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Stop Ecocide: Change the Law. Protect the Earth
Source: Stop Ecocide International (UK Flyer)

This is the seventh in the series of my reflections on the “shifts of being” proposed by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

#1: Reflections on the Nature of Being
#2: Reflections on Entitlement
#3: Reflections on Surety or Certainty
#4: Reflections on Control
#5: Reflections on Autonomy
#6: Reflections on Progress

Jem Bendell uses the word “exceptionalism” in e-s-c-a-p-E ideology to describe two kinds of exceptionalism that cause him concern: firstly, that we and our kin are different and better, or at least more entitled than others and their kin; secondly, that humans are an exceptional species in natural history (Bendell, p. 135). He notes that, throughout history, we humans have acted as though our family, community, country, race, or religion are more important than others outside our sphere. These assumptions continue to create conflicts between us at home and worldwide. We rarely question our participation in systems of oppression and our complicity in the suffering they inflict on others. The degradation and destruction under colonialism of ‘ordinary’ humans and non-human lifeforms persist to this day.

Bendell observes that this exceptionalism also manifests in another detrimental way when people think that their difference as ‘exceptional’ beings will spare them from suffering the same fate as the rest of humanity. They act as though building bunkers, moving to New Zealand, buying farmlands, and such like, will give them an edge over the rest of us when catastrophe strikes. In this way, they lose opportunities for collaboration with ‘ordinary’ humans for solutions to our shared predicament.

The grandest exceptionalism is our story of humanity being separate, and completely different, from the natural world (Bendell, p. 137). This assumption is evident in some religions and in secular cultures. When we believe this to be true, we open the door to the destruction of non-human lifeforms and the natural world. Bendell invites us to answer the question ‘Why did humanity destroy so much life on earth?’

I have never considered myself as a member of the ‘exceptional’ class of human beings. Still, I cannot deny my own assumption that being human places me above other lifeforms on our planet. Raised as a Roman Catholic, I believed that the Hebrew/Christian God had created our species to have dominion over the natural world. I never questioned our destructive ways in the name of human sustenance and progress. I do not recall the defining moment when I became aware of my participation and complicity in the degradation of Earth’s web of life. My relationship with Mother Nature had to change. Is it too late for our species?

I understand not the ways of humankind, Child of Men. It is the Monarch Butterfly who speaks. For more than fifty generations now, our numbers grow fewer and fewer. The days of summer are hotter; the days of winter are colder. Our forest habitats during winter are disappearing. The milkweed plant that our young caterpillars feed on is also disappearing. Our future lies in the hands of Men. We’re endangered, they say.

Our adult life is fleeting, just up to five weeks, if all goes well. With a wingspan of a mere four inches, we appear fragile and insignificant in the eyes of Men. Tell me Child of Men, without your machines, who among you can travel 1,200 to 2,800 miles or more across this vast continent, flying up to 100 miles a day? Yet, our hardiness matter little.

We seek neither glory nor power. We are pollinators in Earth’s web of life. It is our destiny. Men take our work for granted. All pollinators are now endangered, they say.

What will your world be like without our kind, Child of Men?

VIDEO: Endangered Migration: A Monarch Butterfly Story
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), August 29, 2022