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Conference Report: Rewilding Our Hearts

March 3, 2015


Conference Report: Rewilding Our Hearts

Conversation with Marc Bekoff, "Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence”

Background of Marc Bekoff

Marc Bekoff is a former Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a past Guggenheim Fellow. In 2000 he was awarded the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for major long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. Marc is also an ambassador for Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots program, in which he works with students of all ages, senior citizens, and prisoners, and also is a member of the Ethics Committee of the Jane Goodall Institute. He and Jane co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies in 2000. 

Marc is on the Board of Directors of The Fauna Sanctuary and The Cougar Fund and on the advisory board for Animal Defenders, the Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group, and Project Coyote. He has been part of the international program, Science and the Spiritual Quest II and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) program on Science, Ethics, and Religion. Marc is also an honorary member of Animalisti Italiani and Fundacion Altarriba. 

In 2006 Marc was named an honorary board member of Rational Animal and a patron of the Captive Animals' Protection Society. In 2009 he was named a member of the Scientific Expert Advisory Panel of Voiceless, The Animal Protection Institute and a faculty member of the Humane Society University, and in 2010 he was named to the advisory board of Living with Wolves and Greenvegans and the advisory council of the National Museum of Animals & Society. In 2005 Marc was presented with The Bank One Faculty Community Service Award for the work he has done with children, senior citizens, and prisoners. In 2009 he was presented with the St. Francis of Assisi Award by the Auckland (New Zealand) SPCA. Marc is also on the Board of Directors for Minding Animals International. 


Marilyn Turkovich- Welcome everyone! I am excited about the first conference call this year for the Charter’s Environmental Sector. We are privileged to have an outstanding speaker, Marc Bekoff. Marc has an incredible background. [Marilyn provided the call’s agenda and logistics.]

Introduction of Marc Bekoff

Reed Price- It is a pleasure to have Marc here. He will be discussing his new book- “Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence.” For more information, visit his website: [See the “Background of Marc Bekoff” section above for details.]


Marc Bekoff- Good morning. I am in Boulder, Colorado. I will introduce some things I do to “rewild.” I have lived in the mountains for decades and have had many animals surrounding me. I am rewilded every day when I go outside. It is a beautiful place. I also ride my bike. On my bike rides, I have seen goats playing king of the mountain on a bale of hay. 

I saw a red fox chasing a squirrel, catching the squirrel, and then being chased and harassed by a magpie. I have had black bears staring down at me through a skylight and also waiting for me at my front door. Rewilding is to make wild again. Being wild and being attracted to nature is in our genes. There is a word “biophilia”. It means we have an innate attraction to nature. 

Rewilding is becoming reconnected and re-enchanted with Mother Nature. It is undoing the unwilding that happens as a result of TV/media and life itself. When I become alienated from nature, I feel removed from the world. Rewilding is a personal, transformative exercise. It is acting from the inside out- feeling passion and connection in our heart. 

The word rewilding was formalized in the early 1990s. It referred to building corridors in nature so animals can move about without human interference and intervention. Rewilding lets the feelings in our heart go to the brain and the brain sends out signals to us to act. When we do good in the world, we get a warm feeling in our bodies. We really do have a magnificent and fascinating planet, but it is very tired and fatigued. It is frail. I am also part of a movement called “compassionate conservation.” It is a global and growing movement that crosses disciplines- biology, zoology, psychology, conservation, political science, etc. 

Individuals matter. We need to strive to live in peaceful co-existence with our animal companions. Now people in various disciplines who used to ignore one another are talking to each other. The life of every single individual counts. The movement’s motto is “first, do no harm.” The movement is against killing non-native species (as if their lives do not matter) in order to protect native species. We need to try to find more humane solutions. Compassionate conservation is about no killing. We must not kill one species to save another. Compassionate conservation is based strongly on a compassionate interrelationship with other beings. I have developed the eight p's of rewilding -- being proactive, positive, persistent, patient, peaceful, practical, powerful, and passionate -- and I've recently added two more, namely, the importance of being playful and being present.

Proactive: the reactive, crisis-oriented, “putting-out-the-fire” mentality does not work.

Positive: we need to concentrate on what works.

Persistent, patient, passionate:  be committed to a mission and do not give up

Playful: often people burnout. It is hard work. Many times we receive horrible messages about animal abuse or environmental destruction. We need to step away from our brains. We need to rekindle ourselves. Get outside, etc.

