Chelsea Green Publishing

Being Salmon, Being Human

Pages:368 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603587457
Pub. Date October 25, 2017

Being Salmon, Being Human

Encountering the Wild in Us and Us in the Wild

By Martin Lee Mueller
Foreword by Stephan Harding

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
October 25, 2017

$25.00

In search of a new story for our place on earth

Being Salmon, Being Human examines Western culture’s tragic alienation from nature by focusing on the relationship between people and salmon—weaving together key narratives about the Norwegian salmon industry as well as wild salmon in indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest.

Mueller uses this lens to articulate a comprehensive critique of human exceptionalism, directly challenging the four-hundred-year-old notion that other animals are nothing but complicated machines without rich inner lives and that Earth is a passive backdrop to human experience. Being fully human, he argues, means experiencing the intersection of our horizon of understanding with that of other animals. Salmon are the test case for this. Mueller experiments, in evocative narrative passages, with imagining the world as a salmon might see it, and considering how this enriches our understanding of humanity in the process.

Being Salmon, Being Human is both a philosophical and a narrative work, rewarding readers with insightful interpretations of major philosophers—Descartes, Heidegger, Abram, and many more—and reflections on the human–Earth relationship. It stands alongside Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal, as well as Andreas Weber’s The Biology of Wonder and Matter and Desire—heralding a new “Copernican revolution” in the fields of biology, ecology, and philosophy.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Mueller, a naturalist, philosopher, and storyteller from Oslo, links his fate to wild salmon in a remarkable work that doubles as poetic treatise and a broad environmental critique. He migrates across many waters—including ethnography, genetics, and linguistics—but throughout his focus remains the coho, sockeye, and other river-spawning salmon species with which humans share an intricately woven history. Anthropocentrism comes in for harsh criticism in this account. So does the Norwegian fish-farming industry, which boasts of providing 12 million salmon dinners a day; AquaBounty Technologies, a Waltham, Mass., biotech company that in 2010 applied to the FDA to market a genetically modified supersalmon; and René Descartes, the early modern philosopher whose separation of mind from body (and thus of the human from nature), Mueller argues, is responsible for the “suicidal” course on which humans have put the planet. Here, Spinoza and philosopher David Abram (Mueller’s mentor) offer alternate “narratives” for survival, an ecologist investigates how the fungal networks in tree roots help forest communities survive, a geomorphologist studies modern humans’ dysfunctional relationship with dirt, a microbiologist espouses Gaia theory, and an ethnographer asks Quinault elders for their “side of the story” regarding Capt. Robert Gray’s 1787 “discovery” of the Columbia River. This is a powerful book about what it means to be human in the “more-than-human” world."

“Here is a philosopher who has learned to think not only with his head but with his whole body. A keenly aware human animal, Martin Mueller dreams himself salmon flesh. Gill slits open along his neck as he glides between mountain streams and the broad ocean currents. His scales glint and ripple in the moonlight, their reflections posing ever more penetrating questions for our species. This is a game-changing culture-shifting book, ethical and eloquent, opening the way toward a more mature natural science—one that’s oriented by our own creaturely participation and rapport with the rest of the biosphere.”—David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal; director, Alliance for Wild Ethics 

“The salmon farming industry is not only cruel and environmentally damaging; it threatens to corrode wildness itself. No one has made a more compelling argument to support this fact than Martin Lee Mueller. Philosophically, scientifically, morally, and artistically, Mueller blows the industry guys literally out of the water. If you care about the future of salmon, you must read this essential, rigorously documented book.”—Sy Montgomery, coauthor of Tamed and Untamed; author of The Soul of an Octopus

“What if looking at a salmon brought you into deep meditation, and at the end of that meditation you realized that you were looking at yourself, that the salmon was you, you were the salmon, and all is one? That realization is the greatest story on Earth. This book is that crucial meditation.”—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View from Lazy Point

“We are slowly realizing—in our dramatic cultural epoch—that dualism has come to an end. Humans do not stand above the Earth; we are but one of its ways of imagining itself. The thinking and feeling of the coming era won’t distinguish between imagination, matter, theory, and desire. Martin Lee Mueller’s book is one of the first works to radically imagine this new world that is dawning. He shows that reality is a weaving of yearning bodies expressive of innumerable existential stories. Here, outwardness and interiority, humans and salmons, physical descriptions, historiography, and memoir are continuously intertwining. They are equally important aspects of a multifaceted whole that calls for scientific descriptions as well as for personal expressions. Mueller’s work is a fine example of the new renaissance slowly gaining momentum, in which we understand our humanness as one strand of the world’s manifold desire to become.”—Andreas Weber, author of Matter and Desire and Biology of Wonder

“This eloquent, impassioned, and often poetic book offers something remarkable: a coherent philosophical and spiritual vision for this era of ecological fragility. Marked by clarity and compassion, Being Salmon, Being Human is a beautiful, important work—and a necessary one.”—Judith D. Schwartz, author of Cows Save the Planet and Water in Plain Sight

