The above book cover from Jon Young’s (2013) recent writing on what he calls “deep bird language” is an excellent read if you want to attune to what I mean by ecology of fear. Equally, and with the same implicit application, is the “philosophy of fearism” by Subba (2014). At least, that’s the hypothesis and interpretation I will present in this blogpost as it unfolds. As I have already spoken about Subba’s work here on the FM ning, where he says it in his book’s subtitle which gives away an entry point into understanding the meaning of ecology of fear: “Life is Conducted, Directed and Controlled by the Fear.” Another universal way of saying how important this subject matter is: Fear is the most powerful motivating force in Creation and especially human society. The incorporation of fear into the scholarly work on ecology is a relatively new and exciting concept, that I for one am studying.

I’ll focus on Young’s work. Herein, I both embrace the work of Young (an expert, Indigenous-based tracker and thinker, naturalist, birder, author and educator—and, a student of the internationally recognized Tom Brown Jr. tracking school) and I’ll critique it for what it neglects to say explicitly about the nature and role of fear in ecology and in the world of birds and Nature itself.

To give you a quick sample, let’s take how Young markets his book and the value of learning “deep bird language” based on bird’s behavior in the wilds and our backyards. He argues that if we attend carefully to the entire field of bird sounds and behaviors in any environment, we’ll learn more what is going on ecologically—from the very moment we step outside our house door. We won’t learn everything ecological there is to know from the birds. No, that would be foolish to assume. He’s more measured in his claim and says we’ll access a good deal of the major things happening with birds and mammals behaviorally. He says the benefits of this attunement to deep bird language involves developing our own primal animal-part of our brains, allowing a cross-species communication to give us cues and truths we ordinarily miss-- bringing that back to life to better work for us day to day; secondly, and the benefit will be “How can we access that [bird ecology] world through our awareness of deep bird language so that we can also see more wildlife?” (p. xix)

To attune to birds, Young suggests (and I believe he is right on, as I am a long-time birder), is the best thing we can do in any environment if we want to “see more wildlife.” And have a more enjoyable and intimate experience in Nature. Because? Birds are incredibly aware of what is happening because they have the best vantage point of view of any environment—equally, they are very vocal and relatively easy to watch and hear. They are the sentinels, the news-reporters and monitors of the goings-on in an environment. You pay attention to the birds and you’ll gain a tonne of information to what they are paying attention to that you likely cannot see nor even notice. To put it simply, as the Indigenous peoples know, they are your guides to the outdoors. Bird spirits and feathers are often used in Indigenous rituals.

Most people haven’t a clue that this is so and wouldn’t believe it. Young writes that we humans today, for the most part, “Have lost much of our sensory keenness [survival instincts], we are at a great disadvantage, but we can do much better” (p. xvii). We have an adaptive ecological-sensory system to maintain a healthy and quality relationship with environments. It keeps us “real” and “connected.” Walking the streets or driving a car, especially with an ipod or any electronic music or phone plugged into your ears is not the way to Natural attunement and connection. It is a Cultural connection but that’s all. The Natural world is ultimately the foundational one if you are about Life—it is more important to be connected to than anything else, Young, and Four Arrows and I would argue. The latter, is how all individuals and species “make it.” But, from all signs of our species great destruction of the environment and ecological system fragilities in so many parts of the earth, it seems we have lost our attunement and direction and need to pay careful attention to that instinctive living wisdom inside us. The birds can help us, says Young.

I’ll leave this sample clue to what I am going to talk about now, and have you sit with this notion of the importance of birds (and Young positions the common American Robin as the most important sentinel in most cases; although I won’t focus on that). I’ll let you also sit with thinking through why is it that we can “see more wildlife” when we pay attention to the birds. Clue: Because, Young is really saying that the problem of not seeing more wildlife comes about because we are frightening wildlife away from us way before we get to within visibility of them. He hit the nail on the hammer: “We are often (usually, to be honest) a jarring, unaware presence in the world beyond the front door” (p. xvii). Yes, “frightening” them with our “bird plow” effect as he calls it. I’ll return to this all later after I give more context to the ecology of fear notion.

