Month: July 2021

Why Should We Care About The Environment? by Jamie Woodhouse

From the Sentience page on You Tube of Graham Bessellieu by kind permission of Graham

Nearly everyone cares about the environment, even if most people still don’t care enough. As well as asking “do we care?” it’s also important to ask ourselves why we care about the environment. Our answers might determine its future and ours.

One way of thinking this through is to consider our scope of moral consideration – our moral “circle”. What sorts of things should we care about morally? Which types of things and beings matter? One menu we can choose from spans the “centrisms”: anthropocentrism; sentiocentrism; biocentrism and ecocentrism.

An anthropocentric worldview focuses on humans as the beings that matter. An anthropocentrist would care about the environment because us humans need it to survive and to thrive. We value the light, water, food, shelter, energy and resources the environment provides for us, our children and future generations. We also enjoy the aesthetic experiences of being in an environment we’ve evolved to find pleasant. There are supernatural versions of anthropocentrism that focus on humans mattering morally because they have souls, are made in the image of deities or because we have been given dominion over other beings and the earth. There are also naturalistic versions, such as Humanism, which calls for universal compassion for all humans by appealing to solidarity and commonality within our species. However, under scrutiny, this anthropocentric view seems too limited. First, a short-sighted version of anthropocentrism is often blamed for the damage we have done to the environment – ravaging it for our immediate needs with scant thought for the future. Second, we already go beyond anthropocentrism by granting moral consideration to some non-human animals (often our companions and charismatic wild animals) largely because we know they can suffer and flourish and because we see that as morally important. Surely not only human suffering matters.

sentiocentric worldview addresses that challenge head on and suggests that all sentient beings should matter morally. Sentience is the capacity to have experiences – particularly to suffer (experience bad things) or to flourish (experience good things). The naturalistic (non-supernatural) version of sentiocentrism is sometimes called Sentientism, which I summarise as “evidence, reason and compassion for all sentient beings.” In this worldview, the environment matters because of its importance to all sentient beings – both those living now and those that will live in the future. Those beings include us human animals but also our companion animals, farmed animals and those that live in the wild. It might, one day, even include artificial or even alien sentient beings should we create or encounter them. Many people agree with this worldview in principle (of course animal suffering matters!), but balk at its practical implications for the farming, fishing and exploitation of sentient animals us human animals have come to see as normal.

Biocentrism goes even further and suggests we should grant moral consideration to all living things, so including animals, fungi and plants. Ecocentrism takes yet another step and demands moral consideration for living and non-living parts of the environment, often including abstract concepts like ecosystems, habitats, species and even Gaia – the idea that our entire planet is a type of self-regulating system, even an organism. While these worldviews might seem the most closely aligned with environmental concern, they too have problems. First, they risk prioritising things that we’re pretty sure can’t suffer (rivers, plants, ecosystems, populations, species) over beings we’re confident can suffer (like wild or farmed animals). Second, many of those who claim an ecocentric view still exclude many obviously sentient beings, both farmed and wild, from their moral consideration. That undermines their claimed moral expansiveness and exposes their environmental concern as a narrowly human one – a thin veneer over the anthropocentrism we discussed above. Third, if we genuinely cared about entire planetary systems in their own right, why would we care in particular about Earth and not any one of the other planets? The answer, of course, is that Earth is where all the sentient beings we are aware of live. Maybe many ecocentrists are really anthropocentrists or sentiocentrists deep down. Maybe ecosystems only really matter if they support human beings or other beings that can suffer.

We might wonder if it matters why we care about the environment – as long as we do care. After all, there is much common ground between these different perspectives. A healthy environment can be good for ecosystems, plants, humans and all other sentient beings. However, it’s important that our morality focuses very clearly on what should really matter – neither drawing our scope of moral consideration too narrowly or too wide. For me and millions of other Sentientists what matters morally is the suffering and flourishing, the life and death of every sentient being. Taking a Sentientist worldview seriously has radical implications for how we human animals live our lives, for example in transitioning to end all sentient animal farming, fishing and exploitation. Deciding to do just that would have powerful benefits for our environment, for us human sentients and for all the sentient non-human animals we share this planet with. That universal compassion for every suffering being, allied with a naturalistic, scientific approach, is what should drive our environmentalism.

