By Izzy Almasi
“We have brothers and sisters in nature,” says German author Peter Wohlleben in a recent interview with Skaana podcast host Mark Leiren-Young. “For many people, that’s a problem because it disturbs business. It disturbs daily life because you have to look at what you have on your plate, you have to look at what you buy and so on.”
Wohlleben is the author of multiple best-selling books documenting the rich inner lives of plants and animals, including 2016’s The Hidden Life of Trees. Through his work, he has become an advocate for recognizing the rights of the natural world. He urges people to look at animals and plants as more than a collection of specimens and potential products.
“I’m hungry and I’m a living being. I also have rights and that’s exactly what it is about. I can also regard my rights. I can enjoy life. But in every case, where it is possible, I take care of other creatures,” says Wohlleben. “I think that’s the fear when we give all those creatures rights, then we have to starve to death. No, that’s not what it is about. It’s about being respectful.”
Wohlleben believes that in order to effectively engage the public in conversations about animal rights and environmentalism, there needs to be an emotional component to remind people that humans and nature are deeply interconnected.
“We have to bring more emotions into the process and the discussions about environmental things and climate change. Because when we just discuss the numbers, it’s emotionally so far away. It doesn’t touch your heart, just your mind.”
As an enthusiastic observer of the natural world, Wohlleben continues to be amazed by the complexity of plants and animals, some of which may be beyond human understanding. He believes that these unsolvable mysteries are what makes nature so wonderful and worth our respect.
“I think animals have abilities that we don’t have, and which can be explained in easy technical terms. And there are wonderful things, like the goats which are able to forecast [volcanic eruptions] … But I think we don’t need to explain everything,” he says.
To listen to the full interview, head to Spotify, www.skaana.org, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Be sure to tune in to Skaana for upcoming episodes with guests like renowned ichthyologist Daniel Pauly, and author and environmentalist Isabelle Groc. To read more about Wohlleben’s work, check out his books The Hidden Life of Trees, The Inner Life of Animals, The Secret Wisdom of Nature, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, and Peter and the Tree Children. And follow Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram for more information.