Yet, let me quickly say what questions are driving this interest in studying birds (Nature) in order to be a better fearologist. A fearologist is someone, as I defined the term many years ago, who studies the nature of fear in relationship to life. The fearologist, following many psychologies [1] wants to know the best truth about fear that is possible so we can have the best fear management/ education. With that, we ought to then be best attuned to truth and reality, rather than letting excess fear lead us away from truth and reality and that creates disastrous problems. Now, the trick is to access that best information on fear and its management. How do we? What methodology? Where do we look to learn that? What might get in the way of us finding that best information?

So, after reading Four Arrows' work, whom you’ll see mentioned on this FMning several times, I thought to follow his basic premise in how to best understand fear in becoming what he called (as did Sam Keen) a “connoisseur of fear.” He wrote: “To survive and thrive, wild animals must be experts in Fear. Humans who wish to express their positive potentiality must also be connoisseurs of this great motivator [Fear]” (Jacobs, 1998, p. 156). Both Four Arrows (aka Don T. Jacobs) and I use a very broad definition of Fear, just to keep that in mind throughout this blogpost. Ha hah! There it was. The poignant claim from this Indigenous educator guiding us humans (i.e., primarily, he was writing to the urbanized non-Indigenous modern Westerners)—the claim that if we humans want to know best about the nature and role of fear (he capitalized Fear) then we ought to listen to “wild animals” as our teachers, and to Nature in general. I’m all for that because that is actually where I learned the most wisdom in my life since I was a very young child. My first career was a naturalist, both as hobby and as a professional Park Interpreter, albeit, the latter was only for a few summers. I learned to carefully and quietly observe Nature very carefully as a hunter/tracker—in the form of a fisherman, ever since my dad taught me to hold a fishing rod at about four years old.

It is my work on fearlessness since 1989 that has led to me expanding my own consciousness and exploring Fear (and fear management) along a spectrum of evolutionary spheres from Natural to Cultural to Spiritual—each distinct but overlapping and evolving in that order (at least, that’s a theory). If you are interested in that theory you may want to look at the first piece of writing I have done on ecology of fear (Fisher, 2012). I map out the Ecology of Fear components as part of Defense Intelligence systems universal in living organisms (p. 8). I won’t get that technical and philosophical in this blogpost. Also, one ought to note that there is a new postmodern poststructuralist discourse and philosophy around “ecologies” that is being applied from the original science meaning into the humanities and social sciences (a la Deleuze and Guattari), but that is all too complex to enter into here. Okay, time for more context.

In the early years of 2000, when I posited that we need a new ‘Fear’ Studies program in all schools (K-16) and societies in general, I was foregrounding the necessity to study fear (‘fear’ and Fear) from many perspectives, multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary. I noted there was a new movement being recognized in the study of affect, emotions and fear specifically that could be termed “a new scholarship on fear.” This historical and postmodern context is essential to understanding how I think about Fear and how I think we all ought to start thinking about Fear in new ways if we are to find better solutions to the Fear Problem. [okay, at this point, you can see I talk about fear, ‘fear,’ and Fear etc. Each distinct but interrelated. I don’t want to get into all that technical definition material that the fearologist has to consider; so for ease of reading I’ll use fear mostly unless I want to emphasize something beyond that normal configuration]

To write about the ecology of fear, say, rather than the psychology of fear is to raise the question of why most people have never heard of the former and would have no problem recognizing and understanding what the latter means. One is a weird term and the other is normal. Just right there begins the context for my critique of the dominating discourses of fear in our societies and the ruling disciplines (e.g., Psychology) that have controlled how we define, make meaning of, make normal, and develop rhetorics around fear and its management and education. I am convinced that the world will not make much progress in bringing the out-of-control fear cycle under some healthy management until we expand our critical literacy and vocabulary, and enlighten our imaginary for what fear (‘fear’) and the human relationship are all about.

