Naropa University vs. Prairie Dogs: Just Leave Them Be

Boulder's contemplative university should not turn into a killing field

Posted Sep 28, 2015

I began my book Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence with the following quotation by Chögyam Trungpa, founder of Naropa University, a place that is supposed to be a contemplative setting motivated by compassion and respect. Chögyam Trungpa wrote, "When human beings lose their connection to Nature, to heaven and earth, then they do not know how to nurture their environment or how to rule their world -- which is saying the same thing. Human beings destroy their ecology at the same time that they destroy one another. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal elemental connection with the phenomenal world." 

Just say "No": Killing "problem" prairie dogs is unacceptable 

And now, along come prairie dogs to one of Naropa's campuses, who some consider to be a major problem, a site where they want to do some more building. Not surprisingly, there is a proposal on the table to kill these charming sentient beings. Everyone at Naropa should resist any attempt at killing the "problem" prairie dogs on their campus, and should work to find a solution that displays compassion for these awesome family living rodents, a method that stresses peaceful coexistence for the beings into whose homes we move. And, it would be wonderful if Naropa and the people who are sent to kill the prairie dogs simply say "no," as did Bryce Casavant, a courageous conservation officer who refused to kill two black bear cubs on north Vancouver Island, when ordered to do so. If people try to argue that the killing is necessary and cannot stop, it will not stop. 

Killing the prairie dogs is radically dispassionate 

Much research in the cross-disciplinary field of research called conservation psychology has shown that Chögyam Trungpa was correct: we suffer the indignities to which we subject other animals and destroy ourselves when we destroy other beings (please also see Drs. Susan Clayton and Gene Myers' Conservation Psychology: Understanding and Promoting Human Care for Nature). And, let's not forget Naropa had a 40th anniversary celebration last October called "Radical Compassion." The description for this meeting states, "Compassion is 'radical' when it moves beyond 'being nice' or giving to our favorite charity, and becomes the very foundation of all our actions, the signature of our society. As a cultural imperative, compassion lays a path to a future free of some of our society's greatest downfalls. It is the root of sustainable, positive change, and the key to meeting the challenges of violence, fear and suffering." I spoke at this gathering and was thrilled and overwhelmed by how many people -- it seemed like everyone -- really cared about other fascinating animals, other humans, and our magnificent planet. I hope they will all protest this planned slaughter. 

Killing the prairie dogs, or allowing them to be killed, is hardly "radical compassion." Indeed, it's radically dispassionate and utterly sickening. I wonder what Chögyam Trungpa would feel if he knew Naropa turned into a killing field. Let's hope and pray it does not.

You can contact Naropa University here.

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate ConservationWhy Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed, and Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence. The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (marcbekoff.com; @MarcBekoff)

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