Present: be attentive to what is happening, both in your own heart and in the heart of other beings.

Key points: There are too many of us and we consume too much. We are here, there, and everywhere. I was lucky to grow up in a home with a wonderful mother and father. While we human beings do a lot of bad things, we also do a lot of good. We need to keep our eyes on what is good and positive. There is a lot of research that shows we have it in our genes to be compassionate and kind. I taught a course at the Boulder County jail- and I emphasized that we are all basically good animals as are non-human animals. When we look at prosocial behaviors- more than 90% of all behavior in all species is pro-social.

I see rewilding spreading culturally by example and through sessions like this where people get together and adopt a certain view of the world that motivates them to do something positive. Every individual counts and every individual can make a difference. You can walk, ride, hike, run. Just go outdoors. Kids are really the ambassadors of the future. I have worked with Jane Goodall and the Roots and Shoots youth programs. We need to get kids off their butts and get them outside. We need to focus on kids. They are ambassadors for the future. Research in the field of anthrozoology shows conclusively that we suffer the indignities to which we expose other animals. There is the term “ecocide”. The killing other animals is our own suicide. It comes back on us. We need to work hard to maintain a healthy planet.

Questions and Answers

Brenda Robinson- in Toronto, Canada- I agree completely with you about everything, especially the children. I have started a petition directed to the head of education. We need to introduce a course in schools to remind children about compassion. Such education will help the world. I have over 5000 signatures from people all over the world. If you want to sign, email me at: We need as many signatures as possible.

Here is the link to my petition: Hon. Liz Sandals: Introduce a new course called "COMPASSION" for Grade 1 and Grade 12.

Marc- I have a chapter in my book “Rewilding…” about rewilding children through education. A lethal combination is for children to sit inside under artificial light watching/doing war games.

Reed- Marc, you talk about becoming the “seen” instead of just seeing the world. Would you explain what you mean?

Marc- part of being an ethologist/biologist is becoming the “seen”. When I study coyotes and wolves, I try to become them- to understand their sensory world and what they need. It means becoming the beings we are watching. Ties into compassion. Feeling the pain of other beings. Dissolving the boundaries between individuals.

Lesa Walker- It would be wonderful if we could enhance and promote the visible partnership and messaging of compassion thru Roots and Shoots.

Marc- yes, I will bring this message to Jane Goodall.

Breakout Session Questions

1. What does rewilding our hearts mean and why is it important to do so?

2. What is compassionate conservation and why is the life of every individual important?

Highlights of Breakouts

Lesa- importance of personal ownership, practice, and youth involvement

Reed- rewilding can occur anywhere- we can observe pigeons in NYC; need to introduce youth to the concept that animals are co-inhabiters of our world. Try to walk gently regarding some topics, e.g. veganism. There are sometimes concerns of parents.

Marc- we always need to be careful in our discussions. We can discuss that hamburgers are cows. However, he once had a parent who was upset about the messaging. Kids are receptive to learning. Kids need to be exposed to the real world. I have written a book called, “Jasper’s Story” about bears, their mistreatment and rehabilitation and hope for the future. Kids need to be exposed in a gentle, mild way about the world and at the same time be given hope that they can make a difference. Sometimes, parents can get upset. However, it involves presenting the information with compassion and letting the kids take it from there.

Important: Never give up. Always be nice to people even if we disagree. We do not get anywhere by getting in people’s faces and being mean.


Marilyn- Thank you so much Marc for sharing with us today. Thanks to Reed for setting up the speakers for our calls and to Ben for helping with the call logistics. And, thanks to Lesa for taking the notes for the call. Our next Charter call is on Saturday, March 7th, about Compassionate Communities. Next Tuesday, we have a Charter Call about the One Billion Acts of Peace campaign. The following Wednesday, we have a Compassionate Canada conference call. Please join us.


Provided by Louis Hext in follow-up to the call

Marc blogs with some frequency and here are some articles:

I'm also adding Reynard’s recommended resource: “Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil” by Paul Bloom:

Provided by Reed Price in follow-up to the call: Homepage:

Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall (EETA):;

Marc Bekoff Central:

Psychology Today:

The DoDo: & animals 

Marc Bekoff, Foreword by Jane Goodall Jasper's story: Saving moon bears, by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff. 

Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation, edited by Marc Bekoff 

Why dogs hump and bees get depressed, by Marc Bekoff 

Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, by Marc Bekoff 

The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall, edited by Dale Peterson and Marc Bekoff


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