Talking with the ants

Here at Finca Milagros, we have a lot of ants.

It’s wonderful. There are several different species of different sizes, from big to tiny, and they are a very important part of this ecosystem. They clean up dead animals and dead and dying plant parts. They bring nutrients into the soil. They are essential to clean-up and soil health, which is vital for the whole ecosystem.

When we first moved in here, we had ants in the house. They loved to clean up every little crumb or tiny piece of food they could find. We aimed to keep everything clean and put all food away in sealed containers, but they still found enough to stay interested. (To mention a couple of recent examples of what they discover: an delicious bar of lotion wrapped in paper, and a caramel in the wallet in my mochilla.)

This lasted until I communicated with them. I tuned into them and told them they had plenty of food outside the house, and that the whole outside area is completely available to them. Our area is inside the house, and they need to stay out. If not, it would not be good for them. We can easily and happily co-exist if we only have that agreement.

Almost immediately, they vanished from inside the house and they stayed outside.

This summer and fall, we were away for several months and someone else stayed in the house. When we returned a few weeks ago, the house was overrun with ants, far worse than it had ever been. Again, we did the common-sense things. We kept everything clean. We sprayed with citronella. And it didn’t work that well.

Four days ago, I sat down to communicate with them again. I proposed the same deal as before, and I could sense it was sinking in. Since then, we have hardly seen any ants inside the house. We’ll see how it goes.

This is not anything I would normally mention here or to anyone in person, but something has shifted. If I cannot feel free to write about what’s happening in my life, what’s the point? It feels better to just put it out there. Some will resonate with it. To some, it may be important and support their own process. Others will think it’s weird. And all of that is OK.

On the topic of ants, I should mention that we had some problems in the beginning with ants eating what we planted outside. They like new and weak plants. As soon as these plants got stronger, we didn’t have any problems anymore.

Note: My wife mentioned this to some friends here, and they said: “Yes, of course. We have a local man talking with the ants for us and it works.” (Paraphrased)

Image by me and Midjourney

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Animal communication

I have been fascinated by animal communication since my early teens, and maybe before. I remember Carl Sagan writing about dolphin communication in one of his books, and I have always thought that if we arrive at a better way to communicate with animals, our relationships with them would change as well. Hopefully, for the good of them and us.

HUNGER FOR WORDS

A few years ago, I discovered Hunger for Words through an online article, and I immediately thought that this was one of the breakthroughs I had been hoping to see.

Hunger for Words is a project created by a speech therapist. In 2018, she got a dog (Stella) and wanted to see if some of the methods she used with children would also work with Stella.

Specifically, she started using buttons that each represented a word or simple phrase and taught the meaning to Stella.

I started my experiment with just a few recordable buttons that Stella could push to say, “outside,” “play,” and “water,” and the same language facilitation strategies I use with children.  Since introducing those first words, Stella has progressed far beyond what I ever thought could be possible. Now, Stella uses a homemade communication device to say more than 45 words (and counting!), combine up to 5 words together to create unique phrases, ask and answer questions, express her thoughts and feelings, make observations, participate in short conversations, and connect with us every single day. 

CLOSE RELATIVES & SHARED ANCESTORS

It’s amazing to watch videos of Stella and other animals using these buttons to communicate. They are creative in how they put sentences together in a way that demonstrates a real understanding of language.

And why would we be surprised? Dogs and cats are mammals like us. We are cousins. We share most of our ancestors. They may not naturally have words, but they do communicate clearly. And through this method, they learn to communicate with words so we can more easily understand them.

THE EFFECTS OF IMPROVED COMMUNICATION

As this becomes more common and commonly known in our culture, what effects may it have?

I hope it will help us recognize non-human species as sentient beings like us with emotions, wishes, needs, hopes, and fears like us. They wish the same as we do, which is to be free from suffering and have a good life.

And that, in turn, may shift how we treat our fellow beings. They are like us. More than us versus them we are all “us”. So why not treat them as we would have wanted to be treated in their situation?

Why not give them a voice, even beyond this type of communication? Why not assign people to speak up for non-human beings in places where we make decisions that impact them? (Government, courts, board rooms, and so on.)

Why not give them stronger legal rights and ways to enforce these rights?

SHARED INTERESTS

Some may assume that this is not in our interest. After all, don’t we sometimes need to use non-human species for our own good? To take their land so we can grow food or build houses? Keep them captive for our entertainment? Keep them imprisoned so we can eat them?

It may look that way from a short-term and narrow-interest perspective.

And yet, from a bigger perspective, it looks very different.

Here, we see that we share interests.

We are embedded in the ecosystems of this planet. We are all parts of this living evolving system we call Earth. We share fate. We are all dependent on a healthy, diverse, and thriving ecosystem and planet.

And by giving non-human beings a metaphorical and literal voice, we not only take care of their interests but our shared interests. We take care of our own long-term interests.

This is essential not only for them but for us.

GIVING A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS

This is not by any means idealism. This is realism.

For our own survival, we need to give a voice to those who do not have one in our society. We need to give a voice to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations. And that voice needs to be backed up by laws and the legal system to have a real impact.

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