STARRED REVIEW
April 14, 2020

Becoming Wild

By Carl Safina
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What can humans learn from the animal kingdom? Quite a lot, it turns out, and Carl Safina is eager to glean all he can.

As an ecologist, Safina studies the wild creatures with whom humanity shares this planet. He’s won MacArthur, Pew and Guggenheim fellowships, and he shares his passion for conservation and nature as a professor at Stony Brook University in New York. The Safina Center, the nonprofit he founded, blends that scientific knowledge with emotion and then prompts people to act to protect the natural world.

As an author, Safina furthers his educational efforts with award-winning books about the natural world. In his 10th book, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace, Safina turns his insatiable curiosity to sperm whales, scarlet macaws and chimpanzees. Though the specifics of the book’s three sections vary, throughout Becoming Wild, Safina studies how these animals aim to live the best way possible in their individual environments.

Safina brings his considerable expertise to his research, and it’s clear he doesn’t leave his heart at home. Of an early morning spent observing scarlet macaws, he writes, “In a few minutes it will be 8 a.m. How long and rich a morning can be if you bring yourself fully to it. Come to a decent place. Bring nothing to tempt your attention away. Immerse in the timelessness of reality. Attention paid is repaid with interest.”

Becoming Wild is full of such rich observations, as well as many others by scientists who recognize their own humanity in the animals they study. “Trying to learn what the whales value has helped me learn what I value,” behavioural ecologist Shane Gero explains to Safina. “Trying to learn what it’s like to be a sperm whale, I’ve learned what it’s like to be me.”

But Safina and the researchers he joins are not focused merely on what humans can learn from animals; they find joy in the animals’ very existence. Becoming Wild offers readers a window into the complex and curious lives of the three species it depicts and invites humans to observe the beauty and joy of each species’s nuances.

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Becoming Wild

Becoming Wild

By Carl Safina
Holt
ISBN 9781250173331

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