Some people insist that culture is strictly a human feat. What are they afraid of? This book looks into three cultures of other-than-human beings in some of Earth’s remaining wild places. It shows how if you’re a sperm whale, a scarlet macaw, or a chimpanzee, you too experience your life with the understanding that you are an individual in a particular community. You too are who you are not by genes alone; your culture is a second form of inheritance. You receive it from thousands of individuals, from pools of knowledge passing through generations like an eternal torch. You too may raise young, know beauty, or struggle to negotiate a peace. And your culture, too, changes and evolves. The light of knowledge needs adjusting as situations change, so a capacity for learning, especially social learning, allows behaviors to adjust, to change much faster than genes alone could adapt.
Becoming Wild offers a glimpse into cultures among non-human animals through looks at the lives of individuals in different present-day animal societies. By showing how others teach and learn, Safina offers a fresh understanding of what is constantly going on beyond humanity. With reporting from deep in nature, alongside individual creatures in their free-living communities, this book offers a very privileged glimpse behind the curtain of life on Earth, and helps inform the answer to that most urgent of questions: Who are we here with?
“Combining the knowledge of a seasoned scientist with the skills of a good storyteller, Safina invites us to leave our cultural worlds and enter animals’ ones . . . Becoming Wild deserves to be remembered.”—NPR
“[A] bracing and enlightening book . . . Safina’s writing on the watery depths and its denizens is sublime . . . [challenging] us to be more acutely aware of species whose social lives have much to teach us.”—Science
“Seminal . . . By drawing attention to the importance of regional variation and acculturated behavior, Safina raises important issues for environmentalists.”—Natural History
“Full of rich observations . . . Becoming Wild offers readers a window into the complex and curious lives of the three species it depicts and invites [us] to observe the beauty and joy of each species’s nuances.”—BookPage
"Safina's lovely account of his travels with researchers . . . reveals majestic, closely knit communities . . . And few readers will doubt that these magnificent creatures need urgent attention. Enthralling."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Eloquent . . . This revelatory work sheds as much light on what it means to be human as it does on the nature of other species."—Publishers Weekly
Such harmony is in immortal souls;… we cannot hear it.
At eight a.m. we are already traveling over deep ocean. We’re at what’s called sea level, as though an ocean is solely...