Rosalyn Berne, PhD
In the last five or more centuries, Western and technologically advancing Eastern and Southern Hemisphere societies have been distancing and distinguishing themselves from non-human animal species, proclaiming a distinctive and superior status for Homo Sapiens. Living from an identity of such separation we, in those societies, have in effect disconnected ourselves, our communities, and our economies from the fuller spectrum of life on this planet. The consequences of this ideational schism are reflected in species extinction, habitat loss, ocean pollution, and a warming planet. It can also be argued that by disconnecting our identity from Earth’s non-human others, the health of the human psyche is also at risk, as evidenced by rising suicide rates, substance abuse, and mental illness.
There are also cultures wherein interspecies communication is still considered sacred, part of the web of life, seen as an instinctual capacity of non-human animals and an inherent trait of humans, suggesting that some humans do indeed have the ability to hear and understand the voices of non-human animals, and vice versa. Professor Rosalyn Berne has documented her own personal experiences of intuitive interspecies communication in the books When the Horse Whisper and Waking to Beauty.
In her keynote address, Prof. Berne will share the inception and evolution of those abilities, including her direct experiences communicating with animals and the moral compass she uses to guide such encounters. She will also share how these experiences have begun to shape her scholarship, and how as a professor of engineering ethics, she is using interspecies communication as a foundation for an academic inquiry into human and planetary wellness. This work is inspired by the hope that if the capacity of human and non-human animal communication can be established as experientially valid, and the connection it represents can be shown to be of value in the dominant, technological culture, then that knowledge could redirect human activity into more deeply attending to an ethical responsibility for the non-human animals of the planet.