Legal rights for nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations

 

For a while now, there has been  legal protection for some nonhuman individuals, endangered species, and ecosystems.

And it’s slowly expanding. For instance, earlier today Sandra, an orangutan at an Argentinian zoo, was granted limited human rights.

Nonhuman individuals, species, ecosystems, and future generations all need not only legal protection, but also legal representation. We need people who can give them voice in the legal and political system, and it needs to be institutionalized.

This is not only good for them, but for us too. We all benefit from a society where all beings – including future generations – have rights and protection. It will give us incentive to organize ourselves so that what’s easy and attractive is also good for life in general. And what’s good for life in general, is good for us. After all, we are an intrinsic part of the processes and dynamics of Earth.

I imagine a future society where this is a given. And where they look back at our time, and wonder how we could allow the cruelty to animals we see today, and an economical and production system that is set up so ordinary activities destroys our own life support system.

Cats and culture

 

Having lived in the US (small town in Oregon) and Norway, I notice a difference in how cats relate to strangers.

In the US, cats tend to be very friendly with strangers, to the point of coming up to greet me when I go for walks in neighborhoods I am not familiar with. In Norway, cats tend to be skeptical to strangers, and avoid me when I see them coming through the yard or when I am out on a walk.

In both cases, their behavior seem to reflect the human culture. In the US, people tend to be very friendly towards strangers. And in Norway, people tend to be polite and distant with strangers, and reserve the warmth to family and friends. This pattern seem quite consistent and obvious in my experience, and others – who have lived both places – report noticing it too.

I wonder if cats pick this up from humans around them, just as we humans do as a child?

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Vulnerable animal

 

One of the things that impacts me the most is the suffering of animals at the hands of humans. Like the cow I saw a picture of the other day, neglected, standing up to her belly in shit, looking back towards the photographer with big innocent eyes. Quiet, wordless, suffering. Not understanding what is happening to her. Complete innocence.

I see myself in those animals, and children and humans suffering in a similar way. I see all of us.

At times, we are all in that situation.

Vulnerable animals, without a clue about what is going on. That is what it all boils down to.

In our daily lives, we are – to a certain extent – in control and do understand. But if we look a little closer, we find that behind that thin surface is complete vulnerability and lack of knowing.

When we find this for ourselves, there is a great deal of liberation. We don’t need to hold onto stories anymore as an ultimate truth or answer. We don’t need to deny our complete vulnerability.

Instead, there can be a more receptive mind and heart. A mind receptive to the limited truth in any story. And a heart receptive to ourselves and others.

(If we have worked with our hara, our belly, we also find our hara more receptive, in this case to a felt trust in existence and life.)

As with other forms of investigation, it is a process of seeing and feeling what is more true for us. It invites in an embrace of (more of) the fullness of who we are, as human beings. And releasing struggle – in this case against seeing that we don’t know, and the vulnerability of our human self – makes it easier for us to notice what we are.

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Spirit animal

 

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When I was a child, I had a Big Dream about a black panther, and I realize later that it was very similar to shamanic experiences and connections with a spirit animal. In the dream, there was a connection with the panther as long lost friend, and someone who had immense wisdom, insight and ability to guide me.

The world is a mirror of what is inside of ourselves, and animals can be especially helpful in mirroring and evoking certain qualities in us.

When we journey – whether in dreams, shamanic rituals, active imagination, through using the whole of us as in process work, or even through voice dialog – we are often guided to exactly those qualities that wants to come into our lives more fully. Those that may have been disowned, or just temporarily forgotten. There is an infinity of sources for reminders, including animals.

What comes up is what is needed here and now, so will change over time. But some may have to do with longer term processes, unfolding over decades, and the black panther for me seems to be one of these.

For me, the black panther evokes a beautiful combination of polarities, maybe especially a natural confidence and relaxation, and alertness and explosive activity, depending on what the situation calls for. It is firm and gentle, cute and vicious, and follows its path with receptivity yet in a non-nonsense way and undistractedly. Its velvety blackness reminds of the fertile blackness and awakening of the belly center, which nurtures each of the qualities listed above.

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Shamanism is probably the earliest form for psychology, and from the little I know about it, it can be every bit as sophisticated as any contemporary western psychology. Judging from the earliest examples of rock art, it is a form of psychology that has been with us since before the dawn of civilization, which is humbling and also gives a sense of connection across time and universality.

I have worked with the black panther more lately, bringing its qualities into my daily life, and have found it a great support.I may find the black panther qualities in myself through images and movements, or just ask myself what would the black panther do?

Alex dead

 

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Alex, the parrot studied by Irene Pepperberg, is dead. I don’t know why this story – among all the other news in the world – brings up sadness, but it is probably because I have an especially soft spot for the lives of animals, and how they have been and still are treated by humans. The other species we share this planet with are one of the remaining groups to be included into the circle of us.

Alex, and many other animals studied these days, show us that many other species are not only very similar to us emotionally (why wouldn’t they be, when we share ancestors, when we share biology related to emotions, and when we display similar signs of emotions in similar situations?) but also cognitively.

In science, we justify experiments on animals (as substitute for humans) scientifically because they biologically are so similar to us, and yet justify it ethically because they are different from us. In science or society at large, very few point to that discrepancy, probably because it is convenient to not look at it too closely.

And including other species into the circle of us does not mean that we all need to become vegetarians or that we release all animals from captivity. It only means moving in the direction of treating them with more respect, remembering that they too have emotions and some cognitive abilities, and that they too want to avoid suffering. They are not so different from us in that way.

The golden rule applies here too. How would I have wanted to be treated if the roles were reversed, if I was that cow out on pasture, or that rabbit in the science lab, or those elephants losing their territory to humans?

How specifically will this look in real life? How will it influence how we treat animals in a range of different settings? That is something that will look different in different circumstances, and something that will evolve and change as we do.