The title of this post comes from a quote in a mini-thesis by Rafael M Santos (2011) “Ethical Responsibilities and the Environment’ in which he notes the Australian Aboriginal response to the commodification of land and animals as “much like putting a price on your own mother” .
In late February/March of 2017 the Vatican pulled together a Working Group to look at the current state of the world in relation to species extinction and global warming.
As the Vatican notes; The subject of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (biodiversity especially its Chapter 2), climate change, is estimated in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be on a course to destroy 20-40% of all biodiversity on Earth by the end of this century regardless of any other factors, but of course interacting with them. The living fabric of the world, which we are enjoyed in Genesis, Chapter II to protect, is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring.
Predictably the Vatican discourse continues along a familiar theme , how man should be the “protector’ of all living things for the purpose of their usage by man. As always, it is our ‘god given right’ to subjugate and destroy the other species on this planet as we see fit. But even the working group has to admit; such a philosophy is rapidly leading humans, as well as the other species on this planet, to extinction.
To its credit however, the working group has however , finally made the connection between global warming and biodiversity and the horrendous impacts both outcomes will have for both humanity and the planet.
Our desire for enhanced consumption grows more rapidly than our population, and Earth cannot sustain it. Nothing less than a reordering of our priorities based on a moral revolution can succeed in maintaining the world in such a way as to resemble the conditions we have enjoyed here.
Somehow we are supposed to believe that we are ‘superior beings’ to all other species on this planet; our ‘intelligence’ and problem solving skills are apparently gifts from one or other god, and thus proclaim our right to sovereignty over ‘nature”. The reality is that as a species we have demonstrated, over and over, that we are extremely limited in our selective ‘intelligence’ and an understanding of what matters, and our capacity to behave ‘rationally’. Our capacity for self-delusion is enormous.
Our species’ intellectual reasoning is a hardwired self-fulfilling congratulatory process that determines its successes using its own definition of what ‘success’ is. Such a process is clearly designed to allow us to continue to pat ourselves on the back with our species’ ‘progress’ and continue to collectively do what we have been doing to this planet for the past few thousand years , while the planet heads ever closer to massive extinction.
There is however a kind of blind logic to why we are progressively destroying the planet on which we stand: an internal circuitous set of arguments that permit all of us to legitimise the insanity of our actions.
As Jackson (2017) notes ‘The tendency to economic growth according to Schnaiberg (1980) is due in part to the competitive character of capitalism, such that corporations and entrepreneurs must continually expand their operations and their profits lest they be swamped by other competitors. On the other hand there is also growth logic within the sphere of the state, as state agencies and officials prefer growth over stagnation in order to ensure tax revenues-the essential fiscal basis of the state (Redclift and Woodgate 2010). Neither of these two drivers (corporate competitiveness, and the state’s need for growth, are in any way related to necessity or human survivability; they are essentially “nice to haves’ from a human perspective. We are in fact driving the planet rapidly to extinction for shiny little baubles of no value.
What is desperately and urgently needed then, is the incorporation of what Jackson (2017) refers to as the Biocentrism ethic into everything we as humans do..
Biocentrism is a life centered attitude towards biological diversity of the environment. The life centered theory posits that all forms of life have an inherent right to exist. It considers nature and all forms of life special in itself. Nature has intrinsic value or inherent worth apart from human appropriation. Biocentrism hence advocates for the preservation of the environment and all life forms free from human intervention.
Do we have the collective wisdom as a species to stop destroying this planet, to understand how our commodification of the world we live in is destroying all of us, to begin to undo the incredible destruction we have wrought on our fellow species in such a short space of time , and most fundamentally, to begin to respect all other creatures as our equals?