A day at the zoo (Mar/Apr 09)Friday, 01 April 2011 08:04
Everything in our world is connected, says Dorothy Rowe
One of the hardest jobs you can ever undertake is to persuade people to abandon comforting old ideas and accept challenging new ones. People resist new ideas, even when these new ideas might benefit them. Members of MIND have had some success in persuading some people that madness isn’t a mysterious malady that overcomes certain individuals and turns them into objects of no importance but is simply a desperate way of trying to survive when, overwhelmed by events past and present, we lose all confidence in ourselves. However, we haven’t persuaded everybody of this. Many psychiatrists and psychologists still use the language of illness, and many people in the throes of severe mental distress are led to see themselves as being degraded and valueless. Though individuals have told me that what I have written has helped them, I feel that I have made little difference to society generally. However, while visiting Taronga Zoo in
Taronga Zoo occupies 43 acres of land that slopes steeply down to
However, by 1967 ideas had changed, at least amongst scientists who studied wild life. The zoo still needed to attract visitors to pay for the zoo’s upkeep, but now the emphasis was on scientific research, conservation and education. In 1977 a second zoo was opened on 300 hectares of land on the western plains of NSW. This zoo was built on the open range principle, where moats replaced fences and visitors could feel that they were sharing the land with the animals.
Yet many people in that audience failed to understand the message. The empty auditorium after the show revealed the litter left behind. Along every path, often no more than 25 metres apart and clearly labelled for recycling, were a multitude of garbage bins, yet all the time some of the zoo staff were busy collecting rubbish dropped by lazy visitors. The lessons about thinking scientifically were lost on those visitors who, on seeing a shallow pool unguarded by glass, were impelled to throw a coin in it.
Changing our ideas creates uncertainty, and many people fear uncertainty so much that they prefer fantasies that give the illusion of certainty rather than face the reality of their situation. Another of our illusions is that we are superior to the other inhabitants of the planet, be they elephants or people who do not share our beliefs. Our reality is that in the world we live in a world where everything is connected to everything else, and this includes ourselves. If we are to survive as a species we have to learn about and look after everything on our planet.
Published in Openmind 156 March/April 2009