Understanding Place Week 3: Non-Human Others and Relational Shaping of Place

This week we have examined several lenses and perspectives helping to make visible (or audible, or tactile…) the influences of non-human others in shaping places. These lenses have included acoustic ecology, highlighting the importance of attending to biophony, geophony, and anthrophony in shaping a multi-species inclusive sense of place, as well as kincentric ecology, a specific cultural lens into traditional foodways. Students in Understanding Place should comment here, reflecting on the influences of non-human others on their chosen places. Don’t forget to also upload your comment through the appropriate link on Canvas.


  1. Dakotah Kimbrough says:

    Anathoth Community Garden is a place where humans and all other creation come together to forge deeper relationships. When we work, we are conscious of the dependence we have upon the natural world and are conscious that we people have to be responsible and nurturing in our interactions with the soil, plants, and animals that also call the garden home. Before every workday and community potluck we pray together to foster an awareness of such interconnections and cultivate gratitude towards all our relations.
    In a season, we will grow crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, lettuces, chard, cabbage, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, asparagus, okra, beans, onions, garlic, and more. We attempt to source our seeds and transplants from local sources, and strive to use native and heirloom varieties whenever possible. These species have been informed by their climate and growing patterns, having an intimate connection to a specific place. One becomes attuned to natural rhythms as a gardener, intuiting when to seed, prune, trim, trellis, and harvest. In addition to these crops, we have a native plant garden that features area plants that have medicinal or cultural qualities. There is also an orchard at the back of the property that feature native and non-native fruit and berry bushes and trees. These are the foods that grant us nourishment and bring us closer together, and for that we are thankful.
    All of our food is grown from the earth, and the soil makes that possible. Although we walk upon the ground every day, it is not often that we pause to contemplate the activity that goes on beneath our feet. There is a whole ecosystem of organic matter, fungi, larvae, bedrock, worms, and other components that interact to produce fresh, fertile soil from which we can grow our food. We supplement our beds with compost made from food scraps and other waste, and ground chicken meal from a nearby farm.
    Of course, not all the plants that grow in the garden were planted there. A weed is just a plant whose purpose does not conform to our (human) desires, and so we constantly are uprooting plants from beds because we feel that they do not belong. Such value judgments come from an anthropocentric perspective, but we cannot afford to give space to those plants which are not edible and take nutrients that are used by others. However, these plants are gathered and placed outside the perimeter of the garden where they can decompose back into the soil. They are not placed in the compost because their seed would survive and grow wherever the compost is spread.
    Of course, the garden would not be complete without the animal life that animates the land around us. There are a couple of bee hives at the edge of the fence that are home to the creatures that pollinate our plants. Bats and owls come at night to hunt for insects and mice that might eat our crops. We try to keep some animals out, such as deer and groundhogs that attempt get through the fence to eat our crops. If such an animal is repeatedly found disturbing the plants, there is an outdoor ministry that comes and shoots the animal. This meat is then processed and distributed to CSA members so that the meat does not go to waste.

  2. Maeve Sherry says:

    According to “Where You At? A Bioregionalism Quiz” authored by Leanord Charles et al., I have my head up my *** when it comes to my beloved Saranac Lake. Maybe I can’t tell you much about Saranac’s total rainfall in the last year, or what soil series I’m standing on, but there’s a lot more to knowing a place than quick questions that can be answered with quicker facts. To me, knowing a place means being able to read between the lines of those naked datapoints with all five senses.

    As Bernie Krause taught me on Monday, one way to deeply know a place is to listen to it. One of my most vivid childhood memories is lying down in a tent at night by Lower Saranac Lake, and truly hearing the full scope of the soundscape. I heard a small creek trickling down into a larger pond that was home to these belching bullfrogs- an animal whose call still evokes nostalgia. Farthest away were the loons on the lake, but the soundscape was by no means distant. Rodents rustled in the leaves only feet from my tent. One particularly vociferous cricket perched right outside was what kept me up late enough to hear all this.

    My dad had always said to me that one of the things he loved about camping was the quietude. At that moment, I realized that despite the cricket, the loons, the frogs, and the water, there was something soporifically silent about where I was:

    The anthrophony was gone.

    There were no planes overhead drowning out the fine details of the natural symphony, no cars coming and going, no machines or motors or air conditioners. There were no human contraptions exhaling background noise.

