Four or five years ago at a meeting of my spiritual growth group at St. Francis Episcopal Church in San Antonio (my all-time favorite group ever, by the way, which is still going on) we got onto the topic of the worth of animals vs. humans. And somehow we got onto the question of whom would you save first, if both were drowning in a river headed for a waterfall, a stray dog or George Bush. Some of us (I dare say most of us) opted for the dog. And then of course we wanted to ensure that Cheney was out there struggling, too, so he could go over with Bush.
Church ladies! You never know what they might be talking about.
I came home later and posed the same question to my husband who said without a second's thought (if I remember correctly), Bush, of course. Humans are more important than dogs. Well, I said something to the effect that no dog could do the damage Bush had done and continued to do. I hate to say it, but I felt righteous, and I still agree with myself.
And I do tend to think that, while animals like humans protect their own first, they have every much as right to the planet as humans do, and, as my husband would probably agree, the planet as a whole, if we think of it as a finite sort of thing, would probably be better off without humans.
Anyway, today on DotEarth, Andrew Revkin's blog at the New York Times, I read of the death of Arne Dekke Eide Naess, the philosopher who articulated the concept of "Deep ecology." As his obituary writer put it, Naess believed that living beings "need protection against the destruction [wrought by] billions of humans." He opposed what he called shallow ecology which, he said, did not "confront [the consequences of] technology and economic growth."
I don't live as if I do, but I think Naess had it right. And for all his quick willingness to jump in after G.Bush instead of the poor dog, for the most part, I think my husband does, too. As Revkin reports, Naess and George Sessions, himself a deep ecologist and professor of philosophy at Sierra College in California, developed an eight-point "manifesto" to move his ideas into a more public forum.
Here they are:
1) The flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth has intrinsic value. The value of nonhuman life forms is independent of the usefulness these may have for narrow human purposes.
2) Richness and diversity of life forms are values in themselves.
3)Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
4) Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive,
and the situation is rapidly worsening.
5) The flourishing of
human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease in the
6) Significant change of lifeconditions for
the better requires change in economic and technologicalpolicies.
quality should be given more primacy than a high standard of
8) Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation to implement the necessary changes.
I confess to having difficulties meeting my obligation as laid out in number 8.
Being a wannabe deep ecologist, I recognize, and think we all must, that nature is by its very nature sometimes exceedingly harsh and exceedingly impersonal. While trying to soften it for ourselves, especially the better off among us, we have intensified the harshness not just for "nature" but for other human beings.
Anyway, as Revkin's post announces, the NYTimes has, in this day of newspaper cutbacks, organized a new environment-reporting team to push environmental matters to the center of our attention. ¡Three cheers and more for The New York Times!