Climate Chaos, Climate emergency, Colonialism, Ecocide, Exceptionalism, Exceptionalism in Jem Bendell’s e-s-c-a-p-E Ideology, Monarch Butterfly, Systems of Oppression, World Wildlife Fund (Video)
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?’Continue reading