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Risk and Responsibility, Animal Style: Crossing the River

Picture of Camilla Gray-Nelson

Camilla Gray-Nelson

In the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic and the widely diverse opinions on how to move forward, I turned to Mother Nature for inspiration

In the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic and the widely diverse opinions on how to move forward, I turned to Mother Nature for inspiration, as I frequently do. Animals have faced sudden life-threatening situations for millennia and have successfully coped in ways that have assured continuation of their herds, flocks and packs. At this critical time, I thought it would be interesting to share Nature’s perspective in handling catastrophe.

Picture this: A herd of grazing animals is moving across the valley to the next, rich pasture land. Their path crosses a dry riverbed. Suddenly, a flash flood descends, wiping out those that happen to be in the riverbed at that moment. They are washed away and perish. Those on the shore watch in surprise and contained panic. It is at the juncture that Nature’s perspectives on risk and responsibility make their appearance.

Those animals stopped at the shore by the raging waters have watched as their herd mates are swept away, become fully aware of the danger and analyze their own next move. In these situations, group members deal with risk in generally three different ways.

1. A few charge headlong into the swirling waters in front of them without hesitation or consideration of risk, perhaps because the lush grasses across the river to them represent their only survival, worth any risk. Some make it across, but many of this group perish.
2. A few others are so traumatized, afraid or physically weak that they opt to remain on the near shore, unwilling take any risk. Even though resources on their side are scarce, and without the strength in numbers of the larger herd they will be more vulnerable to predators as well as lack of food, they settle for this risk-free option. They remain where they are and most manage to survive, but they are weakened by lack of resources and do not thrive.
3. The rest contemplate and weigh all of their options. In this example, as time passes these individuals notice a shallowing and narrowing point in the river appearing a small distance away. They determine that the risk of crossing there will be lower and the chances of a successful group crossing to plentiful grasses are higher, so they make their way to this point and bravely ford the river. Though in the process, a few of the weaker individuals find even these slower and shallower waters too difficult and succumb to them, most in the group successfully reach the other shore and the life-sustaining bounty it holds. There they live on and thrive.

Catastrophe and sudden calamity are no strangers to Mother Nature and her animal world. Animals that survive such events with the greatest success seem to be those that

a. Do not wait for someone to save them.
b. Analyze their options with the intelligence that Nature has given them.
c. Choose the options that pose the smallest personal risk and the greatest benefit.
d. Accept the responsibility for their choices.

Perhaps the perspective is something to ponder as we contemplate our own life options in difficult times. May we all be safe and thrive in our own way.

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Photo of author Camilla Gray-Nelson

Camilla Gray-Nelson

“No, I’m not your average coach or mentor, but that’s exactly why you should follow my unique perspective on life, love and career! I promise I’ll share things you won’t learn anywhere else, helping you become Enlightened, Empowered and Effective by decoding the life-changing secrets of Mother Nature herself.”

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