    This magic is one of the things that makes people fight to preserve wildland. I remember this exact moment as when I understood why- people fight to fend off the anthrophony. The 6 million acres of Adirondacks is one of the few places left in the state where nonhuman others still have the upper hand. There are bears that will mercilessly steal your food, or possibly worse if you disgruntle a mother with cubs. In May, black flies will happily leave you with dozens of tiny puncture bites. A moose could devastate you and there are no lifeguards to save you from fast moving water. Out there, Mother Nature can make beautiful music, but she will also put you in your place if you forget respect. Saranac’s nonhuman others can humble you without speaking a word.

    Through listening and living, even if Leonard Charles disagrees, I know where I’m at.

  3. Elissa Edmunds says:

    Elissa Edmunds
    Understanding Place

    Camp Nahshii is on the Yukon River, two hours away from the closest village or humans. Large amounts of human influence are rare, and only in the summer when the camp is going on for about two months. This means that the non-human others of the Alaskan bush have a larger influence on my chosen place than people during the other 10 months of the year.

    The non-human others who are there, that I am aware of, are black bears, beavers, moose, grizzly bears, arctic fox, lynx, arctic owls, king salmon, dragonflies, mosquitoes, horse flies, trees, bushes, berries, and more. Those are only ones that I saw in my time there, or was specifically told about. There are many other species of insects, fish, trees, and animals. There are many other non-human others that influence the land as well that I am not aware of because of my short time there. There is 24-hour sun in the summer, so the sun would be a non-human other influence on Camp Nahshii. It keeps Camp Nahshii much warmer than would it would be in the evening if the sun was not up. The Yukon River keeps the area cool and windy, with its low temperatures from ice melting from freezing winters with negative temperatures that reach almost -50 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants, trees, and bushes keep the area looking green and vibrant.

    The biophony of the area, which is the collection of sounds of animals and other species all coming together, is made up of all the above-mentioned species, and some others. I heard crickets chirping collectively at night, the blood-curdling screams of the lynx, bears running through the leaves, birds chirping, the giant mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, and the and the buzzing of the dragonflies. The geophony of the area, which is the sound coming from different types of habitats, is made up of the sound of the Yukon River fiercely rushing by, and the wind blowing through the trees.

    The non-human others of Camp Nahshii all influence each other. The black bears eat the berries. The grizzly bears eat the king salmon. The dragonflies eat the mosquitoes and the horse flies. The moose eat the leaves and the bushes. Their natural ecosystem occurs as normal, and their food chain remains the same, without human influence because of the land being mostly wilderness.

    The natural world and non-human others have more influence on Camp Nahshii and the surrounding Alaskan wilderness than humans do. The processes mostly go unchanged due to the small amount of hunting, logging, and more. While humans are at Camp Nahshii in the Alaskan bush, the animals mostly stay away from camp, which is one influence that we have on them, but they freely roam at night while everyone is sleeping. All the species there, breathing and non-breathing, all influence the land that is Camp Nahshii. They rely on each other to survive, while others are used as a food source for the larger species. Non-human others shape and thrive in the space that they are in.

  4. zoe zeerip says:

    Lake Michigan and Stony Creek that feeds into lake Michigan is home to many things besides humans. In fact, non-human others have a longer history than humans in this environment. Non-human others is this region consist of many species ranging from deer, to crawfish, to algae. It is these no-human others and many more that established this place as their home long ago. Human are relatively new compared to these animals and plants.
    When I am at the intersection of Lake Michigan and Stony Creek and I have had my fill of fun, I start to notice how species, other than humans, shape this land and make it what it is. It is typically the animals I notice first. Deer, fire flies, Canadian Geese, Sand Hill Cranes, crawfish, and minnows are the most common to see. These animals fly overhead when we tube down the river, touch our legs when we swim in Lake Michigan, peck at our food as we tan on the beach, and hide under rocks as we read our books by the river. These larger non-human others have a well-established and visible presence. These animals are the ones we chase up and down streams, follow through the woods, and chase of the beach. It is with these animals that I have most connections. They bring the fun and entertainment.
    Below the surface there are micro-organisms that shape the quality of water, the health of the trees, and the quality of the soil. These organisms give the Stony Creek area the pure beauty that is does. I don’t appreciate these non-human others enough. It is because these animals are buried in the dirty, smaller than a grain of rice, or swimming in dark blue water that they go so unnoticed. As Bernie Krause highlighted in his ted talk, all non-human others have a presence. Aside from human effects, it is these non-human others that we misunderstood and underappreciated.
    Then there are the plant species in the area that are also working 24/7. These plants our absorbing our CO2 and cleaning the water. These resources are invaluable.
    Both the animals and the plants do something that is nearly unnoticeable unless you too have listened to Bernie Krause. Acoustic ecology is the noise that nature makes and the surrounding environment. Biophany is the noise that living non-human others make. Plants and animals vary their acoustics based on surrounding influences. This leaves me curious to know what the biophany of Stony Creek was before humans and industry showed up. Geophony is the noise that the earth systems make, such as wind, rain, and water ways. These are what I notice most when listening to my surroundings in the Stony Lake area. Finally, there is anthrophony. This means the noises that humans make. It leaves me curious to understand how anthropology and biophany unknowingly compete against for each other for an environment.
    By talking about non-human others I realized how little I notice them. I fail to look at detail and appreciate their features. One such example comes from our day spent working in the garden. Worms were helping to compost the compost piles and bees were working to pollinate the flower. Humans tend to stop working when they go unnoticed, not plants or animals, they never stop. For that I am learning to appreciate their unique characteristics that make earth go around.

