The Man Who Talks To Whales: Nollman's Visit, Turkey Trot, Interspecies Collab.
By Alli Harrod (04/09/10 21:02:07)
Related animals: Anemone, Clownfish, Grizzly Bear, Lion, Whale

"The Turkey Trot" and "Interspecies Protocol" are two sections from Jim Nollman’s novel "The Man Who Talks To Whales" that discuss the difference between studying about animals and collaborating with animals. During Nollman’s discussion in person, he epitomizes the distinction between studying and collaborating as “objectivity” and “subjectivity.” Nollman argues that scientific study of animals is objective because it is based on observations while interspecies collaboration views an animal as an individual rather than an entity that is a part of a larger group. He claims that failing to see animals as individuals is, what we have discussed thus far in "Interspecies Collaboration," “speciesism/speciesist” because denying an animal their individuality means that one assumes that every animal in any given species is exactly the same as all of the others. Furthermore, speciesism places one species above another. Clearly, just like humans, not all animals have exhibited the same social/environmental conditions, so to assume that they are not individuals is therefore absurd. In "The Turkey Trot," Nollman states, “I did not want to learn about them [animals,] so much as I wanted to learn from them [animals]” and with his collaboration with whales and turkeys, Nollman has learned much about members of those species’s realms of life through music.

In his personal discussion in class he mentioned that he felt like the whales communicated with him when they changed their pitch to mock his and repeated the same ‘notes’ back to him. He argues that scientific objectivity can not even begin to describe his experiences with whales and turkeys because it is unquantifiable information – Nollman spent many years interacting with whales, for example, and learning about their culture. The inability of those who do not view animals as subjects, Nollman argues, keeps them from understanding animals, and species(es) as a whole because they are not willing to put in time like Nollman has, to find a quality connection and do not view animals as collaborators. In "Interspecies Protocol" he uses the relation between the Kalahari Bushmen and lions to exemplify and highlight the history of human/animal bonds and the result of the destruction of those bonds. He describes that the peaceful relationship of Bushmen and lions through out time changed to a relationship of “fear and disrespect” once ranching was introduced and the Bushmen’s lifestyle changed (50). He claims that before the introduction of ranching, lions and Bushmen had a mutual agreement to respect each others’ spaces and never squabbled, but both lions and Bushmen were killed and the result yielded “no interspecies protocol” (51). Nollman’s experience/insights on interspecies protocol and subjectivity help interspecies collaborators like ourselves be more conscientious about our responsibilities as collaborators in the way we treat other species and how we view them in relation to ourselves.

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