Tag Archives: justice

Non-human Strangers and Climate Refugees

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Conversations about climate change generally focus on human activity, suffering, and solutions. They often include or imply a critique of anthropocentrism, and yet our attention to the seemingly infinite variety of life forms on the planet remains extraordinarily limited and superficial. Earth is not only our home, and humans are not the only climate refugees.

In his recently published book Humankind, Tim Morton argues that we are severed from other forms of life through agriculture and industrialization. He calls it “The Severing,” a Game of Thrones style trope. One aspect of this split is a very passive relationship to animal and plant life. Unless we are directly involved with animals, in agriculture or wildlife management, for example, we simply don’t appreciate the activity, suffering, and creativity of non-human beings. We also tend to view animals as passive. Though animals must be actively adapting to climate change, we don’t generally observe or appreciate their adaptive behavior.

We have also lost our emotional connection to animals, in various ways. Contemporary animal ethics are typically founded on rational, legalistic arguments. Animals should be afforded consideration or rights because they are like us—intelligent, emotional, and self-conscious. But these arguments miss the most basic and common foundation of human ethical behavior. Love.

If reproduction is the key to species survival, and animals form emotional attachments as humans do, then various forms of love are likely a common characteristic of animal life. But is love only reserved for members of our own species? What does it mean that human children love non-human animals? When and why do children stop being fascinated by animals? It seems that society cultivates an interest in and love of animals in children, and then (for no apparent reason) expects adolescents and adults to stop loving and caring for them.

Why do pet-owners love their pets as if they were people? Is it because they engage with them—in person? Anyone who has had a pet has experienced getting to know the pet. We form personal relationships with them. They become part of the family. If we spent more time engaged with non-human animals could we cultivate or reclaim the capacity to love all animals?

We remember the principle “love they neighbor” but often forget the origin and end of this principle is to love the stranger, the “alien.” Surely non-human animals, however strange or alien, are also our neighbors.

Colleagues in academia and beyond have cautioned me, on more than one occasion, against appearing to prioritize animal welfare over human welfare. Focusing on animal rights in impoverished areas, for example, can be interpreted as a challenge to human dignity. Recognizing animals a climate refugees is out of line (out of order), in the midst of multiple and ongoing human refugee crises. This advice is pragmatic and rhetorically savvy, but is it ethically defensible?

A Guardian article recently posted on Environmental Critique gives a moving account of a refugee, Mansour Shoushtari, who occupies himself caring for animals while detained in Manus prison. (He has been waiting four years to be resettled.) While being treated as a less than human stranger, he has retained his humanity, or should I say his sense of solidarity with other animals. Here is an illustrative quote from the Guardian interview:

I asked him: “Do you love animals more than humans?” He smiled once again. He responded in a humorous way: “You’re asking some really tough questions today! The question you ask is similar to asking the question: do you love your father more than your mother? It’s an extremely tough question to answer. I love human beings and I also love animals. But I have a special affection for birds.”

Why should human suffering tacitly give us permission to abuse animals or to shut down conversations about animal welfare? Who among us, well-fed and literate, deserves consideration if sympathy can only be afforded the most downtrodden humans? Can suffering justify suffering? Returning to the subject of love, is there ever a reason not to extend love and compassion to another living creature?

“The Severing” also results in a dark underworld of violence against non-human animals. Factory farming, habitat destruction, and mass murders that are never reported in the evening news. Is there any relationship between human violence against animals, and a general culture of violence? Again Shoushtari offers insight: “It’s love. In my opinion one does not need to give reasons for love. Love is a personal matter, love is an existential state. But in my view if a human being does not love animals they are incapable of loving human beings.” Human beings do love selectively, of course, as do cultures. Sadly, we are not only taught but also encouraged to love selectively, and even to hate.

Love thy neighbor. Love the stranger. Love all living creatures. These are certainly not pragmatic solutions or policy guidelines. But neither pragmatism nor policy should prevent us from questioning and exploring ethical, dare I say moral, principles.

So I do say, impudently, non-human animals are climate refugees, as are plants, and future generations of every kind. And we have no right to destroy their home.

 

Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/19/16334652/endangered-species-list-sonoyta-mud-turtle-iiwi-pearl-darter-protection

 

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Filed under Animals, Tim Morton

‘The man who loves ducks’: the refugee saving animals on Manus

From The Guardian
Wednesday 13 September 2017

Mansour Shoushtari is an Iranian refugee held in Australia’s detention system who lives by a simple philosophy that animals have the right to live life well by on Manus Island and

“It’s love. In my opinion one does not need to give reasons for love. Love is a personal matter, love is an existential state. But in my view if a human being does not love animals they are incapable of loving human beings.”