Thus, ecology of fear is one of many other[2] recently coined phrases, from the late 1990s (e.g., Brown, Laundŕe and Gurung, 1999; Davis, 1999), which begins to unravel the hegemony of the disciplinary fields of Biology, Psychology, Biomedicine and Psychiatry when it comes to understanding the nature and role of fear. These fields have notoriously kept “fear” located in the body and individual, in the Cultural sphere, usually restricted to the brain/mind as the primary source and place of meaning-making. There are many critiques one could raise, and I have along with others for decades. Yet, that is far beyond the scope of this blogpost. What is worth remembering is that a notion like ecology of fear immediately invokes a relational ontology, epistemology and understanding of fear dynamics in both the human world and also the non-human world and their environments.

Jon Young’s Contribution to the Ecology of Fear

My life-partner and I were at an Indigenous Wisdom and Sustainability conference recently where she purchased Young’s book. We were both interested in birds, albeit, I have taught her most everything she knows, not to be a smart ass about it, it is just a fact. My deep desire to know everything about birds grew out of my brother and I noticing birds while fishing, especially when we weren’t catching fish. My brother bought a cheap Radio Shack spotting scope and a bird guidebook when we were in our late teens. It was so cool being able to watch a bird so close-up and you didn’t have to scare the bird away by trying to get close to it and identify it. This was the opening into a whole new world for both of us, although he quickly faded in interest and I kept it going, to the point where it became part of my profession as a wildlife technician and naturalist. To this day, I still bird watch everyday, usually out the front window of our living room or from the back porch patio space.

When I read Young’s book in bits, it quickly attuned me that he was talking about a whole new way of seeing the Robin, and other small “dickie birds” as some would call them who were less appreciative of the small birds and who liked to focus on the big masculine birds of prey and game birds. I liked dickie birds from the start. They come in such a variety of colors and shapes and make amazing music. Anyways, Young’s book about “deep bird language” was somewhat familiar to me but not quite anything I had thought about consciously nor trained my ears for specifically. He had studied this way since a small boy. He mastered bird behavior and sounds. He could ‘read’ what they were saying, as best a human can interpret things like that. So, I was intrigued. I began practicing listening and looking in different ways when I was outside. I would attune, as he suggests, to what the birds are 'saying' and how their emotional state is, and whether or not anything is in their environment that they are going to signal you about its presence (e.g., a predator)--that is if you are attending carefully. Yes, birds are the best sentinels and some of the smartest of creatures in Nature. He wrote, “There’s nothing random about birds’ awareness and behavior. They have too much at stake—life and death [survival]” (p. xvii). Birds give you a quick monitoring index of the “state” or emotional “ecology” of an area, at least in a certain way. Ah ha! I thought, they are the Fear signalers in the ecology of an area.

It would take a lot words to articulate all of Young’s theory of “deep bird language” and so I’ll suggest you read his book or go online and read his writing or watch his Youtube presentations, etc. But, let me focus in on the jist of how I interpret Young’s work on “deep bird language.” He does not focus on Fear and an ecology of fear, but he does actually know about it and mentions it per se in an end note. Yet, everything I was reading (mostly) is that birds, when they aren’t making noises feeding and communicating to their mates, singing for pleasure, and/or singing to warn competitors (e.g., male birds on territories)—they are keen observers of potential risks/dangers in their field of perceptions. They cooperate with one another to notice and warn. They are the “siren” of the woods. That’s what Young was continually talking about from the first page of his book. He was talking about bird  “alarm signals” to use proper bird behavior terminology.

By studying these alarm signals and picking them up in vocalization changes in a field of ecology, Young said you can then quickly know (or guess) where there are other animals you may want to watch as well as birds—for your pleasure. And, he teaches course on doing this. He teaches people how not to frighten and alarm birds when walking outside. He says that will stop the “bird plow” effect. This is the effect of one bird being alarmed and that signals a chain reaction because most of the birds are listening to each other. Even mammals are listening to the birds as well for this early-sounding alarm system they offer in the ecology of the field. In front of the bird plow effect all the mammals and other birds are running away from you long before you arrive close enough to see them. They don’t have to wait to see you; they are guided by the birds’ vision and awareness and alarm calls. I read this and said, yes, I know that is true from my experience and I know it is important to not frighten any creature if you can help it, or at least minimize it and that way they don’t signal other creatures to also run away from you. It’s so much fun to see animals without them being frightened of you. Their behavior is more “natural” in that sense, “calm” and if feels like you are part of nature and their lives and not upsetting it and causing them to act in ways that are different and overly influenced by you.

