Is it possible to create a justice that encompasses other species? – 01/06/2023 – Darwin and God

I wrote yesterday on this Sheet about the new version of the concept of “planetary boundaries” proposed by researchers such as the Swede Johan Rockström. Roughly speaking, the idea is to formulate, in a quantitative way, limits of humanity’s action with regard to the use of resources and preservation of the characteristics of the biosphere. If these limits are crossed, it means that we are pushing the Earth towards a state where the self-regulation of such characteristics is dangerously close to spiraling out of control, threatening us all.

What is new in the formulation of boundaries is to include benchmarks that are not only “safe” for the biosphere, but also “fair”. And, at this point, Rockström’s team included in the package the concept of justice not only in relation to the most vulnerable communities in the face of climate change, for example, but also the so-called interspecies justice. “Interspecies justice aims to protect humans, other species, and ecosystems by rejecting human exceptionalism,” the article reads. That is, rejecting the idea that only the interests of human beings matter when we think in ethical terms.

The idea seems to me — pardon the pleonasm — eminently fair, intuitively “correct”. It’s basically the right thing to do, in short. But the implications are a bit complicated to define, as the author of an article commenting on the new planetary boundaries points out for the scientific journal Nature. Stephen Humphreys of the London School of Economics and Political Science observes: “Human exceptionalism is rejected, but it is not clear what should take its place.”

The discussion is not exactly new. Many philosophers and jurists in developed countries already speak, for example, of granting basic rights similar to human rights — not to be imprisoned against their will and not to be killed, for example — to animals with a sophisticated mental and social life. , such as great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales. When we think in terms of ecosystems and biodiversity, however, things get much more complicated.

Is it “fair” to deforest 100 or 1,000 hectares to open a new gated community in the interior of São Paulo when we could simply build taller buildings in the center of the city, for example? Should the sale of pedigree dogs and cats be strictly prohibited, since the breeding of these animals is proven to produce individuals with chronic diseases of hereditary origin?

There are no easy answers there, and the economic forces behind animal trafficking, deforestation and so many other factors that encourage the violation of planetary boundaries are gigantic. But it seems safe to me to say that the reasons for thinking that anthropocentrism is the obvious ethical choice are becoming less and less compelling.

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