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Suffering Ecosystems

Within ecosystem decline and destruction lies immense, unfathomable suffering. Ecosystems are full of sentient life able to suffer pain, fear, discomfort, thirst, starvation, and distress, all very real issues caused by habitat loss. The life pulsing within ecosystems enjoys dependable shelter, species culture, social communities, abundant food, clean water, a lack of stress, and comfort. Since sentient individuals depend upon the non-sentient life within the ecosystem as well as the ecosystem's physical geography and biological processes, the destruction of any aspect of an ecosystem promises to cause suffering to those who are sentient. Oddly, environmentalists shy away from acknowledging this physical and psychological environmental suffering when it should be one of the mainstays of their campaigns and in their hearts.

Environmentalists will use an image of a polar bear seemingly stranded by global warming on an ice floe and a mountain gorilla who faces poaching and habitat loss. But they neglect to message how constant and deep the suffering in environmental destruction really is. The environmentalist communities are missing both the depth of ecosystem suffering and its powerful message.

Given the extent of the torment, it does not make sense for environmentalists to distance themselves from species' welfarist and rightist organizations. Environmentalists already practice species welfare and rights as a de-facto outcome of environmental campaigns. When they work to protect fauna and flora from starvation due to habitat loss, disease, invasive species, and displacement by humans, they are practicing a limited version of species rights. Why is it not just as important to them to oppose the hunters, fishers, and animal agriculturalists who destroy ecosystems, cause disease outbreaks, wounds, death, dehydration, fear, and stress? And what does the futility of a cow wanting her calf returned or the pain of wolves seeing their pack mates killed by aerial gunners mean to environmentalists? Displaced, chased, and hunted wildlife are homeless refugees. Pigs and chickens crammed into barren cages and denied anything socially normal in life should elicit the same response in environmentalists. The sick, the dying, the hungry, thirsty, and impoverished, all are characteristics of ecosystem decline, characteristics that should sound familiar since we readily acknowledge these conditions in human suffering.

Species and the individuals comprising them have a right to exist and play out their personal evolutionary drama. What happens to an individual of a species also happens to the ecosystem. If we care for one, we are required to care for the other. Environmentalist campaigns are operationally and ethically deficient when they do not acknowledge this dynamic. Advocates for other issues are bound in the same way, since the state of ecosystems determines the outcomes for social and economic justice and our economies.

In a positive trend, the environmental community is slowly recognizing that the production and consumption of food is at the heart of environmentalism. How food is grown, processed, transported, who owns what, what kind of values are applied, how inequitably the producers are paid, and who is doing what to which part of Earth in the agricultural economies of the world determine our relationships with Earth. The fate of ecosystems, the poverty and prosperity of people, and the morality of our consumer choices are linked.

The Gobi bear and snow leopard are in conflict with invasive camels, goats, sheep, and donkeys brought by nomadic peoples. They create desertification. And it does not matter whether we are urbanites or nomadic tribes. Domesticated individuals from other species killed for human consumption, and the grazing and plant crops that feed them, are the new fauna and flora that overrun and grossly distort the ecosystems that environmentalists are pledging to save. If they do not oppose animal agriculture, they support it.

Evolution and natural selection, in their cold and unflinching creation of life and death, delivered singular and wholesale disasters that befell the living. But these also serve a higher purpose that has produced all of the glory and grandeur of nature and the ecosystems that nurture us. Our current human ecology does not have such a grand design and purpose and no sense of geological scale. Human selection pressures are not producing an ecologically stable, diverse, or beautiful outcome.

Our human existence and human ecology are not so much planned things as they are a haphazard, self-indulgent, and limitless power grab. We have had the chance to prosper in a planned way, to find consensus on what a reasonable presence of humanity would look like, and move toward greater sustainability. Instead, we chose to be irresponsible in the center of our lives and responsible here and there a bit on the edges. We recycle but ransack ecosystems.

We stumble in our feeble attempts to correct our destructive relationships with nature. Relatively few people do most of the work of saving us from ourselves. If not for the leadership, good works, personal examples, and validation of our personal beliefs coming from environmental and other NGOs, the world would be a far sadder and tattered place. These NGOs, their staff, and volunteers are the authors of the changes already begun, the hopeful starts for transforming human ecologies. They have assumed a noble role: We are to be mindful about how we choose to live. I thank them for that and so should you. Support their work. But their biggest bottleneck to moving forward is their support for the current human ecology and their unwillingness to confront the sentience and rights of individuals from other species. That is where the environmental community's incompleteness originates, but does not end.

Excerpt from This is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology by Will Anderson

Copyright © 2016 Tribe of Heart Ltd.

We recycle but ransack ecosystems.

In a positive trend, the environmental community is slowly recognizing that the production and consumption of food is at the heart of environmentalism

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