So, when I or anyone walks out into the environment in a certain way—as Young say, in a stressed way, with a body language of anxiety or anger (i.e., fear)—the creatures mostly pick it up immediately—the birds being the first to spread the ‘word’ to the rest of the ecology of creatures that are listening and watching the birds. It’s all a matter of survival. Birds know you—a human being—is a potential threat. Humans are top predators and we have as a species evolved with birds for millions of years preying on them for food and feathers for hats and collections—and putting them in prisons so we can have them in our houses as pets. Yes, they have a good right to fear us. Now, I won’t say that a bird like a Robin who gives a mild alarm call when I go out to the garbage can is freaking out and in fear immediately. No, they are in cautionary mode—alert. That’s their evolutionary Defense Intelligence System kicking-in, mildly, unless they are further disturbed by seeing me carrying a rifle and pointing it at them, etc . Anyways, you get the general jist of what I am talking about no doubt.

Fear, and alarm behaviors, mild and/or intense, is such a primary functioning of the ecology of fear dynamics. If it was a cat walking out to the garbage bin area, the birds would likely even give a bigger more dramatic set of codes in their behaviors (like tail bobbing) and sharp alarm calls that are very loud. The whole ecology of the area in terms of behavior and emotional tone is affected by one species (a predator) moving through the territory. Note, I don’t want to overly project how humans’ experience fear (especially today, living in a culture of fear) onto animals that are non-human. Unfortunately, as I’ll show below, Young does this. However, at the same time, one has to imagine it is very likely that as humans are growing more and more anxious and afraid, as the clinical and research studies show, then we are also affecting the wild creatures (i.e., various ecologies), not to forget to include domestic creatures. Arguably, the fear-base-line is increasing and affecting everything—it is also called distress and trauma effects. I think of all the wars and what that does to animals. I think of the booming base weekend music and loud cars and trucks with loud stereos meant to ‘kill’ and mufflers meant to make more noise, and so on. What impact is that having on the ecology of fear of environments and ecologies? Is it not scaring us all to death, human and non-human?

Now, if you use the analogy of the “bird plow” effect where fear is spread so quickly from the detection of a predator and/or threat of some kind in a field of relations (i.e., an ecology), then imagine what an event like 9/11 produces, and/or any such other terrifying and traumatic dramatization. Even what happens in a household ecology with the contagion of a parent’s fear plowing through the environment, upsetting the ecology of cooperation, trust and harmony into an ecology of distress and conflict, competition in its worse ways of domination, etc. Social pschologists and others are writing about this contagion of fear effect, but they have not got down to usually talking about and conceptualizing an ecology of fear (like Davis, 1999 does for a whole city and region). There are more complexities of how to define and make meaning of the ecology of fear (i.e., very similar in my mind to the construct of culture of fear, or climate of fear). I will be working on better describing this rather nebulous notion of ecology of fear for many years, I have no doubt. Similarly, the architecture of fear, and geography of fear, and so on... as the new postmodern fear scholarship is expanding beyond the psychology of fear.

Now to the crux of this blogpost. Four Arrows, and others have been long suggesting that modern day humans need to learn from Nature as its best teacher on survival, on living with the laws of Nature, and causing the least harm in our thoughts and actions. I agree in general, that we ought to look to Nature, birds in the case of Young’s arguments, for expertise on safety/security, risk, threat, alarms—all of which are part of an ecology of fear, and all of which compose our Defense Intelligence System. I have argued in Fisher (2012) that the ecology of fear layer of our meta-motivational template is designed by evolution as the foundation for a healthy and sustainable existence. It is foundational, or a first principle of value if you want to stay alive and healthy, and once you accomplish the learning needed for a robust and mature ecology of fear, then you can reproduce and do the ecology of love well, and if that is done well developmentally, then you can access an ecology of freedom. All of that path of meta-motivational layers in human development and evolution are motivated by fearlessness. That’s my nutshell theory of motivation.

