Tag Archives: religion

Non-human Strangers and Climate Refugees

Iiwi_BrettHartl_FPWC.0

 

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

Values Project: Anthropogenic Climate Change

William Jordan III: “Therefore the Winds: Climate Change, Values, and Technologies of the Imagination”

  • Wednesday, October 19, 2016
  • 6:30pm 8:30pm
  • DePaul University, Lincoln Park Campus, McGowan South Room 104

“Bill Jordan is widely recognized as an intellectual leader in the field of ecological restoration. In the course of a career spanning 39 years he has played a key role in the shaping of ideas about the value of restoration as a conservation strategy, a technique for basic research, and as a performing art and the basis for a ‘new communion’ with nature.”

“In a rant that anticipates by 400 years our concerns about the prospects of global climate change, Titania, the queen of the fairies in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” (II,i: 81-117) attributes the disordering of the climate to her husband, who, she asserts, has interfered with the rituals by which the fairies maintain the order of the world.  If we allow that fairies may be taken in this context as “people,” what Shakespeare is depicting here is actually anthropogenic climate change. And the passage reminds us of an ancient wisdom we should perhaps hasten to recover and put into practice at this perilous moment [in the midst] of climate disaster.”
–William Jordan on Environmental Critique

                                     

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Filed under Climate Change, theatre

“one of the great, great documenters of our eco age”

Posted by Tim Morton on Ecology Without Nature.

Judy Natal Screening

“Judy is one of the great, great documenters of our eco age. She’s screening some amazing things, which blew my mind when I saw them last year, soon in Chicago.”

This is a rare opportunity to see Natal’s new work—not to be missed!

See event details below and at chicagoclimate.org 

Judy Natal: Another Storm is Coming

  • Tuesday, October 11, 2016
  • 6:30pm – 8:30pm
  • DePaul University, Lincoln Park Campus, McGowan South, 1110 W. Belden Ave., Chicago, IL  60614
  • Room 108
    • Featuring renowned Chicago artist and educator Judy Natal
    • Keynote address and video screening
    • Videos: Breathed on the Waters and Storm Redux

Please re-post our Facebook event page asap please (Christine Skolnik).

It’s not too late!

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Filed under Judy Natal, photography, Tim Morton

Article: Martin MacInnes, Farm

I had not seen the family in twenty-one years, since my grandfather’s funeral here at the over-full cemetery just above the waterline, gravestones beaten and inscriptions weathered to illegibility.…

Source: Article: Martin MacInnes, Farm

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Filed under evolution, Literature

The Sustainability Delusion?

year-of-the-monkey-2016

 

Here is the position “paper” I delivered earlier this month at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) conference, After Biopolitics.  The paper tile is “Vegans Mock Humans Who Don’t Eat Gods.” Thank you so much to Tim Morton, Randy Honold, all the organizers, and all the participants for a great conference.  (See below the call for next year).

The human species is a set that defines itself through multiple and diverse acts of self-reflection. Among these acts is regarding ourselves in other species, though we also see through, or don’t see through, our misconceptions of ourselves and others. One technology we tend to elide, of late, is the comparison of humans and gods. We’re embarrassed by the association. If self-definition is multiple and diverse, however, why would we dismiss a category of non-human beings by which many human beings define themselves?

And maybe we protest too much. I wonder if we don’t secretly carry a torch for gods. Whether or not humans are particularly creative or destructive, many of us still feel inspired, at times, and at other times, possessed. Gods, archetypes, ghosts, emotions, and unconscious drives—I don’t meant to collapse these species into one another, but I do see common threads—alien invasion, alien intimacy, alien birth. (Thank you Dirk Felleman at synthetic zero for suggesting gods as emotions.) Few of us would deny that we have unconscious drives, but if so, then, could it be that we are still attached to gods?

Is belief in the reversibility of global warming and an infinitely sustainable society like belief in a coherent god? (This is Stoekl in Pettman’s Human Error). I think it is. Some of us are credulous in this sense. But sustainability, like balance, need not be universal. We don’t have to be Modern, monotheistic, or dogmatic in our attachments. Self-defining “right action,” including cultivating good habits and “gracious relationships” (thank you Bill Jordan at Environmental Prospect), may have some intrinsic value and broader influence.

CS

P.S. I really like the trope of gods as tools or machines. I find it genuinely persuasive and productive. Gods, demi-gods, and idols are surely products of metallurgy and alchemy.  I do believe we fashion gods. But this doesn’t preclude the possibility that we are tool-making tools, also fashioned, by industrious monkey gods (for example).

Call for Papers: Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.  Atalanta, November 3 – 6, 2016.  Creativity.

 

 

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Filed under Affect and Ecology, Animals, Art, Climate Change, ecologies, Environmental Ethics, Humanities and Ecology, Literature, Species, Tim Morton

Forum on Ethics & Nature: A Cascade of Loss, An Ethics of Recovery

 

DePaul Professor Liam Heneghan will be a featured speaker.

