Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lopez and Williams on Eco Ethics

I stumbled upon these quotes from two powerful writers in just one day. They perfectly frame my book's project, and hit at the heart of a subject I've been trying hard to flush out and express -- namely, how hard it is for humans to act ethically toward other species. What do you think?

“Because mankind can circumvent evolutionary law, it is incumbent upon him, say evolutionary biologists, to develop another law to abide by if he wishes to survive, to not outstrip his food base. He must learn restraint. He must derive some other, wiser way of behaving toward the land. He must be more attentive to the biological imperatives of the system of sun-driven protoplasm upon which he, too, is still dependent. Not because he must, because he lacks inventiveness, but because herein is the accomplishment of the wisdom that for centuries he has aspired to. Having taken on his own destiny, he must now think with critical intelligence about where to defer."

"No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s own culture but within oneself."
 -- from Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez


"Most people are not comfortable making a connection between racism and specism or the ill treatment of human beings and the mistreatment of animals. We want to keep our boundaries clean and separate. But isn't that the point, to separate, isolate, and discriminate? We create hierarchies, viewing life from the top down, top being, of course, God, then a ranking of human races, and so our judgments move down 'the Great Chain of Being' until we touch rocks. This is the attitude of power, and it hinges on who is in control. Who has power over whom? How does this kind of behavior infiltrate the psyche of a culture? And what are the consequences of scala natura?"

"Arrogance is arrogance, and cruelty committed to a person or an animal is cruelty. We would rather not think too much about 'what is being done to those outside the sphere of the favored group,' yet I believe it is time in the evolution of our imagination to make a strong case for the extension of our empathy toward the Other."

— from Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams

4 comments:

Aesthetic Flora said...

I will be looking for those books Ben to read further...most thought provoking

Sadie said...

Those two quotes are pretty much my religion. Just wondering...do you eat meat? And if you do, how does that work for you in the big picture? I'm not condemning or condoning the consumption of animals. I just want to know how others make sense of it all...

Gaia Gardener: said...

The first paragraph of the Barry Lopez quote is particularly thought provoking. "Having taken on his own destiny...." We're like little children about that - we want the fun parts, but not the responsibilities. I've never read "Arctic Dreams", but I may have to add it to my ever growing pile to be read.

You're doing great work. Keep it up! Cynthia

Benjamin Vogt said...

Sadie -- I eat meat, and it's complicated. Everything humans do is rife with ethical complications. Alas.
Cynthia -- I admit I tried to read Arctic Dreams a decade ago and couldn't; it's easier for me to take nuggets from it than the whole. Might be my fault, not his.