the same reasons that Virginia Opossums and raccoons are common here in Ohio, but the answers collected seemed to reflect more openness to coexisting with the Brushtail possums than one would expect toward raccoons and possums around here. The author said that some people were “enamored” with the possums and viewed their homes not “as a castles to be defended from wild enemies,” but “accepted the home as a fluid space with porous boundaries.” This viewpoint seemed to open these families to feeling more connected to the “natural” world. My experiences working at a local wildlife center have certainly made me feel more connected to the natural world. Celebrating wildlife like possums, coyotes, frogs, raptors, and everything in between has become more influential in the way I feel about all animals than I would’ve imagined before beginning to care for and teach and think about them constantly. After a summer of working at the wildlife center, I feel more connected to the natural world and to the animals I see walking down the street, but also to other humans. In my experience, there’s nothing but good that comes from thinking and talking frequently and meaningfully about wildlife. Later, Urbanik makes this same point- those who participate in wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education are likely to feel kinship with other species. For example, those that have a chance to get to “know” Golden Eagles are more likely to live with and care for them.

Brushtail Possum in home

I was interested in Urbanik’s point that how we think about roadkill also matters. How we think about roadkill probably does say more about us than I’d considered previously. The idea that calling all animals killed on the road, “roadkill” seems so harmless to me, but others argue that this term diminishes the significance of those animals and homogenizes them by placing them all into one group. Reconsidering this perspective to help us understand our relationship with those animals (and others), may give people a better sense of the lives that animals lead and how their experiences are unique and valuable too. A dead skunk by the side of the road wasn’t always “roadkill.”

Another interesting point to me was Urbanik’s discussion of human animal conflict. Here in Ohio, most instances of conflict I’ve experienced with animals firsthand include animals in the road or in my home, but in other places and to other people conflict with animals is a daily struggle. Urbanik points out that these conflicts particularly impact the poor. This point is important to identify because it’s easy for people at a distance from these situations to suggest solutions to conflicts that do not solve deeper problems. For example, people who encounter dangerous or aggressive animals on the way to collecting water would not benefit from having a preserve for these animals. A preserve might give those animals additional safe spaces, but as long as they can leave still, this conflict can still occur. And, even if the conflict stops occurring (the animal is removed, dies, etc) those who have had their perspectives shaped by these dangerous and fear inducing experiences will not soon forget their terror.

The structure of this book wasn’t always the most clear, but there are plenty of interesting ideas scattered throughout!

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