What is it we seek when we venture into wild spaces, dip our toes into wild spaces, or retreat wholeheartedly into the wilderness? What is it that compels us to the plight of the wild, to want to protect wildlife and even the idea of The Wild?
As our connection to the wild erodes, our spiritual need for an innate connection to something beyond human civilization grows all the more intense. We read books about suburban people venturing into the wild, from childhood on, we make movies, we tell stories, we take photos of our travels. We long for something more, something that charges us beyond the mundane urbanity. We seek something, our wilder animal selves, our stronger more harmonious, natural selves. And we are at a crisis: we don’t know how to find this wild. We fear the death of this ego.
And so for many, wild animals become sort of totems of that wilder self. Americans, for example, non native, have plundered the idea of a “spirit animal,” – from the totemic traditions of native peoples. We want so much to identify with the wild; we even make wildlife mascots of our colleges and teams, and enact rituals by performing wildness in this way.
Yet, our search is superficial without really going to the brave depths of what a search for the wild within must mean on our planet. For if we were to weigh some of the life on Earth, here’s what it would break down to:
- 425 million tons of humans and livestock (humans and cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry)
- 10 million tons of all wild land animals
Wildlife make up a very small portion of the animals on our planet, and it wasn’t always that way.
So why are we, as humans, simultaneously revering the wild while also destroying wild habitats, polluting rivers, changing the climate, and growing more people consuming more domesticated animals, chopping down more trees, developing more land, mining more resources? Why do we long for the wild, and yet also face the sixth mass extinction crisis — the last one being the dinosaurs, and the only one that is human caused?
How do we find the wild within? And how do we hold sacred and protect our wild ecosystems and the animals who live amid them given the rapid explosion of human development and the wasteful, gobbling monster of human consumption? And are the answers to these questions the same or similar?
Wild Within is that journey for answers: to save ourselves and the wild life and places on this planet.