“The man who loves ducks.” This phrase describes Mansour Shoushtari with poetic resonance, this is the epithet by which he is known in Manus prison. Shoushtari is a 43-year-old man from Iran who has become a well-known personality in Manus prison. He comes across as someone full of joy and with a sensibility particular to the way children engage with the world.

He is someone whose presence in Manus prison is a paradox; that is, his very being conflicts with the prison in fundamental ways. Shoushtari’s personality projects beauty, he projects tenderness, he projects kindness; his existence is in opposition to the violence of Manus prison, in opposition to the power of the prison, in opposition to the barbarity of the prison.

Four years ago Shoushtari managed to reach Christmas Island but the Australian government exiled him to Manus Island straight after, where he has been detained ever since. He has now been granted refugee status and has been waiting to be resettled in a safe country for years.

Continue reading here.

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Filed under Animals, ethics

Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock

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Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock.

Movie Screening,
Hosted by Chicago 350.

Wednesday, July 26,
7 PM – 9 PM.

Harold Ramis Film School,
230 W.  North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60610

See more information here.

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Filed under Film, Standing Rock, water

A Thousand Dead

Timothy LeCain | “A Thousand Dead Snow Geese: The Matter of the Non-Human in the Age of Humans”

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See video of LeCain’s informative and moving talk here.

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Filed under Animals, economicss, Environmental Ethics

DePaul Humanities Center Recognizes Standing Rock Community: May 17th

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by | May 11, 2017 · 20:24

The Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice

WE ARE WOMEN AND GIRLS OF ALL AGES, IN ALL OUR DIVERSITY, FROM EVERY REGION OF THE WORLD;

We are gravely concerned about the lack of just and sufficient action on climate change by the world’s leaders;

We are concerned about the increasing number of disastrous mega storms that are killing people, eradicating species, and destroying ecosystems and livelihoods;

We are concerned about sea-level rise and disappearing land masses, in addition to the serious environmental and human casualties caused by droughts, desertification, ocean acidification, water salination, crop failures, air pollution, oil spills, plastics and other pollution, glacier melt, record warm summers and cold winters, and out-of season cyclones and tsunamis;

We are concerned about all women and the communities and environments in which we live, including those of us from indigenous lands and oceanic societies who have contributed the least to climate disruption but who are suffering the greatest impacts first and most intensely;

We refuse to allow corporate control of our planet, our rights, or sanction a world that prioritizes growth and greed over human rights, decent and equal work, healthy ecosystems and a just distribution of wealth;

We are concerned that governments of the world are moving too slowly, with too little effort, and without the ambition, commitment or financing that it will take to stop and reverse our global climate crisis;

We refuse to allow corporate control of our planet, our rights, or sanction a world that
prioritizes growth and greed over human rights, decent and equal work, healthy ecosystems and a just distribution of wealth;

And we are stunned, upset and outraged that our future, and the future of our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and of all living beings and ecosystems is being abandoned for short-term self-interest and a lack of vision, leadership, and political will;

Finally and critically, as women and girls, we are not only facing severe impacts, but we are central to the implementation of real solutions that produce real results.

Women must be full and equal partners in the fight to combat global climate chaos!

Women of the world have had enough. The time for Urgent Action is now. We are speaking Truth to Power. We are Demanding Change.

Together, we are creating a mass movement for climate justice. Together, we pledge to take action. We call on all women, all girls and all of our allies to join us in this pledge, to join our Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice.

Women and girls will express our concerns and deliver our demands for meaningful and just action on climate change at every level and in all possible arenas – local, regional, national and global.

We will take action everywhere – in our homes, neighborhoods, village squares, agricultural gardens, fishing grounds, sacred places, worship sites, community organizations, workplaces and schools.

We will make our presence known at our Parliaments, embassies and local government buildings; in corporate headquarters of carbon polluters and energy companies; at the ballot box, in the news media, on social media, and at the front doors of ALL those with the power to change the trajectory of climate injustice.

We will talk, sing, shout, stand, and sit. We will lobby, hold vigils, protest, blockade, and barricade. We will take action in the smallest villages, the largest cities, the highest mountains, in the oceans.

More here.

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Filed under Climate Change, Uncategorized, Women

Saturday, November 12th: Chicago in Solidarity with Standing Rock

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Filed under Standing Rock, Uncategorized