So, the crux of argument is that we ought to learn about fear and fear management best from birds, as Young doesn’t say in his book. I critique his work in many areas of sort of coming close to saying this but then he gets distracted and talks about other things, like how we can start to see more animals if we pay attention to birds and not scare them. He doesn’t seem to get it that what a human is dealing with in nature all the time is an ecology of fear (it is not the only ecology). But Fear is a major foundation for all the other ecologies, if you define it as Defense Intelligence System. Also, could be called the Safety and Security System (which, Maslow sort of places as foundational on his hierarchy of needs model). Young doesn’t catch the importance of how Fear is the primary factor of his entire book and what he writes about and gets excited to learn about and teach about.

Young’s book cover is a clue to why I am saying his book is a great study in the ecology of fear (with birds as focal point in how that system operates in nature). If you look back at the cover illustration which I posted to start this blog, you’ll see the Robin in the middle of the ecological field, as the sentinel. You’ll see the connecting threads around it to other creatures, and notice, all of them are predators, other than the deer. Why is it? Because, his whole book revolves around predator-prey relations and how that is part and parcel of an ecology of fear.

My other critique of Young’s philosophy and writing in this book is that he imposes in several places the concept of “fear” or “anxiety” onto birds and the Natural domain, not realizing he is a highly Cultural domain being brought up in the modern cultural world—which, I and others argue, is actually a culture of fear. This latter context of human development is a powerful shaper of human identity, behaviors, thinking. Young ignores all that, and goes about saying things like:

“Of course, the Robin advises me about what seems to be its greatest fear: the deadly accipiters ... [i.e., bird hawks]” (p. xiv) or “After the Sharpie or Coopers [hawks] has left the stage, the terrorized birds act as if they are numb with shock (though considering how frequently this happens, they cannot possibly be in shock).” (p. 157) or “A nervous wolf—a nervous anything—radiates waves of tension that every other creature in the wild senses” (p. 163)

Exactly, my point: how could wolves be nervous when they live in the Natural world? They might only be nervous of humans who have systematically hunted and slaughtered them more or less in genocidal campaigns for a long long time. That’s another story. How can Robins be terrorized and in shock because of an attempt by a natural predator upon then in a Natural world—where, these species have co-evolved for millions of years in a healthy and sustainable ecology—an ecology of fear? No problem. No bird has to be terrorized, so why mention it? Because it is a projection of the human’s experience of being preyed upon—and, I mean, experience of contemporary life, albeit, there are likely traces of old memories from when we lived naturally as a species in the savannahs of Africa. Note, Young takes the comment about terrorized back in parentheses—perhaps, he unconsciously and subconsciously knew his statement was false or doubtful?

Humans are terrified because of living in a culture of fear that has systematically taught us to be terrified and to lose touch with our natural regulation processes of when stressed out (e.g., after a chase by a hawk that may be a jet bombing your village); naturally, you go into your natural de-stressing behaviors to calm down because the danger is not there, or is reduced. Every Robin knows this instinctively. It is all about de-stressing (what I have called the basic “spirit of fearlessness”)—and even healing if necessary. I won’t go into my long theory of healing and hurting, and coping and oppression—the latter, which is what has invaded and made up the Cultural sphere for a very long time—from a “departure point” as Four Arrows (2016) calls it. As a fearologist, I think Young is right to say we can learn so much about predator-prey relations from watching and listening to Nature (birds, especially). I think he is mistaken to call wild animals of any kind “terrorized” in their Natural interactions with other animals, even humans.

So, to end this sketchy blogpost of exploring thoughts... I want to say that I have found myself really enjoying thinking about environments everywhere, in terms of how there is an ecology of fear going on which is partly visible and detectable, and is also invisible largely and requires attunement and requires a new vocabulary to allows us to think about fear and its dynamics in environments differently. After what I have been critiquing in Young’s presentation (projections of human fear onto Nature), there is the inevitable critique that could be thrown at me and my writing here. Why am I calling this all an “ecology of fear”—is that not a projection of how humans and I experience fear? It may be. I am only using the expression “ecology of fear” because it is being used by many across different disciplines and it seems to have some value of expanding our imaginary in how we think about ecological relations in wild areas, domesticated areas, and so on. I applaud that work. In the end, it may be a misnomer. If we are aware of this, and make note of it in our writing on the concept of ecology of fear, then readers will know we are aware and it will make us be a little more cautious about our claims. Which is a good thing. Other than that, I’m curious to see where this whole sub-field of work on the ecology of fear goes.