  5. Colleen Dollard says:

    Long Island Sound is a bustling body of water, cities and industries lined up the coast. Living in a developed community, there is very little time that I am able to escape from the human noises that infiltrate my days so fully. I feel constantly bombarded with the noise of car motors, generators, construction work, and people chatting. Wrinkling my nose from the overpowering exhaust fumes that fill the air. In my chosen place, a small grassland enclave off of a reclusive beach, I am able to seemingly escape from the human-run world around me.

    When I am surrounded by the trees, with the grass in between my toes, my ears finally feel free. There is no pressure to drown out and dissect the noises, trying to only hear what I want to hear. I am present within my place in nature. By simply being, I am serenaded by the crickets chirping melodies and the leaves crunching underneath my back. Even when I am not here I know that the crickets still chirp and the leaves will still bustle. These noises are not for me, they will go on after I am gone.

    The upper corner of my towel turns over with the breeze and I am surprised with a gift of clovers sprouting yellow flowers. The sight of them makes my mouth pucker and salivate, remembering their sourness from my childhood. I pop one in my mouth as a smile spreads across my face. I am reminded of mud pies molded in frisbees and clay creations. These plants hold so many memories for me, and I wonder if they remember me too. Enrique Salmón, author of Eating the Landscape, writes that plants are “living beings with emotions and lives of their own” (Salmón 2). The flora may not know me but they feel the pressure of my body on top of them. They feel my toes digging into the soil, making marks that won’t be washed away until the next rain.

    There are so many factors influencing my understanding of my places. But there is only so much that I can notice through my senses of sight, sound, touch, and taste. So many other factors influence my place, past, present, and future that are unknown to me. There are creatures that only come out at night, interactions between the flora and fauna of the forest that will forever be unseen to me, but they are as vital to my interaction with place as I am. Human or non-human, we breathe the same air that fills the space of my place. We soak up the same rays of sunlight that fill us with the energy to sustain our lives. We are bound in reciprocal relationship on which one’s survival relies upon the survival of everything else. I know that when I am gone nature will still go on chirping, growing, and surviving. But it will be there for the many others, human or non-human, who find solace there and rely upon it.

    1. Nora says:

      I love how you are aware of being “present.” A very intuitive and mature awareness to have at such a young age. This is an excellent piece, on a personal level which, if read by many, I am sure many could relate to. Aren’t we lucky to have those places around us where we live that we can “escape” to, to enjoy the flora and fauna!