The following text is quoted directly from the Center for Human and Nature Website:

REGISTER now for the upcoming Forum on Ethics and Nature on Friday, May 2, 2014, a symposium co-hosted by the Center for Humans and Nature and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The year 2014 is the centennial anniversary of the death of “Martha,” the last passenger pigeon. The 2014 Forum on Ethics and Nature will mark this occasion by exploring the topic of extinction in non-obvious ways, balancing information and personal stories with ethical reflection about the possibilities of social and ecological recovery.

What are the new ecological realities in front of us and how do we respond to them with care? Topics include

◦                needed ethical deliberation about recovering species through various means (e.g., the current de-extinction “debate”),

◦                the relationship between species extinction and the destabilization and loss of culture, and

◦                establishing new relationships in order to work toward the recovery of cultural and biological diversity.

Click here to be taken to the registration page.  

Friday, May 2, 2014
9am-4:15pm
Chicago Botanic Garden
Regenstein Center, Alsdorf Auditorium

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Filed under Affect and Ecology, Environmental Ethics, Humanities and Ecology

Ecological Imaginings

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Ecological Imaginings: Aztec Human Sacrifice, Photographic Objects, and Future Simulations
 
Tuesday, February 11, 6:00-8:00 PM
DePaul University Art Museum
935 W. Fullerton Ave.
 
The DePaul Institute for Nature & Culture presents a visually rich, interdisciplinary panel featuring three unique perspectives on relationships among images, ecologies, and various types of networks. The panel themes range from Aztec sacrifice, through contemporary photography and philosophy, to neuroscience and future landscape simulations.
 
Why did the Aztec earth need to eat human blood and excrement to survive?  How do photographs work to both reveal and hide things; can we say photos themselves have their own, distinctive creative agency?  How do images help change people’s minds about the environment, convincing them of the importance of green spaces?  Come and find out.
 
The evening will also include plenty of time for discussion to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and student engagement.  The Public, Faculty and Students from all disciplines and interests are invited and encouraged to attend this perspective-broadening evening.
 
Three presentations will be followed by discussion: 
 
1. Kay Read, Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies, Ecologically Picturing Human Sacrifice: The first presentation relates human sacrifice in pre-Hispanic, Nahua (Aztec) culture to the concept of “trophic webs” (ecological webs of sustenance).  By briefly examining pictographic manuscripts and selected Mesoamerican agricultural practices, the presenter explores how an approach centered in materiality helps us understand why human sacrifice provided “food” in light of those trophic webs, and asks how these explorations might help us think through our own troubled relationships with the natural world.
 
2. Randy Honold, Assistant Dean of LAS and Instructor, Department of Philosophy, Photographing Objects:  The second talk reflects on photography within the context of speculative realism and the intrigue of the photograph as object, focusing on the presenter’s own photographs.  Among the philosophical/aesthetic topics of the presentation are 1) the relationship of “the photograph” to the history of photography; 2) a consideration of the hybrid “nature” of photography; and 3) the mysterious manner in which photographs both reveal and conceal their objects. The images in this talk make visible the complexity of ever unfolding ecosystems of objects.
 
3. Christine Skolnik, Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse, Imagined Ecofutures:  Employing a critical approach rooted in “realist magic,” the third paper reviews recent findings in the neuroscience of imagining the future within the context of landscape simulation The presenter argues for acknowledging the importance of the self in the process of imagining the future, and discusses images from the successful Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP) as a case study.
 
Presenter Information:
 
Kay Almere Read, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies (DePaul University), holds degrees in Art (University of Illinois, 1969), Religious Studies (University of Colorado, 1982); and History of Religions (University of Chicago, 1983, 1991).  She researches Mesoamerican cosmology, mythology, imagery, time, sacrifice, ethics and the interface of religion, nature and culture.  She has authored numerous articles and books, including Time and Sacrifice in the Aztec Cosmos (1998), and periodically posts drawings on the Institute for Nature and Culture’s blog at EnvironmentalCritique.wordpress.com.
 
Christine Skolnik is an adjunct professor in DePaul’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse and a faculty advisor to the Institute for Nature & Culture.  She holds a PhD in English (Rhetoric) from Penn State and a recent MA in Urban Sustainability.  She teaches courses in environmental writing and rhetoric as well as technical/professional writing.  Her research interests include sustainability, rhetorical theory, psychology, and neuroscience.  She is currently a contributing co-editor of the popular DePaul Institute for Nature and Culture blog, Environmental Critique.
 
Randy Honold is currently compiling a set of photographs that translate ideas of ecology and object-oriented ontology, teaching environmental philosophy, and blogging at DylarAddict.wordpress.com and EnvironmentalCritique.wordpress.com. 
 
This event is open to the public.  Parking is available at the Sheffield Parking Facility located at 2335 N. Sheffield Ave. and the Clifton Parking Deck at 2330 N. Clifton Ave.  For more information, contact Randy Honold at rhonold@depaul.edu, (773) 325-4928

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Filed under Art, Humanities and Ecology, Nature, Objects, OOO, Uncategorized, Urban Ecology