“With this beautiful and important book, Martin Lee Mueller has written a love song to the salmon, and a love song to all life. This book deserves to be read and understood, as an important step in helping us to remember how to love this wonderful planet that is our only home.”—Derrick Jensen, author of A Language Older Than WordsThe Culture of Make BelieveEndgame, and many other books

“Mueller’s book carries both erudition and urgency secreted within its silvery scales. He understands the hour is late, and his intelligent push towards across-species storytelling is to be taken seriously. Bless his steps, and may his work carry its nutritional goodness far, far over the green teeth of the sea.”—Martin Shaw, author of Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia

“A marvelous exploration of what it means to belong within life’s community. Mueller integrates imagination and analysis to produce a book of rare and important insight.”—David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen; professor, The University of the South

“What a fantastic gift from the nation that has given us both deep ecology and farmed fish. Martin Lee Mueller is the first to explain how strange this pairing can be. From Descartes to Naess, he knows his philosophy. But no one before Mueller has dared to ask our gravlax itself, ‘Who are you?’ This is the wildest salmon book ever written.”—David Rothenberg, author of Survival of the Beautiful and Thousand Mile Song; distinguished professor of philosophy, New Jersey Institute of Technology

“How refreshing to read a book on human–fish relations that actually considers the fishes’ own perspectives! With lyrical, empathic prose, Mueller beautifully expresses both the sensual world of a salmon and the tragedy of our self-absorption.”—Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows

“In these pages you will find a well-referenced eco-philosophical story about some of the confounding origins of our separation from both self and all that is nonhuman. Martin Lee Mueller’s words are a song of celebration, offering a shared sense of salvation to see salmon and humans, as Haudenosaunee Faithkeeper Oren Lyons might suggest, as relatives rather than resources. Read this book as a clarion call and homecoming for a vision of a new ‘Theory of Relatives-ity’ with the mantra being: ‘Bring the Salmon H.O.M.E. Bring the Humans H.O.M.E. (Here On Mother Earth)!’”—Brock Dolman, director, WATER Institute, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

“In Being Salmon, Being Human, Martin Lee Mueller brings the abstract categories and arguments of eco-philosophy vividly to life by using them as a lens through which to examine the salmon feedlot industry in Norway. Weaving together narrative, poetry, science, natural history, and economics, while contrasting Indigenous and modern perspectives on the meaning of salmon, he creates an eloquent, multi-layered terrain of thought and story that exposes the abject depth of wrongness that this industry represents. By implication, the whole of modern industrial civilization, and the forms of nationalist identity to which it gives rise, are revealed as equally in error.

“The beauty and passion of the writing made my own ancestrally Nordic bones ache with longing for the still enchanted, still poetically charged landscapes and seascapes of this ‘small kingdom in the far north,’ this ‘Way to the North’ that has long been a beacon of ecological consciousness and may now, under Mueller’s tender tutelage, help to point a Way towards a more bearable future.”—Freya Mathews, professor of environmental philosophy, Latrobe University, Australia

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Lee Mueller

Martin Lee Mueller, PhD, received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oslo in 2016. Before that, he received his master’s degree in culture, environment, and sustainability at the University of Oslo’s Center for Development and the Environment (SUM). He has previously helped build teaching centers in rural Mongolia, worked as a kindergarten teacher, been an elementary school librarian, and led a wilderness school in the Norwegian forest. Recently he has also been touring as a storyteller to festivals in the U.K. and Scandinavia, with a stage performance inspired by this book. Salmon Fairytale weaves together philosophy, traditional storytelling, and Samí joik music. He lives in Oslo together with his partner and daughter.

AUTHOR VIDEOS

Salmon Fairytale

With joik, philosophy and stories from Sami and North-American indigenous tradition we wonder with salmon, both the wild and the farmed.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Out on a Limb

Out on a Limb

By Benjamin Kilham

In Out on a Limb, Ben Kilham invites us into the world he has come to know best: the world of black bears. 

For decades, Kilham has studied wild black bears in a vast tract of Northern New Hampshire woodlands. At times, he has also taken in orphaned infants—feeding them, walking them through the forest for months to help them decipher their natural world, and eventually reintroducing them back into the wild. Once free, the orphaned bears still regard him as their mother. And one of these bears, now a 17-year-old female, has given him extraordinary access to her daily life, opening a rare window into how she and the wild bears she lives among carry out their daily lives, raise their young, and communicate.

Witnessing this world has led to some remarkable discoveries.  For years, scientists have considered black bears to be mostly solitary.  Kilham's observations, though, reveal the extraordinary interactions wild bears have with each other. They form friendships and alliances; abide by a code of conduct that keeps their world orderly; and when their own food supplies are ample, they even help out other bears in need.  