  6. Sadie Rose Zavgren says:

    My subconscious does not notice the sound of the cascading waterfall anymore. This seems odd though because the amount of energy and power radiating from the falls is impressive and distinct, and yet I am so conditioned to the mighty force that lives in my backyard that I only notice it after a particularly heavy rain. After a rainfall, the water level significantly rises and the sound becomes less of a background noise and more of a reminder of the natural power that surrounds me. When you stand in my place, around 200 meters from the base of the falls, the resonance is recognizable and present, however only as a background noise to the other sounds and activities occurring.
    The hens are wandering around the field searching for worms and other good things to eat and periodically make clucking noises or announce the arrival of a fresh egg with a high-pitched sing that lasts a few minutes at varying levels of excitement. The hens always seem pleased that they are allowed to take up some space a few times a day to brag about an impressive achievement. Mixed in with the hen sounds is the buzz of the bees. The bees my father has been raising for a decade fly from one plant to another pollinating. During the day, the bees sustain a recognizable hum that creates a familiar warm sound that signifies growth and life. They fly from tomato plants to the rows of zinnias, collecting pollen for the golden honey they produce. Once in a while the steady hum of the bees, the swooshing water, and the parading chickens will be interrupted by the puppy Great Dane who has just learned to use her voice. She barks to show off her new found skill and simultaneously scaring away the “wild” animals that live near my place. The fox, skunk, bobcats, coyote, beavers exist in my place, yet they are not visible most of the time.
    Same with the earthworms, ants, and slugs that naturally make the soil in my place healthy and ideal for growing crops. The tomatoes, eggplants, spinach, lettuces, kale, onions, garlic, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and native and non-native orchard and rows and rows of raspberries, blueberries, and grapes benefit from the bugs, sun, and rain that make this place an ideal place for raising nutrition for my consumption. The waste goes to the chickens who eat it and then poop it out. It’s one giant circle of fluid movement and progress.

    This week we examined non-human others, which made me realize how in-tune I am with my place. I feel a strong connection to the land that feeds my family and know so many things about the space. I know exactly what a tomato vine smells like, and how basil tastes when it glides between my teeth. This land is cultivated by humans, but none of it would be possible without the creatures and natural resources that make this place naturally function. These plants and animals are here for me, a human, but also for the greater web of life that relies upon various things that I cannot see.

    1. Joshua Yuen-Schat says:

      In class on Monday, we watched a ted talk on “Acoustic Ecology” which is also known as soundscape ecology. It’s a discipline that studies the relationship and interaction between humans and the environment through sound. They utilize recording devices and audio tools to study soundscape structures. Every habitat has their own sound signature, it’s a way to determine the health of the habitat. Sound is a sense that we often overlook because we rely heavily on our eyes to make judgments which could easily results in misunderstanding and misinterpretation. An example that we discussed was “selective logging”. This is a logging practice that have been misinterpreted as being sustainable and eco-friendly because there was no visual change in the exterior part of the forest, but when you dig deeper there’s clearly something different. Over a period of time, there were no visual changes but our ears tell a different story. According to the hearing tools, there was a decrease in biophany density which means there’s less biodiversity quantitatively. With this new tool, ecologists and environmental scientists can gain a new perspective and a better understanding of the complex interactions between non-human others, humans and their geographical location.

      The soundscape ecology is made up of 3 different sources: Biophany, Geophany and Anthrophony. I will be composing 3 haiku poems to represent each of these sources that represent my chosen choice.

      Biophany is all of the sound that’s created by living organism that’s non-human.

      Early bird, rooster
      Kaka, awakened morning
      Start of a new day

      Geophany is the non-biological sounds that occurs within a given ecosystem. Like the sounds of weather and other natural elements.

      Silent, relaxing
      Majestic yet humbling
      Beautiful Mountain

      Anthrophony is the human noise, any sounds produced by humans

      Afraid of not being heard,
      Need to let it go

      My biggest takeaway was a quote from Bernie Kruase, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a soundscape is worth a thousand pictures.” I will give more attention and respect to my “other” senses, but most importantly to accept that eyes are only one tool that help us understand our surrounding. It merely scratches the surface. In order to fully comprehend our interconnected and highly complex world, we have to apply all sense.

  7. Gavi says:

    It was simply a wonderful coincidence that my experiences with sound, and how sound allows us to connect with place, happened to be the very subject of Bernie Krause’s ear-opening TED Talk. Leaving class that day, I started to believe I was on the right path–that my experience from our exercise with getting in touch with our senses and with non-human others was through a proper frame. The geophony and biophony of my chosen place, Birmingham, Alabama is so rich and fascinating, and is often overlooked, as recently as by me. Why?

