In a world that’s under serious and increasing stress, the mission of Earth in Transition is to transform the way we relate to our fellow animals, to nature and to each other.
Why is it that the situation for animals just keeps deteriorating?
Over the years, things have just gone from bad to worse. More factory farming, more vivisection, more exploitation of every kind. Scientists say we’re already well into what they call a Sixth Great Extinction, with animals disappearing at a rate that dwarfs what happened when an asteroid hit the Earth 65 million years ago.
While there have been small improvements, like the reduction in the number of homeless pets being killed in shelters, we must acknowledge that the animal protection movement overall has failed in its mission.
That’s not a criticism of all the people and organizations who are doing everything they can to protect animals. It simply means that something deeper is going on – something that underlies our relationship to our fellow animals and the world of nature.
Our purpose on Earth in Transition is to get to the heart of what’s gone wrong with that relationship and to work together to address that.
“I Am Not an Animal”
It’s been called the signature cry of all humanity: “I am not an animal.”
Over thousands of years, we humans have sought to separate ourselves from the rest of nature, to see ourselves as superior and “exceptional”. We don’t even like to be reminded of the fact that we are animals. They are animals, we are humans.
But the more we try to separate ourselves from nature, the more we inevitably alienate ourselves from our own nature.
From our ancestors who, about 11,000 years ago, built the first temples that portray humans as superior to other animals … to philosophers like Rene Descartes who proclaimed that our fellow animals are nothing more than soulless, emotionless, thoughtless biological machines … to our modern society that treats nonhuman life as an earth-size warehouse of supplies, resources and spare parts, we have cast ourselves as the gods of this world, and all other animals as things that exist not for their own sakes but for ours.
A World of Denial
This denial of our own nature, coupled with our ability to do great damage to the Earth, is the recipe for the growing catastrophe that’s overtaking our world.
In 1973, anthropologist Ernest Becker published a Pulitzer-winning book The Denial of Death. Pulling together a lot of the work of philosophers and psychologists through the ages, Becker argued that human civilization and culture is basically a defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality – our own animal nature.
We humans, Becker noted, are the only animals who live our lives in the terrifying knowledge that we are doomed to die. And we spend our lives doing everything possible to deny this irrevocable fact. We create belief systems to support the notion that we will live on, one way or another, after we die. We build legacies and join groups through which our name will endure. We produce works of art and culture that can represent who and what we are once we’re gone. And we create for ourselves a symbolic or “spiritual” identity that transcends our animal nature – a “soul” that is immortal and indestructible.
Typically, our belief systems reinforce this symbolic self by saying, for example, that “animals” (meaning nonhuman animals) don’t have a soul.
Whether or not these claims have any basis in truth, we use them to proclaim that “I am not an animal” and to separate ourselves, at least in our own minds, from the other animals and from our own true nature.
The end result is an entirely dysfunctional relationship to our fellow creatures and to the planet that’s our home and our environment.
The Growing Catastrophe
As long as we’re in denial about our own animal nature, almost any effort to treat our fellow animals with the respect we grant each other is doomed to fail.
Just as it was a crime, only a few hundred years ago, to suggest that the entire universe didn’t revolve around the Earth, it is still almost as unacceptable to suggest that we humans are not the center of all life on Earth.
Even highly respected scientists and other experts advocating for the environment routinely leave nonhuman animals out of their circle of what needs to be protected rather than exploited. The bottom line is always the protection of humans.
But the more we protest our exceptionalism, the more we demonstrate just how insecure and helpless we truly feel. Meanwhile, the “unsinkable” Titanic that is our fragile civilization has already hit the iceberg, and we are taking on water.
The Way Through
As well as daily updates and commentary about what’s in the news, Earth in Transition explores the growing fields of animal cognition, terror management theory (the science of the denial of death), and how we humans are relating to our changing world.
While there is no simple way out of the trap that we humans have created for ourselves, there is a way through. It begins with the simple acknowledgement that we humans are animals, like all the other animals – with our own special abilities, just as other animals have theirs, but with the understanding that no species is fundamentally superior to any other.
With that understanding in place, we’re able to see that our health, our happiness and our overall wellbeing – not to mention now our very survival – is tied to establishing a meaningful relationship with our fellow animals and the Earth that’s home to all of us.
It all boils down to the simple age-old Golden Rule that tells us that we reap what we sow, and that it is in our best interest to treat other living beings as we ourselves would want to be treated.
From that simple understanding, everything else follows.