Friday, June 10, 2016

Consumption Junction II: Empathy

Embrace Every Species...
Human consumption tends to ignore the impact on sustaining a healthy global environment (see last week's article).  On the other hand, human consumption at its core feeds off of human desire.  If we can channel human empathy to play a larger role in energizing these desires, global goodness would, no doubt, improve tremendously.

The ability to empathize with other humans, other animals, and even plants and microorganisms can serve the planet well. Empathy is about putting oneself in another's position and responding as best we can to accommodate the others needs balanced with our own.  This applies both to caring for individuals and communities of our species and others.  Of course, at the moment, when it comes to caring about other species, it tends to take the form of anthropomorphizing and caring for the cuddly creatures we keep for human benefit. Alas loving our trophy animals and plants kept in captivity does relatively little to strengthening the fabric of global goodness.

Humans first. Arguably, as Americans we celebrate to a great degree the end of slavery.  Sure there are still challenges ahead to leveling the playing field when it comes to economic disparity and human thriving, in general. One ought to consider the tremendous success reflected by our numbers alone; a population of nearly eight billion humans speaks volumes.  Still, we should be empathizing with those that are struggling and implement efforts to reduce population, improve living and working conditions, support fair trade practices, reduce barriers between "castes," and ensure fellow humans have opportunities for education and progressive, meaningful participation in global affairs.   That said, efforts focussed on human benefits are probably already consuming 99% of our energy, time and resources daily.  It's high time that we ratchet down our numbers and focus a bit more attention on the rest of the species in this world.

Perhaps, very gradually, some humans have begun to turn their empathy toward the organisms that contribute, past, present, and future, to the Earth's amazing living environment.  Take caution; there is a naturalistic fallacy in believing that how things used to be ought to be the target end condition. Nevetheless, how nature "ran" things before humans showed up should be part of a long term vision. Humans and human civilization are responsible for numerous destructive changes over the last 20,000 years, including many species extinctions.  Wouldn't it be better if we set aside enough space for all the other creatures of Earth to thrive as well?

...And Let Each Species Thrive in the Space They Need!
A progressive solution might encourage altering human consumption behavior to reflect the diverse conscious and thriving living states of other organisms.  Demonstrably, humans are innovative with our current technology to create all our products and entertainment without the need to keep captive or kill thinking creatures, in spite of our historical record.  The captivity, abuse and slaughter of all animals is simply unnecessary for our civilization to thrive.  Speculatively, maybe one day even plants will be recognized as organisms worthy of not killing.  3D Food Printing and micororganism cultures may be a path in the far future, and deserve mindful consideration.  For now as a global culture, humans need to do more to reach inside and empathize to draw a line in the sand of subjective ethics toward removing all individuals within the animal kingdom from our consumption menus and give them the space they need to thrive.

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