    First, I would like to reiterate that because so much of what humans perceive to “exist” is handicapped by our dependence on eyesight, it can be hard for one to differ to a sense other than sight. It wasn’t until I was forced by this exercise and by Krause’s TED Talk to consider alternatives to sight that I realized how much I was missing. Alabama is one of the most biodiverse states in the country, and Birmingham itself is home to a variety of species that literally do not exist anywhere else on the planet. In fact, before men began to carve out the equally unique Red Mountain ridge for its limestone, iron ore, and coal, even more one-of-a-kind species existed. Their sounds must have been lovely! Now they are shadow creatures, immortalized in a museum or two. People came to Birmingham not to appreciate these non-human others from afar, but to rip apart their delicate habitats for the sake of human wealth and survival. However, I feel this strange feeling like the first men to develop Birmingham were more aware and appreciative of these non-human others than the current status-quo of the city. I believe they listened. However, I believe they didn’t think the sounds would or could ever stop.

    Part of my attraction to Birmingham is because today, there exists such a multitude of environmental non-profits, conservation groups, nature preserves, and private citizens who do listen to the non-human others. In the Antebellum age, I imagine children sitting on their porches in the twilight, speculating about the chirping of one million crickets. The appreciation and awareness of non-human others is a hallmark of the South. Nature can be harsher down South–harder to ignore and defeat. But a culture that spends thousands of hours a year immersed in the forests from dusk till dawn tracking deer and trawling for bass knows the importance of non-human others, right? Part of Southern resistance to urbanization, I imagine, was the fear that these places would be forgotten or bulldozed. I read a short story, titled “Shiloh” this past semester. It outlined in explicit terms how deep a Southerner’s connection is to ‘place’, something that I’m sure Joe can attest to. However, as I also read in Wachinger’s analysis of the risk perception paradox, awareness doesn’t always lead to preparedness or action. In this case, the awareness that Southerners possess of nature’s beauty has failed overall to translate to adequate means of environmental protection. Much of this connection to place, from a Southerner’s perspective, has to do with his place in it–non-human others be darned!

    According to my boss, the Coosa river basin lost over 1,000 of its native species in the middle of the 20th century due to hydropower and development. It was one of the largest mass extinctions that occurred in a river in human history. It’s a tragic paradox: Southerner’s are immensely aware of place, but are often unaware to the effects that humans have on the non-human others, or the niche that non-human others occupy in the same place. Birmingham is proving itself to be quite resilient to this paradox. The Cahaba River, Oak Mountain State Park, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Railroad Park, and Red Mountain Park are merely a handful of the many examples of a city working hard to get back in touch with its non-human others. This awareness of shared place and action on non-human others’ is one of the reasons I’m proud to call Birmingham my home.

  8. Thomas Wentworth says:

    Cherry-O-Cream Pie

    Little hands pad along between the palmettos, nimbly navigating between knobby live oak roots and the holes dug by armadillos. Dark fur surrounds mischievous eyes, alert to opportunity, searching for adventure. For a moment, the little hands stop padding and ears perk up to the call of an osprey high above. But they continue on shortly, judging the timbre to be harmless, almost longing. The breeze, carrying gently the scent of salt and sand, rustles the vegetation, and again the little hands stop, but this time the nose is high in the air: there is a hint of sweetness. Eyes turn towards the direction of the wind and increasingly confident steps follow the smell. Soon a clearing appears and the breeze need not carry the hints of fruit and cream to curious nostrils, for the eyes have singled out a source. The picnic table sits in the middle of the clearing, near two neatly pitched tents, and among drying dishes and a small camping stove sits an unprotected pie tin. Normally all of the treats are stowed away in a tall box, whose perfect metal screens those little hands have spent hours probing and scraping, an odd convergence of biophony and anthrophony to add to the night air. But this odd treat requires no battle.

    A quick survey proves the area to be empty of those oblivious, large, and loud life forms, and after a quick scurry the little hands have submerged themselves in cherries and cream and immediately been shoved into an eager mouth. Eyes light up with glee as a delightful taste flows over taste buds. The first lick is loaded with flavor and history, all converging on this moment: cherries that survived the joyous feasting of cedar waxwings in an orchard far away, a unique, creamy filling that cannot be found in the pages of any recipe book as it is spontaneously edited for each family occasion, crust made from the sacrifice of our ancestors in the graham flour. How was this little animal to know that this creation had been intended for a yearly celebration; the closest recurring it knows is fuzzy around the temporal edges and marked by a couple weeks of cold rain and cuddling in the nest.

