Surfers often talk about how the sport helps them reconnect with nature, but a recent episode involving an otter in love with surfboards shows just how fragile our love really is. of wildlife.
Authorities are trying to capture and remove the otter from its native environment after it climbed on a man’s surfboard in Santa Cruz, California. In a video of the incident published on Twitter, the otter is seen climbing onto the surfer’s board where he was playing with it. Wildlife officials described the otter’s behavior as aggressive.
People joke that the otter has joined the orca revolt, referring to killer whale attacks on ships off the coast of Spain. One researcher said that orcas attack sailboats for an “adrenaline shot.”
If you watch the video, you’ll notice that the otter stays on the opposite end of the surfer’s board. But the language used by the media, and the authorities they cite, are more telling than the behavior of the otter.
War on nature
We often use the language of conflict to describe unusual events and to understand what seems to be out of balance in the world. Words like “contradiction” and “contradiction” fit into an oppositional narrative, which is a simpler way of telling stories than, say, “unique interaction.” Often, as storytellers in all fields, we humans describe the world, our local environment and to whom they “belong,” as a kind of struggle—for example: “forces of nature” and “victory of civilization.”
Any number of factors can explain the Santa Cruz otter’s behavior, including fear, anxiety, territorial defense, curiosity and perhaps aggression. People blame the otter, never stopping to think what our use of this space—their home—could mean for the otters. This particular otter can go through the trauma of being trapped, torn from its home and moved. But it is the otter that is considered the aggressor.
Physicist and ecological philosopher Karen Barad urges us to rethink our interactions with the ecological world not as one of ownership or dominion, but involvement. He wrote that existence is not an individual activity and that humans do not exist apart from their interactions with other beings. Individuals of any species live as part of a linked existence with other living beings.
Our connection to the natural world
Otters and humans inhabit this watery coastal space in unique but intertwined ways. When our involvement with nature becomes a conflict, there are casualties, often animals.
We impose human characteristics, such as anger, on animals without using the sensitivity of their motives. We reduce their complex experiences, feelings and knowledge to an action if they do not behave in the way we think they should (otters should be cute).
Think cliches, like “stubborn as a mule.” Who does not stiffen at the threat of a whip or while carrying a heavy load? We also borrow from nature for insults like bitch, dozy cow and pig. We use these words to describe human qualities. But we never stop questioning the motivation behind animal behavior.
If we reverse the language of the news about the sea otter we can say that the sea otter invaded its home by a large, aggressive animal. And now the relatives of the animal want to kidnap and imprison.
Fighting language does not work for either party. It doesn’t work for the people who impose it, because if you ignore the language you don’t ignore the fact that people are also scared, and confused because this animal that they thought was cute and cuddly turned their back on them.
People love otters, but the western representation of otters cuts us off from the random and varied complexities of their nature.
We must learn to share the Earth. And for that we need to change our language and behavior. Metaphors of combat must be replaced with language about sharing and opening up space for the animal.
This story reminds me of the childhood trauma of an entire generation watching the beautiful film Ring of Bright Water (1969), in which an otter was the star. This movie is an interesting depiction of the individuality of animals and how that contradicts the way we reduce them to pests or nuisances.
Movies and stories often use a different animal or human character to remind us that everyone living on Earth is an individual. Categorizing animals as species or other mass groupings makes us feel as if we can destroy them as “vermin” or “pest.”
Aren’t humans pests to many animals just trying to thrive? The Evening Standard article ends with this quote from a marine expert: “They are actually quite aggressive animals.
He could easily talk about people.
Provided by The Conversation
This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Citation: How a surfing sea otter revealed the dark side of human nature (2023, July 18) retrieved 19 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-surfing-sea-otter-revealed -dark.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.