August 10, 2010 Commentary
Time to Merge
I heard Jeremy Rifkin, author of Empathic Civilization, speak at Farm Sanctuary’s annual hoe-down last weekend. Beside his interesting thoughts on empathy in humans—that we are hardwired for empathy but need to take it to the next level and extend it to the planet and all creatures on it, developing “biosphere consciousness”—he spoke about two movements who have reached a critical juncture.
The first is the environmental movement, which is about preservation of species and biosphere, a “top-down” approach. Reduce our carbon footprint, and polar bears will hang onto their habitat for longer. Reduce fossil fuel emissions and slow climate change.
The second is the animal welfare movement. I avoid using the term “animal rights,” “rights” being a loaded word that can be used to paint animal welfare activists as crazies who believe chickens should have voting rights and dogs should live in palaces. The movement simply fights against animals being tortured or neglected by humans—not so radical. But I digress.
The animal welfare movement starts from the bottom and works up. Through this lens, each individual animal deserves deep empathic regard.
Now that factory farming’s impact on the environment is becoming more well-known, it’s time that the two movements joined forces.