Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A new look at animal behavior

animal empathy, Justin Bieber, biodiversity, animal behavior
Two years ago, for the International Year of Biodiversity, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) produced a bold new video that we've featured here before, "Love, not Loss." You can see it here:

When raising awareness about such a significant problem as biodiversity loss, it's hard not to fall into the "doom and gloom" trap. But as the video points out, it's easy to tune out the doom and gloom, the litany of statistics and facts. So what moves us to act? Direct experiences of nature that remind us of its awe, beauty and wonder. I'm still thinking of the Robinson Jeffers poem Carmel Point, "we must uncenter our minds" -- it's not all about us. With that, I introduce you to this terrific TED video by Frans de Waal, who is doing research on morality in primates. It's difficult to study this sort of behavior in the wild, so de Waal recounts, and shows footage of, ingenious experiments that show reciprocity, fairness, cooperation and consolation in primates. There are some great clips, particularly at the very end, that show how similar primate behavior is to human behavior (he also has an example of cooperation with elephants). While de Waals is ultimately studying it for the evolutionary basis for morality, I think it shows the respect that these species deserve in their own right.


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