    An instant has passed since the little hands entered the eager mouth, and after the eyes make another quick scan, the hands grasp the edges of the soft metal pan and pull. Mere seconds later the entire pan, flavor, history, and all have disappeared into the palmettos. Waiting just out of earshot of the clearing are a handful of equally eager and mischievous eyes who join in on the feast, hands feeding happy mouths, as though the laughter of kneading and knowing and loving was filling them to the brim.

    After the tin had been licked clean and abandoned, the real clean-up crew marches in to the beat of the woodpecker. Fruit flies, spinning with joy, feast on scraps of cherries. Hundreds of ants scavenge graham cracker crumbs to return their ancestors to the Queen. Black flies find remnants of the creamy interior and are still for a moment in the evening air, front legs together for a moment in contemplation. They are giving thanks to the organic symphony around them, only out of tune when the ferry from the mainland arrives. They are giving thanks to the pristine air and the stormy skies. They are praying that the oblivious, large and loud life forms will value this effortless complexity of sea and cicadas based on natural puissance rather than paper.

    On Cumberland Island, the non-other humans comfortably occupy the minority. The horses need not tap their hooves to tell each other goodnight. Baby sea turtle shells burrow to the beach surface under the gentle guidance of the full moon. With little hands wrapped over full bellies, the raccoons settle in for the night.

  9. Matia Whiting says:

    Non-human others are an immensely important component of my “place.” Immediately upon the arrival of any visitor, my grandmother’s dog and “fiancé”, Sammy, an overweight and rambunctious basset hound, makes his presence known by bounding over, barking. Sammy is debatably the most important member of my mother’s side of the family. He can do no wrong, even when he jumps up on visitors, muddy paws scraping down their pants, or when he eats entire cheese wheels off the countertop. Sammy and my grandmother are inseparable, and my grandmother claims he can understand everything we’re saying—which is almost believable when he looks up with his big brown eyes, ears perked at the mention of food or a walk. If one is to spend extended periods of time with my grandmother on her porch, he or she will notice another, understated but dominant non-human other: Sasha. Sasha is a rescue cat who, though it took her a couple of years, has grown into an aloof but charming member of the family. She too gets whatever she wants, but in a less obvious manner. Although Sammy and Sasha don’t spend significant amounts of time together, when they do, Sasha calls the shots.
    My grandmother grows a lot of her own food, and through this produce she maintains a close relationship to the land. Her garden overflows with tomatoes, watermelons, squash, peppers and kale, which she picks daily for lunch and dinner. My grandmother can identify any mushroom in the region, and her kitchen counter is often covered in fresh smelling, bright yellow chanterelles. On a rainy year, these mushrooms appear in abundance; dry spells, on the other hand, rid the forest of the yellow gems. Eating dinner at the farm is beautifully communal, set around a round white table under the massive oak tree in the front. My grandmother can often point to any part of the meal and tell us where the food was grown and harvested. We tell the stories of our day and slowly devour bright salads, cooked mushrooms, corn, and grain-bread. Although we are not overtly religious, we hold hands and give thanks for our food, for the rain that brought it to our plates, the sun that drew it out of the ground, the knowledge that allowed us to cultivate the seeds. We eat and drink for hours on a warm summer night, way into the darkness, until our eyes are sleepy and our stomachs contented.
    Non-human others on the farm, such as the animals and the food, are incredibly cherished and well taken care of. My grandmother lives alone for most of the year, and finds her companionship in these other living creatures. They are, in a sense, people themselves, members of our family that we love and value unconditionally.

  10. Rayna Berger says:

    Biophony, the sounds of animals, is blissfully beautiful in Asheville especially at night. When the sun sets the crickets and katydids chirp in harmony, the owls hoot sporadically, and the other night critters come out to explore. The geophony of Asheville consists of the wind blowing through the trees throughout all four perfectly timed seasons, the crunch of fall leaves, and the sound of the crisp snow compacting beneath feet in winter. The anthrophony, noises related to human activity, is the greatest factor of change shaping Asheville.

    Growing up in Asheville it was relatively common to have deer, black bears and wild turkey roaming the backyard. One Spring I remember watching a mama black bear playing with my dogs toys that were left out in the front yard. Wildlife was always in my day to day life as I had the privilege to live secluded in the woods. Over the years it has become increasingly rare to see wildlife roaming around Asheville due to rapid human development encroaching on forests. The anthrophony includes giant bulldozers clearing forests for new housing developments consequently resulting in cars zipping around town, an increase of traffic, another new hotel being constructed, and new roads.

