Animal Emotions

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People, Animals, and the Environment: We Must Be "Solutionaries"

A new TEDx talk by Zoe Weil lays out what we must do

We don't live in the best of all possible worlds, but there's a lot we can do to make our planet a much better place for humans and other animals. No one could disagree that we’re experiencing huge global challenges and catastrophes and there clearly are more to come. However, human psychology being what it is, all too often characterized by myopia, apathy, and a focus on instant gratification, often conspires to prevent us from meeting our challenges and averting catastrophes. It's for these reasons that this TEDx talk called Solutionaries by the renowned humane educator and founder of The Institute For Humane EducationZoe Weil, is so exciting. Zoe lays out the challenges we face in the world – to people, animals, and the environment - and offers examples and solutions that can truly inspire us to meet head on the complicated and frustrating issues of our time with joy, passion, skill, enthusiasm, and hope.

There’s obviously no easy answers for overcoming over-population, over-consumption, sloth-like and self-serving inactivity, greed, short-sightedness, and some of our other less flattering ways of dealing with our wounded world. However, Zoe’s TEDx talk delivered in her cheerful upbeat style may be the impetus many people need to sharpen their tools and get to work on the issues that most concern them.

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The psychological underpinnings of Zoe’s talk make what could be just another lofty "save the world" presentation into something each of us can use, grapple with, and be inspired by. She articulates the psychological issues we face in responding to global challenges and then unpacks them and invites us to be part of what is clearly a joyful solution. If we're going to make positive differences in the world we need to be enthusiastic and optimistic because there's a lot of hard work to be done and it's pretty easy to become discouraged and to give up. Zoe's talk made me reflect on my own ideas about how rewilding our hearts can help us maintain hope and faith in difficult times. 

The consequences of our failure to meet our global challenges are simply so dire that to refuse to embrace the tasks ahead is not a viable option if we want to leave a healthy and thriving planet for future generations. I'm often stilled when I stop to reflect on what the world in as few as 20 years will be like for today's youngsters who will inherit the wake of our destructive ways because we ignored what was happening or were too discouraged or too busy to do something about it.

What’s most exciting about Zoe's talk is that it offers the viewer the prompt and the vision to take up the challenges while laying out a framework for how we can ultimately solve them, namely to educate our children through a new paradigm and purpose. We need to teach the children well, and of course adults too. 

Please take a look at this wonderful and inspirational TEDx talk and let’s see if we can all work together to turn a good idea – becoming solutionaries – into the answer to our greatest problems by educating a generation of these wonderful humans. This surely is not one of those "I've heard it all before" presentations and I'm sure you will want to watch it more than once and share it widely. I did and shall. And, although I'm a card-carrying optimist, I now have many other reasons for keeping my dreams alive.  

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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