I look forward to talking with anyone more on all this. We need better theory and then applications of theory in different environments to see if we can intervene in them and help produce less fearful environments everywhere, from the psychiatric hospital to our homes and schools, etc.

What can the plants and animals of this world teach us, foundationally, about fear (Fear) and courage and fearlessness, that may be very useful and relatively “cleaner” (free of fear-based distortions) from a lot of what human beings, who live in a culture of fear, are currently teaching about fear? Who can I trust most to be a teacher on fear management/ education? Who are the experts? How will we decide? This is a question not usually asked in the circles of those in the West (at least) who write about fear and courage, for example. So, let me end with a validating quote of my position in this blogpost. It comes from Four Arrows’ (2016) latest book:

“Socrates, like most philosophers who have shaped, rationalized, or been influenced themselves by the dominant [W.] worldview [3] did not rely upon other-than-human wisdom. Indigenous worldview sees courage [and fearlessness] as inseparable from a deep sense of relationship and reciprocity to all of life. ‘Other-than-humans’ represent the ultimate teachers of courage.... or fearlessness” (p. 56).

Young’s book is all about this, as I interpret it beneath the surface. The front cover of Young’s book reminds me of how it is all (or nearly all) about predatory-prey relational ecologies which are so Natural and important to learn about and attune to. They are foundational to any healthy and quality life that is connected. Four Arrows (2016) asks us to question our current ways of living, “... might we give more credit to other-than-humans for their displays of courage and fearlessness as a learned phenomenon...? (p. 57). Young and I say “yes,” indeed we must learn what the birds know and observe how they learn what they know in regard to predator-prey relationships[4] especially, because that is where we learn about the ecology of fear wisdom so critical to survival.


1. I want to be as transparent as possible as to my own biased approach to Psychology and psychologies. I am heavily critical of Psychology per se. I love the field too, but I am more of the camp called “Critical Psychology.” Yet, more deeply profound is my commitment to what I call the “Healing School of Psychology” (i.e., psychologies). This School parallels all the other five major schools (or waves) of psychology (e.g., psychoanalysis, behaviorism/cognitivism, humanistic-existential, transpersonal and integral). The Healing School parallels the Coping School (psychologies), sort of analogous to how I see the Indigenous Worldview parallels the Western Worldview—acknowledging both exists, and both have a purpose and value, yet, the Healing School (like Indigenous Worldview) are the only truly healthy and whole schools of thought. Very briefly, let me say that The Healing School is a large amalgam of many ways of thinking that put priority on fearlessness, more or less. They ask us as a coping society to face into the truth of what has happened over the millenium whereby we departed from being a healing society and adopted being a coping society. This has been a deadly replacement/displacement (as Freud’s defense mechanism theory would inform this). I call it the Blue Pill replaced the Red Pill, if you are someone who watched The Wachowski Brother’s blockbuster sci-fi trilogy films (1999-2003). I am not going to go into this in detail. I will say only that we overall, especially in modern societies, have ‘bought in’ and been ‘tricked in’ to buying that coping is better than healing when we look at how to exist in everyday society. This is a Lie of the greatest proportions but it feeds a lot of industries (e.g., drugs, pharmaceuticals, safety and security businesses, police and military, etc.). Coping will keep you in fear-based distress, more or less, with bits of relief based on what someone sells to you, or some relaxation technique that softens the symptoms of pain arising from hurts unhealed. This is the great chronic problem at the core of the Fear Problem—now, we are even afraid of healing—and have forgotten it is completely naturally built-in by evolution. We pay people to ‘heal us’ and so on. The coping industries, are the fearmongering industries. Now, that’s what we really need to change and disengage our many forms of psychologies that support coping over healing. 

2. There are other phrases being used as units of study and sub-disciplines, like architecture of fear, anthropology of fear, geography of fear, economy of fear, history of fear, sociology of fear, philosophy of fear, theology of fear and so on.

