Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Expanding Ethics to Include Animals?


Tonight is another night in a hotel room somewhere in a small town in New Mexico, bordered by train tracks and highway. I hear calves lulling in the trailer parked back of my bathroom window, and I can hear the train long after it is gone, singing on tracks miles up the mountain.

The sun sinks low over green hills and high cumulus clouds tilt and light on fire and everything tumbles into purple ashes until the stars come out. The cows say moo over and over again. There are ten each in the upper and lower half trailer lined with hay; they look innocent in a manger scene.

In the ecologist literature (article by David Barash) I read that we are all one, that every atom in me was once in other creatures, and every action I take affects everything else. Of course, we all know this from interacting with other humans, but the key to understanding our current culture is that we don't (yet) interact with rain like we do with a human.

We listen to weather forecasts of the rain's behavior, what experts think it might do. No one does that for other people. We know other people are too complex for 3-dimensional weekend forecasts. Or, take earthquakes. Great beyond comparison to a human body, but in scale of effect like a governor or a president or a war, maybe. Sure its possible to speculate about their arrival, but when they do arrive only their presence matters. Or cherry blossom season, when everyone goes outside to say hello to mother nature, a homecoming parade for a season and a life-force, back after a long sojourn to more southern climes. The Navajo consider it extremely rude to not greet the rising sun. Would you ignore your own grandmother?

"If we see individuals, we don't see that they are only intersections of an infinite tapestry of connections. So ecologists do not speak of the bear or the forest, but the bear-forest ecosystem."

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