“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” ~~ John Muir ~~
People who know grizzlies say that these bears occasionally seem to sit and just admire the beauty of where they live. Having been captivated myself by those very landscapes, I can well imagine these intelligent bears just pausing every now and again to admire the sheer beauty of their surroundings.
How much difference would it make if we knew for certain that grizzlies share an aesthetic sense of beauty with humans? Would that change our perception of their value? If Grizzly Bears had no instrumental role relative to human beings whatsoever, i.e. no economic or mythological value to us at all – could they be viewed as having intrinsic worth, simply as individuals, and as a species, that is evolving their own answers to the changing questions of survival; like every other living thing in creation? It would cause a paradigm shift in human-bear relations, to be sure.
I think BC is transitioning to a new paradigm with respect to grizzlies, which is to say, a change from one way of thinking to another. The transition from killing bears to viewing bears bodes well for grizzlies, and none too soon, as we learn increasingly more about the creative abilities and unique needs of these impressive ecosystem builders. We are becoming more aware of how much the beauty of our own lives is intertwined with theirs .
Paradigm shifts always surprise us, once we notice them. They burble along beneath conscious radar until slowly, over time, a critical mass is reached and we become aware of seeing something anew. An idea takes shape and suddenly, daily life changes: seat belts become mandatory, stores are open on a Sunday, smoking bylaws come into effect, recycling is a way of life and grocery stores no longer carry plastic bags. I recall a time when none of these things were true. They happened in increments that are now societal assumptions.
Likewise, the more we learn about grizzly bears, their unique needs and personalities, the more the supporting pieces of a paradigm shift move from a human-dominated worldview to an empathic relationship with fellow non-human residents. And suddenly it feels like killing a Grizzly Bear for trophy parts is as unthinkable as deliberately cutting off our own hand or foot.
There is a spiritual element at the root of this speaking up for grizzly bears; a lit-from-within commitment toward a new paradigm of greater compassion and social justice for what is being conserved and for whom. We build small tremors beneath the surface of the public mind, working up to a critical mass that becomes collective wisdom. It is Spiritual Ecology in practice.
Note: For a fascinating article on ethics for wildlife conservation, click here