3. Western here, for Four Arrows is also much of the Eastern philosophies as he argues in his book—it seems the Western hegemony of thought has infected the entire world for the most part. He is referring to the time 9-10,000 years ago at least when the Western or Dominant worldview began to arise and over-take other worldviews to a large extent. Indigenous worldview for Four Arrows is the worldview of pre-contact days (before, Western colonization of Indigenous cultures and lands).

4. I realize for many readers of this, they may think that the reduction of Life to predator-prey relationships is a gross, harsh and overly competitive and nasty bruttish framing of Nature and Life. That’s a long argument. I merely want to say, that it seems so true that Life consists of co-evolutionary relationships, organisms with environments, organisms with organisms, etc. I have no doubt that cooperation and harmony in that sense is profound and core to how existence takes place. Yet, equally (at least) is competition for survival, which much of evolutionary theory has already well spoken to and it has been documented empirically. What I know, a prior (fact) is that when you really examine what is going on in the world of existence, it is everybody eating everybody, more or less. That’s a predatory prey ecology, and what a large number of researchers are doing today, across fields from bioecology to social sciences, are only recently investigating (which they have not really done so in the past) is “how the fear a prey has of being killed by its predator may affect the basic predator-prey interactions [behaviorally] as we understand them and how the resulting interplay in this two player game can cascade to other ecological effects. The incorporation of fear into ecology is a relatively new concept and is just now being explored more fully” (Laundré, Hernández and Ripple, 2010, p. 1). I am intrigued by the notion of what are called crises of “trophic cascades” in ecological literature. Someday, I’ll write out my own theory of how such cascades can come about when say the “ecology of fear” reaches such toxicity in an area or domain of existence, it can bring down all the gains of an “ecology of love” and “ecology of freedom” to their lowest common denominator of basically self-destruction based on toxic fear/distress. Then a whole system is in ‘big trouble.’ I think we are well heading into such a crises of cascading effects, and I am not the only one suggesting this is the case. The next 10-15 years will prove this out I predict. So, I say, lets really understand how this plays out, and do so by refining our meta-motivational theory of what drives human behavior via four basic ecologies (see Fisher, 2012).


Brown, J. S., Laundŕe, J. W., and Gurung, M. (1999). The ecology of fear: Optimal foraging game theory, and trophic interactions. Journal of Mammology, 80(2), 385-99.

Davis, M. (1999). Ecology of fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster. NY: Vintage Books.

Fisher, R. M. (2012). Steps to an ecology of fear: Advanced curriculum for fearlessness.  Technical Paper No. 38. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research          Institute.

Four Arrows (aka Jacobs, D. T.) (2016). Point of departure: Returning to a more authentic worldview for education and survival. Charlotte, NC: Information Age          Publishing.

Jacobs, D. T. (1998). Primal awareness: A true story of survival, transformation, and awakening with the Rarámuri shamans of Mexico. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Laundré, J. W., Hernández, L., and Ripple, W. J. (2010). The landscape of fear: Ecological implications of being afraid. The Open Ecology Journal, 3, 1-7.

Subba, D. (2014). Philosophy of fearism: Life is conducted, directed and controlled by the fear. Australia: Xlibris.

Young, J. (2013). What the robin knows: How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world. NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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  • I just watched Jon Young for 1 hr giving a talk on youtube ( on "Effective Connection Modeling and Regenerating Human Beings" which I highly recommend in terms of getting an overview of what kinds of large-scale projects Young is involved in with his organization and other collaborations around the world, helping people to get back in touch with important "connections" in the primal domain of experiencing and bonding for care and empathy-building. And, he also at one point says, there is such enormous resistance to change in society in general to his work, to quote: "It's very scary." There are lots of good things here he presents on and yet, I have always a lingering sense of the importance to recognize the ecology of fear a lot more than he seems to in his research and curricula.

  • This excerpt I received from a reader:

    Thank you for this blog on birds and fear——its a beauty Michael, and so timely too……...

    Only a week ago I was biking in my area, heard a racket--- looked up and saw a snowy owl being heralded by some magpies and ravens.  I wept for the joy of noticing and  paying attention then stayed for a few minutes to recover.

     I’ve forwarded the link on to a birders group here in Calgary... .
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