    I wonder if a human humming a tune or simply singing aloud could count as biophony, as it relates to all living organism. In that line of thinking, the unnatural sounds caused by humans such as the roar of a semi-truck or a live rock band could be considered anthrophony. Re-framing the idea of natural animal sounds, humans and non-human others, could create an interconnection between all living organisms once we realize we are in the same category. I live in a biodiversity rich region; plants, animals, and marine animals in the surrounding mountain lakes. There’s a movement in the area to “re-wild” our human life. This includes an increase in foraging for food; things that natively grow in the wild like greens, mushrooms, flowers, and herbs. I have gradually become more aware of the abundance of non-human life around me, their connection to me, and how to include myself and my needs around present resources in the cycle of nature. Backing up Plumwood, I also have been finding new ways to create meaningful external resource connections to things not available in my region, such as coffee beans, realizing that we really are all in this together.

  11. Lydia Waldo says:

    In the place that I’ve written about for the last two weeks –referred to as “my place”, but truthfully belonging to everyone and everything that lives or travels through, on, or over the land, and the land itself – I feel blessed to participate in a culture where limiting impact on non-human others is not only discussed but practiced and honored. The focus of such discussions in my place frequently falls on humans and what we can do to mitigate our impact and make this place welcoming to non-human others. We take time to not only think about how non-human others influence the place, but also how humans have ultimately oppressed and disrespected non-human others to the extent that their influence on this place is now altered, too. Anthrophony is overpowering biophony and ecophony, but it’s more than that too. Although non-human others influence this place more than they influence urban counterparts (because there is less human-caused destruction and anthrophony in my rural place) the human component/influence is still present.

    In order to reduce our impact on non-human others in my place, and thus increase the impact that non-human others have on this place, only central/community buildings have electricity, heating/cooling, and running water in this community. Instead, the star-studded sky becomes our movie screen, the script written by crickets, owls, and the wind in the trees, and fireflies become the streetlights guiding us home. Large trees provide refreshing shade during the day, and white tailed deer share our garden’s fruits because this is their home too. The geophony, ecophony, and visual wonders of non-human others become louder and move vivid as one sits in stillness and silence. Non-human others have so much to share and teach humans if we stop to listen. It shouldn’t have to be their job to “save us”, however understanding what is necessary in order to continue to exist in harmony with the Earth is a lessons that humans have failed to learn on our own, and that is now threatening everyone and everything’s existence. The collective “we” must learn.

    One of the songs that we frequently sing in my place is titled “Humble”, and speaks to the importance of listening, watching, and engaging non-destructively with the non-human others in which we share the world. This song has become somewhat of a mantra for me, and is deeply connected to my experience of this place. It’s a way for me to recognize the importance, strength, and resilience of non-human others, and how they do have a significant influence on who I am, even though humans as a species continue to move quickly without stopping to notice non-human others importance. Without their guidance and knowledge, it is likely that the planet will not be able to continue to support life in the same way that it does now.


    Humble, yourself in the sight of the mountains.
    You’ve got to ask her what she knows
    and humble, yourself in the sight of the mountains,
    you’ve got to know what she knows.
    And we will lift each other, up higher and higher,
    and we will lift each other up.

    Humble, yourself in the sight of the stars.
    You’ve got to ask them what they know
    and humble, yourself in the sight of the stars,
    you’ve got to know what they know.
    And we will lift each other, up higher and higher,
    and we will lift each other up.

    Humble, yourself in the sight of your friends.
    You’ve got to ask them what they know
    and humble, yourself in the sight of your friends,
    you’ve got to know what they know.
    And we will lift each other, up higher and higher,
    and we will lift each other up.

  12. Elizabeth Roginkin says:

    Staten Island – known as the Borough of Parks, is home to a vast amount of green space. In fact, one third of the island is protected parkland, and for much of Staten Island’s history, development of the island for human interests lagged far behind that of the other four boroughs of New York City. My chosen place – The Conference House Park and Beach in Staten Island, has especially served as an oasis away from the urban anthrophony of the rest of New York City as it offers the chance to simply bask in the rich biophony and geophony of bird calls, humming insects, and crashing ocean waves.
    However, in recent years, Staten Island has become a hub of activity with new development projects springing up all across the island and a population that is projected to increase 7% by 2040!

