Eye-To-Eye Animal Encounters

eyes

Photo illustration by Mark Riechers.

Listen nowDownload file
Embed player
Original Air Date: 
February 08, 2020

There's a certain a kind of visual encounter that can be life changing: A cross-species gaze. The experience of looking directly into the eyes of an animal in the wild, and seeing it look back. It happens more often than you’d think and it can be so profound, there’s a name for it: eye-to-eye epiphany. So what happens when someone with feathers or fur and claws looks back? How does it change people, and what can it teach us?

Our friends at the Center for Humans and Nature have some suggested follow-up reading, if you enjoy this episode:
osprey
Sonic Sidebar

Locking eyes with another creature in the wild can be a profound experience. For physicist and writer Alan Lightman, half a second of eye contact with a pair of ospreys felt like an epiphany.

Length: 
2:24
"Birds Watching." Printed reflective film mounted on aluminum on steel frame.
Photo Gallery

In Chicago, writer Gavin Van Horn and environmental artist Jenny Kendler visit her new art installation, which confronts viewers with the gaze of 100 giant bird eyes. It's meant to provoke curiosity, wonder, and awareness of how many non-human eyes are always watching us.

Length: 
15:24
chimpanzee
Sonic Sidebar

In 1960, a young primatologist stared deeply into the eyes of a wild chimpanzee. She was Jane Goodall. He was David Greybeard. Their mutual gaze changed animal science forever.

Length: 
2:32
Northern Rocky Mountains wolf
Audio

There are two famous moments that helped shape environmental politics. Gavin Van Horn, of the Center for Humans and Nature, tells us what happened when Aldo Leopold met the eyes of a dying timber wolf and when Paul Watson looked into the eye of a dying sperm whale.

Length: 
10:08
owl
Audio

Dogs, cats, birds, frogs, even insects watch us. Each with a different kind of eye. What, and how, do they see? Ivan Schwab is an opthamologist who’s been fascinated by that question for a long time.

Length: 
7:44
crocodile eye
Audio

The feminist eco-philosopher Val Plumwood was one of the few people to survive a crocodile's death roll. The attack reoriented her thinking about life, death, and what it means to be human.

Length: 
8:20
Gavin on the 606.
Audio

Eye-to-eye epiphanies are experiences of kinship with the more-than-human world. Gavin Van Horn says kinship is also something to practice. He shares a few thoughts about how.

Length: 
1:05
Show Details 📻
Last modified: 
March 05, 2020