Could these cooperative behaviors, he asks, mimic behavior that existed in the animal that became human?  In watching bears, do we see our earliest forms of communications unfold? 

Kilham's dyslexia once barred him from getting an advanced academic degree, securing funding for his research, and publishing his observations in the scientific literature. After being shunned by the traditional scientific community, though, Kilham’s unique findings now interest bear researchers worldwide. His techniques even aid scientists working with pandas in China and bears in Russia.

Moreover, the observation skills that fueled Kilham’s exceptional work turned out to be born of his dyslexia. His ability to think in pictures and decipher systems makes him a unique interpreter of the bear's world.

Out on a Limb delivers Kilham’s fascinating glimpse at the inner world of bears, and also makes a passionate case for science, and education in general, to open its doors to different ways of learning and researching—doors that could lead to far broader realms of discovery.

Kilham and his work have been featured in five internationally televised documentaries. In addition to being on over forty nationally broadcast radio shows including National Public Radio, he has appeared on The Today ShowGood Morning AmericaABC Nightly NewsThe David Letterman Show, and more.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

Out on a Limb

Benjamin Kilham, Temple Grandin

Hardcover $24.95

Beaverland

Beaverland

By Ben Goldfarb

Why their restoration matters in a changing climate

In Beaverland, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb reveals that everything we think we know about what a healthy landscape looks like and how it functions is inaccurate—a historical artifact produced by the removal of beavers from their former haunts. Across the Western Hemisphere, a coalition of “beaver believers”—including scientists, government officials, and farmers—have begun to recognize that ecosystems with beavers are far healthier, for humans and non-humans alike, than those without them, and to restore these industrious rodents to streams throughout North America and Europe. It’s a powerful story about one of the world’s most influential species, how North America was settled, the secret ways in which our landscapes have changed over the centuries, and the measures we can take to mitigate drought, flooding, wildfire, biodiversity loss, and the ravages of climate change. And ultimately, it’s about how we can learn to coexist, harmoniously and even beneficially, with our fellow travelers on this planet.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

Beaverland

Ben Goldfarb

Hardcover $24.95

Let the Water Do the Work

Let the Water Do the Work

By Bill Zeedyk and Van Clothier

Let the Water Do the Work is an important contribution to riparian restoration. By "thinking like a creek," one can harness the regenerative power of floods to reshape stream banks and rebuild floodplains along gullied stream channels. Induced Meandering is an artful blend of the natural sciences - geomorphology, hydrology and ecology - which govern channel forming processes. Induced Meandering directly challenges the dominant paradigm of river and creek stabilization by promoting the intentional erosion of selected banks while fostering deposition of eroded materials on an evolving floodplain. The river self-heals as the growth of native riparian vegetation accelerates the meandering process.

Not all stream channel types are appropriate for Induced Meandering, yet the Induced Meandering philosophy of "going with the flow" can inform all stream restoration projects. Induced meandering strives to understand rivers as timeless entities governed by immutable rules serving their watersheds, setting their own timetables, and coping with their own realities as they carry mountains grain by grain to the sea.

Anyone with an interest in natural resource management in these uncertain times should read this book and put these ideas to work.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Let the Water Do the Work

Bill Zeedyk, Van Clothier

Paperback $50.00

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

By Gary Paul Nabhan

How to harvest water and nutrients, select drought-tolerant plants, and create natural diversity

Because climatic uncertainty has now become "the new normal," many farmers, gardeners and orchard-keepers in North America are desperately seeking ways to adapt their food production to become more resilient in the face of such "global weirding." This book draws upon the wisdom and technical knowledge from desert farming traditions all around the world to offer time-tried strategies for:

  • Building greater moisture-holding capacity and nutrients in soils
  • Protecting fields from damaging winds, drought, and floods
  • Harvesting water from uplands to use in rain gardens and terraces filled with perennial crops
  • Delecting fruits, nuts, succulents, and herbaceous perennials that are best suited to warmer, drier climates

Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the world's experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands. For this book he has visited indigenous and traditional farmers in the Gobi Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, and Andalusia, as well as the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Painted deserts of North America, to learn firsthand their techniques and designs aimed at reducing heat and drought stress on orchards, fields, and dooryard gardens. This practical book also includes colorful "parables from the field" that exemplify how desert farmers think about increasing the carrying capacity and resilience of the lands and waters they steward. It is replete with detailed descriptions and diagrams of how to implement these desert-adapted practices in your own backyard, orchard, or farm.

This unique book is useful not only for farmers and permaculturists in the arid reaches of the Southwest or other desert regions. Its techniques and prophetic vision for achieving food security in the face of climate change may well need to be implemented across most of North America over the next half-century, and are already applicable in most of the semiarid West, Great Plains, and the U.S. Southwest and adjacent regions of Mexico.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Gary Paul Nabhan, Bill McKibben

Paperback $29.95