    While this growth may be economically favorable to the island, it raises several concerns on an ecological level. In fact, many issues have already become evident in regards to the relationship Staten Island’s residents have with the non-human others that also call Staten Island home. As humans encroach and develop more previously “wild” land, the problem of co-existing successfully with displaced non-human others is in need of immediate addressal. One almost laughable example is the tenuous relationship between flocks of wild turkeys on Staten Island and commuters around the island. Unfortunately, the turkeys frequently bring traffic to a halt as they linger along busy roads, leave waste matter around residential areas, and congregate on hospital grounds hoping to get fed by visitors. City officials have responded to complaints from residents by disrupting turkey nests in an attempt to reduce populations, and by regularly rounding up turkeys for relocation elsewhere. However, this type of treatment raises ethical concerns; why do we as humans have the privilege of existing in unchecked numbers while displacing and controlling the populations of the non-human others around us? Other initiatives – such as performing vasectomies on most of Staten Island’s male deer to reduce their numbers similarly seem to cross into murky ethical territory.

    However, in some sense, Staten Island does work hard to ensure that it’s native species are not irreparably affected by human activity. For instance, an annual horseshoe crab census monitors the native species and its reproduction rates and patterns in order to ensure its survival, and NYC Parks volunteers regularly remove invasive Japanese Knotweed to keep it from outcompeting endangered native species of flora. Additionally areas like the Freshkills landfill in Staten Island which previously represented inhabitable and toxic areas for wildlife, are slowly becoming places of wildlife refuge. In recent weeks, wildlife such as deer, foxes, and many bird species have been observed within the bounds of the restored former landfill / current parkland. The efforts at improving relations between humans and non-human others has even extended to city-wide advertising campaigns with billboards of deer, raccoons, and other city wildlife encouraging New Yorkers to care for the fate of the non-human others around them and foster a multi-species inclusive sense of place. Even more heartening is the movement to green urban areas in new ways (even as more land is developed) – by turning abandoned lots and vacant rooftops into community gardens that can aid not only the humans involved with them, but also the various insects, birds, and other beings that would benefit from the added green space.


    Dickens, Aaron. “New Development on Staten Island Could Change Population Growth.” NY1 News. N.p., 22 Mar. 2016. Web.

    Berger, Joseph. “Wild Turkeys Get a Taste of Domesticity, Much to a Borough’s Chagrin.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Nov. 2011. Web.

    “Wildlife NYC.” NYC.gov, n.d. Web. .

  13. Dinatalia Farina says:

    Puerto Rico is incredibly rich in culture despite it being an American commonwealth. With this status, Puerto Rico has been able to maintain its culture, luckily. Culture meaning its food, music, language and other important factors. We have bioluminescent waters, a rainforest, multiple caves and a plethora of caves and so much more. One of the signature non-human others that belong to the bio-phany sector are Coquí’s. They are native to Puerto Rico, though not endemic to PR. They are known to be invasive to Hawaii and eradication efforts are being organized. If these frogs were not on the island, many Puertorriqueños would be very concerned. Environmental concerns would be a main one.

    Where my grandma lives, there is a lot of grass and trees that are essential to the surrounding environments and provide shade during the hot temperatures. I remember one summer I was visiting my grandmother, she could not mow her own lawn due to her age and severe asthma. So my cousin mowed the lawn for her and he accidentally mowed over a frog that had been sitting in the tall grass in the front of her home. That is an example of how humans should interact with non-human others much better. Granted, no one really gives their land a good walk through before they mow their grass, but perhaps this is a measure some people should add.

    Food wise, my grandma has an agucate tree, Spanish for avocado. Not the Hass ones, but the big, forest green, ones. These are typically eaten with rice and beans as a side. Rice and beans are considered a peasant food, but so many have adopted this meal into their restaurants as some sort of new discovery. Rice is a staple that was typically easy to get in bulk and last a very long time. Beans were a relatively inexpensive protein source if there was no money for meat. My tío, Spanish for uncle has coconuts behind his home and quenepa bushes in front of his home. These fruits were always exciting to look forward to because they gathered friends and family. I consider food a non-human other because of the affect it has on people; medicinally, mentally and emotionally. So many people have a major connection to the food they eat and Puerto Ricans can empathize with this. Food is a time for sharing, gathering and story-telling. We are grateful for the geo-phany and non-human others that sustain us. Enrique Salmón says “sometimes, the food itself would be the case for celebration” and I agree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.