Clark, H.O., Jr. 2011. Review of Ecological Intelligence: Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature by Ian McCallum. Western North American Naturalist 71:137-138

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Clark, H.O., Jr. 2011. Review of Ecological Intelligence: Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature by Ian McCallum. Western North American Naturalist 71:137-138 Powered By Docstoc
					Western North American Naturalist 71(1), © 2011, pp. 137–138

                                             BOOK REVIEW

Ecological Intelligence: Rediscovering Our-               what to do about our future. He also uses the
  selves in Nature. 2008. Ian McCallum. Ful-              nature-human pair when discussing the discon-
  crum Publishing, Golden, Colorado. 239 pages;           nect between people and wild environments.
  $16.95, paper. ISBN-13: 978-1-55591-687-9.              This pair is particularly important when McCal-
                                                          lum discusses the kinship between ourselves,
    Ian McCallum’s book Ecological Intelligence           wild places, and wild animals (p. 173). We have
is a witness to one of today’s major issues: the          a deep genetic connection with all living things
basic disconnect between the human population             and McCallum argues that this connection is key
and the natural environment. McCallum at-                 to our ecological intelligence.
tempts to explain how this disconnect occurred                McCallum pushes the reader to go beyond
and presents his personal vision on how this              science. He ventures into the metaphysical
disconnect needs to be bridged. He realizes,              realm at times and explains that we, as a species,
however, that construction of this bridge will be         are superstitious even when we try not to be
difficult and will require the collective conscious       (p. 137). He argues that symbol formation and
of everyone from all walks of life.                       pattern making are part of our survival. Some-
    The book is divided into 2 parts. Part one,           times we only understand something when we
divided into 6 chapters, is entitled “Remember-           make a deep, emotional connection with it. For
ing Where We Have Come From” and provides                 example, both Charles Darwin and Alfred Rus-
the foundation and history behind McCallum’s              sel Wallace arrived at their idea of biological
philosophy, detailing some of his personal expe-          evolution during an intuitive “flash” (p. 136).
riences and quoting some of our greatest thinkers             Ultimately, the bridging of the gap between
and a variety of poems. Part two, divided into            nature and humans needs to happen soon. The
4 chapters, is entitled “Looking Ahead” and               human population is doubling in a shorter
identifies the various roadblocks and barriers            amount of time. One billion people existed
that keep people from reconnecting with nature,           around the year 1800. The second billion was
while making it clear that we are the “keepers            achieved in about 130 years. Thirty years later,
of the zoo” and are responsible for our actions.          the third billion arrived, and the fourth billion
Everyone and everything is connected somehow.             occurred 15 years later. Astonishingly, 10 bil-
    People today tend to live in a vacuum; we are         lion people could exist by 2050 (p. 218). With
only concerned with “now” and are not con-                that many people not understanding where we
cerned about how our actions affect others and            came from and taking an astronomical amount
the environment in the future (p. 69). We have            of resources from the earth, disaster is imminent.
forgotten our past. McCallum uses the thorns of           McCallum cites zoologist Jonathan Kingdon as
the wag-’n-bietjie tree, Ziziphus mucronata, as           saying the following: “We must remake our-
a symbol of this past-to-future connection. The           selves in some fashion that retains and devel-
thorns are paired with one pointing backward              ops the countless benefits of technology and
and the other forward. An Nguni African legend            culture, yet does not cut us off from or destroy
uses these paired thorns to remind ourselves to           all the physical processes that created us as
not only look ahead into the future, but to also          animals” (p. 219). I believe this quote is the
remember where we came from.                              most powerful in the entire book. It is the
    McCallum uses a variety of these paired               crux of what the human population must do
concepts throughout the book. In addition to              to survive into the next century.
the paired thorns, he often uses the yes-no pair,             The book is not necessarily an easy read. It
challenging the reader to answer yes or no to a           is probable that I missed portions of the message
variety of tough questions. The yes-no pair is            that McCallum is trying to communicate in his
also used to show that every idea and inter-              writings. If McCallum reads my review of his
pretation has at least 2 sides. Yes and no are very       book, he will likely agree. I recommend that the
powerful words and we can use them to decide              reader read it a few times, take copious notes,

138                           WESTERN NORTH AMERICAN NATURALIST                             [Volume 71

highlight important passages, dog-ear pages, and       to know thyself, to do no thing in excess, and to
think hard about the message. McCallum’s main          honor the gods – make sense? Is an ecological
point is that our ecological intelligence is lacking   intelligence possible? If so, then say yes,
and that rediscovering ourselves in nature is not      quickly. This could be the last watch and there
going to be easy; we have unfortunately dis-           are things to do.”
tanced ourselves from our wild past, and it will
take something more than McCallum’s vision                Howard O. Clark, Jr.
to put us back on track. Poignant are McCal-              H. T. Harvey & Associates
lum’s questions on pages 223–224: “Does the               7815 North Palm Avenue, Suite 310
image of the ziziphus speak to you? Do the                Fresno, California 93711
poets and those ancient admonitions of Apollo –           E-mail:

Description: Clark, H.O., Jr. 2011. Review of Ecological Intelligence: Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature by Ian McCallum. Western North American Naturalist 71:137-138.