Book Review: Rewilding Our Hearts
Rewilding Our Hearts
Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence
By Marc Bekoff
New World Library
I saw Jane Goodall give a talk in person once. When she took questions at the end, a young woman stood up, confessed she was overwhelmed by the world’s infinite environmental problems, and she started to cry. “What should I do?” she asked Goodall. This elderly gladiator of environmental causes replied, “Choose one thing and work hard to save it.”
It’s good advice for Marc Bekoff, author of Rewilding Our Hearts. The book might be about “Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence,” i.e., how to live peaceably with the natural world—but it reads like a litany of complaints about how badly humans treat other species—a scatter shot of doom that makes young people cry. Bekoff scolds the reader through five chapters and 149 pages. Who is the audience for this book?
To be fair, the author does cite some examples of hope, including Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program. But the only piece of writing that feels as if it’s about how to rewild ourselves is at the beginning of Chapter 3, “Making it Real,” when Bekoff writes about his own encounters with foxes, bears, cougars, and other wild creatures he coexists with at his Colorado home. That’s when he straddles a boundary humans understood in the far past, when we, too, were wild—how to coexist without coopting another animal’s integrity by taming it or killing it for sport.
Goodall’s advice is sound for any environmental writer: Choose one thing and work hard to show readers how to save it. Telling a reader over and over what needs to happen only creates more despair.