This is more of a subjective piece…how could it not be…but before we get ahead of ourselves, the inspiration behind it is the Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally where and when we, as humans focused on the natural history of our Blue Ridge, celebrate our love for our fellow creatures great and small. We come together not as exploiters, but explorers…a somewhat atypical behavior of Homo sapiens.
In the earliest conversations that became Blue Ridge Discovery Center, Devin Floyd and I marveled over this fact: not a single field guide to mammals of North America, (or any other region for that matter), includes the ‘big ape’, us. Not even a wink or nod. This separation between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has artificially elevated and confused our role as a player in the ecological web that we, yes as animals, depend on regardless of our lack of appropriate humility.
This is not the place or time to parade our conservation efforts, nor shall we dwell on the history of our transgressions. Rather, let’s look at why this separation exists at all. What are we? Anthropologists point to two exceptional differences between Homo sapiens and the rest of the animal world: tool building and communication skills. We know that other animals share some propensity for both, and research continues to advance the notion that we are just beginning to understand how similarly talented some of our animal friends may actually be. As new discoveries are made in this vein, perhaps an evolved sense of humility from us will arise…helping to close this animal gap.But, the fact remains, we are mammals.
So, along with plants/animals/fungi, the deep history of geological time, the flexibility that drives all life forms from the microbes of leaf litter to inhabitants of high rise city-scapes, we are in this together. And that is the spirit behind exploring our complex world, and the spirit behind the Rally. Humans with curiosity and respect for what we share and need from that complexity makes us and our world a better place to live. The human sense of wonder, our ability to describe and share this wonder is what makes us…human?