How We Live With Other Species, By Esther Woolfson


but Nature It is a belief, often rooted in the Bible and other ancient texts, that humans sit at the very top of the “chain of being” of living creatures on Earth. In her book Between Light and Storm (newly published in the United States), the Scottish naturalist and author Esther Woolfson takes a long and graceful look at that idea, suggesting that it sweeps people right out of harmony with the rest of creation.

Scala Naturae may indeed be at least in part what has made man’s animal treatment sanctify all animals (and, not incidentally, created food shortages and the pollution of souls and the world). Woolfson’s book is hardly the first to question the idea that people have the right to treat the world as a whole with disrespect. Fortunately, her book doesn’t just repeat arguments we’ve heard countless times. Perhaps that is because Woolfson does not argue. In writing that can be as graceful and personal as a prayer, she suggests that fully engaging in the human struggle to become better gives away the possibility of life.

A good part of the book is small scenes from the set of domestic habits that help her live happily with animals that many people might treat as home invaders. For Woolfson, spiders and mice are just house guests. She really takes care of them, moves them out of traffic patterns in case they go forward and, in general, tries to be thoughtful about the best way to her home. to share She lives with a random, 31-year-old rocket named Chicken who calls her when she hears him coming home. (Rooks is from the crow family. Oops. Come to think of it, “she lives with” should have been written in the past tense, since the book is dedicated to Chicken, who died according (apparently shortly after the book was first published in England.) Woolfson has a pet crow that roams freely in her house. A pigeon on the roof cooperates with the author. And until a predator took or another raiding a small backyard cottage she called the “Outback,” Woolfson also cared for a large group of geriatric pigeons.

In general, she refuses to compete with animals for space and resources.

Fortunately, no artificial drama is included in this book. However, as pleasant as the prose can be, it is sometimes too quiet. If I’m not alert, the “at home with Woolfson” sections can put me blissfully to sleep. That’s not a criticism (I need more shuteye) and the book isn’t all about observation and domestic work.

Oddly, indeed, the most interesting parts seem to come from the quiet, deliberate life of Woolfson. My guess is that she enjoys a lot of worthless reading time. She dedicates a large part of her prose to ideas about the harmony of animals and people that she has collected from hundreds of texts written throughout the world and throughout history. Her easy knowledge of a wide range of diverse literature is amazing.

Nevertheless, Woolfson simplifies wonderfully as a writer, smoothly walking his readers (for example) through an evolutionary timeline from the last living universal common ancestor 4 billion years ago through the appearance, surprisingly, of unusually smart and capable living creatures. we are people. While four billion years is a lot of time to cover, Woolfson never underestimates. Between Light and Storm patiently tells a braided story. Personal observation gives insight, which meets interpretations from today’s literary and philosophical masters and today’s scientists.

The book is a memoir as impressive as it is a well-informed and well-informed piece of journalism. Without guilt or restraint, people cage and kill sentient beings. Sure we have a right, we always have. Woolfson writes without a sense of privilege. Her voice is humble, passionate and sensitive. Perhaps it is also necessary now that we have created a time when our crimes against our fellow earthmen threaten us and the whole world.

Between Light and Storm: How We Live with Other Species

Published by Esther Woolfson


ISBN 9781639362769

368 p. $28.95

December 2022.


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