IONS Directory Profile


Susan B. Eirich, PhD, founder and executive director of Earthfire Institute, is a licensed psychologist with degrees in biology and psychology who has taught and worked at universities, counseling centers, and maximum security prisons. She has spent time in remote wilderness and cultures around the world, from Nepal and the Amazon to Europe and the Far East, always with the goal of seeing through others’ eyes, including those of other species. She founded Earthfire in 2000 to give a voice to wildlife and maintains a private practice for humans seeking to find their voice.

Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center is a nonprofit organization based in Idaho whose mission is to promote ecological advocacy through intimate connection with the rescued wildlife under its care. For more information: 208-456-0926,,

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Recent Comments

  • The Wisdom of the Wild Jan 24, 2012

    Susan B. EIrich, Ph.D.
    Dear EDinWAState,
    This is a beautiful and moving story. I wonder if you can trace the elephant through zoo records - it might be well worth it. If it is the same elephant, it would teach us even more, and help motivate you further to carry on associating with wild things (70 is a fine age to re-begin!

  • The Wisdom of the Wild Jan 09, 2012

    In response to your suggestion, abtruthman, that there is some romanticizing in the article and your comment about lions eating a baby elephant… is possible to take the position that seeing inherent cruelty and amorality can be seen as a human judgment and “anthropomorphizing” in another form. What I wondered about with Humble Bumble Bear and experiences with other species under our care, is, what if we (humans and other animals) weren’t driven by hardwiring – by fear, jealousy, territoriality, the need to kill to eat ... all survival factors….. what might lie underneath??? And at least in the animals I have lived with I have found that if the need to take care of one’s own survival is eased, the opportunity arises and sometimes happens: that an unutterable sweetness comes to the fore. Then you might see another look in the lions’ eyes. Some of those experiences may be only momentary as we go back to our hardwired ways but that doesn’t make them any less significant in terms of what they imply.

    That does not mean that you live with a lion in utter bliss and love…they are always wild animals and the hard wiring can kick in. But it does mean that the potential for moments of great beauty are there. There seems to be a switch that goes on or off – hunger- hunt, eat, see the screaming baby as food only, oblivious to the pain; fighting among each other for a portion of the meal. But with a full belly, sweetness can come to the fore. And that it what we have found.

    It is not a simple thing. I wanted to illustrate another aspect to wild animals that we usually do not consider. An additional reason for writing this article is just that people are so familiar with cows and pigs and horses and naturally go there in their experiences and in trying to alleviate suffering. But as most people are not familiar with wild animals I wanted to help us see that they too need to be heard and considered.

    And Saoirse…I love Elie Wiesel. To me he is a true hero, a stunningly remarkable man. I would give a lot to be able to have an hour’s discussion with him. He makes the human race look good. I keep a copy of his book “Night” out on a side table at all times to remind me of the complexity of humanity and our struggle to evolve.

    One comment in general is that the reactions to my article so far tend to be “top heavy” in human abstract reasoning, ( not surprising in the highly educated IONS audience) but is one reason we need animals, to keep us grounded in immediacy as well as our hearts.

  • The Wisdom of the Wild Jan 09, 2012

    Balaboy55 writes “I suspect Earthfire Institute is far more concerned about saving (wild) animals than it is about deciding what is best for us to eat.” Yes. That is important, but I would rather not take the discussion in that direction as it is already an active discussion among humans. Realizing the devastation we are doing to wild animals as individual emotional and spiritual beings, is not and needs to become more active. This article was to try to dispel some of our preconceptions about wild animals based on unfamiliarity with them, give us an enhanced appreciation of the wonder and richness that shares the earth with us, and to hopefully give them a better chance to survive if we come to care enough to save land to for them to live.

  • The Wisdom of the Wild Jan 09, 2012

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments that have been posted to “Wisdom of the Wild.” A few thoughts:
    To Scotty – Thank you.
    To nbtruthman: re your question do factory animals have a spiritual essence as well….

    I am no expert on spiritual qualities – I can only share with you what I have seen and felt. My personal belief and experience is that these qualities are inherent in all living beings. They may be dimmed by inbreeding; by distorting a breed for commercial use or human tastes as in the pet industry; dimmed by a degrading and debilitating life until they are slaughtered, but somewhere in there is something that shines through if one has the time and orientation to relate to the animals that way. Since we all may define “soul” differently I don’t know quite what to call it without getting into another whole discussion - a sense of self ? A passionate desire to live? I also feel that trees and plants “want” to live. An acquaintance of mine once told me that as she pulled up a burdock plant by the root she “heard” it scream. As with Thunder and Don the vet, she was totally unprepared. It just happened to her. Some time ago the New York Times Sunday magazine carried an article titled “Brussel Sprouts Want to Live Too.” They cited research suggesting the possible equivalent of a chemical nervous system in plants and that they are much more responsive that we previously thought. No surprise to anyone who believes that we are all one and all connected; just different life forms. My partner Jean had two vivid telepathic experiences with our chickens, who live extraordinarily happy lives and have a chance to develop into full “chicken-hood” as well as connect with humans. One of those experiences was externally verifiable.

    Regarding eating animals, that is a really important discussion but not directly related to the topic at hand – the millions of wild animals starving; dying of thirst; watching their loved ones ”culled” because of human overpopulation or bizarre projections of what they are; lives destroyed because we want another parking lot or a second home, often in a lovely watered area which is a luxury to us but essential for animals. Then we kill them because, desperate for food or water they are “intruding.” On and on. the devastation and attacks on all fronts for their chances at life are overwhelming. It is simply easier for us to ignore because we don’t see it. There are admirable projects in developing countries where they take over land to raise trees to make decent human homes – which however does not take into consideration that that land was home and feeding grounds to animals. Our human-centered focus skews our thinking and leads to disregard other living beings; our seeing nature as a resource for humans impoverishes us, and I was trying to show that those living creatures are individual emotional and spiritual beings that deserve consideration in our thinking and planning.

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