Let’s care about the environment for the right reasons and act to restore it using evidence, reason and compassion.

Find out more about Sentientism here: YouTube  Podcast FAQ Community (all welcome!)

Jamie works to develop the Sentientism worldview, raise awareness of the idea and build global communities and movements around it. Sentientism is “evidence, reason and compassion for all sentient beings”. Jamie is a consultant, a coach and works on a range of non-profit projects related to the Sentientism worldview.,,

A Flight Of Fancy? by Richard South

A number of years ago I looked out of the window and thought I was ‘seeing things’. There, hovering by a hanging basket, was what appeared to be the minutest hummingbird. More than surprising, as hummingbirds don’t occur in the wild in Europe, let alone in England. I didn’t get a long or close look before it disappeared at high-speed and I decided it had to have been a butterfly. It was flying and feeding via its long, uncoiled tongue in bright sunshine. Wrong again! It was a hummingbird hawk-moth (of which I had never heard).

Writing this, I could be taken as an impostor. A former Richard South (1846–1932) was a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society who wrote about butterflies and moths and it was from one of his books (which were being reprinted as late as 1980) that I learnt more about what I had seen. My namesake described it as a day-flyer, which ‘delights’ in sunshine, although it could be seen on the wing quite late in the evening and had even been seen hovering and probing flowers in pouring rain. It likes a wide range of blossoms, including jasmine and verbena.

He described migration from more southerly parts of Europe as the most likely source of the moth in Britain. That is now accepted, although it is suspected that it may also be resident in this country. It is widespread in India, China, Korea and Japan as well as parts of the U.S. It can be seen flying from May to September but sightings may rarely occur throughout the year. Locations and timings of sightings seem to have changed over the years, associated perhaps with climate change.

It was first described in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus and its scientific name is Macroglossum stellatarum (Long-tongued, with starry markings on the abdomen) . The adult is said to live for about seven months and can achieve speeds up to 12 mph – making it one of the world’s fastest insects. Its wingspan is slightly under two inches. The brown forewings and orange hindwings are seen as a hazy blur in flight. The forewings are described as having dark stripes – but I have yet to see these as I have only ever seen the moth in flight and the rapidity of wingbeat is phenomenal. The wings produce a hum which is audible to some – I have yet to hear it. This July I had my best and most prolonged opportunity of observing the hawk-moth – lasting some 18 minutes. During this time,it flew continuously, never alighting – hence I still have not seen the stripes on the forewings.

Image by Igor Batenev via Shutterstock

Trying to photograph them is a little like trying to get a sharp picture of an aircraft propeller. I have found watching the hawk-moth almost mesmerising. Its body appears totally motionless in the air, surrounded by its halo of blurred wings, with its ‘tongue’, which is longer than its body, uncoiled and placed precisely in even the smallest of flowers. When it moves off to another flower, it can do so in any direction and it leaves me marvelling at its precise flight control.

A flight of fancy? No, this is real, a joy to behold and has rightly been described as a masterpiece of Mother Nature.

Richard South, (thumbnail courtesy of Andover Advertiser) has lived in north-west Hampshire for many years, where he is known for his interest in amateur dramatics, astronomy, the Church, cycling and the well-being of the natural world, including his fellow human beings.

Left Brain Or Right Brain: Reacting To The Climate Crisis by Verdura

Is your first reaction to another news story about the Climate Crisis to emulate the subject of Munch’s Scream? Science now tells us that there is no meaningful division between the left and right hemispheres of our brain, between analytical and creative/emotional. And yet the idea persists, at least as a metaphor. We all know some people whose immediate reaction to a problem is to draw up a decision matrix. And others who react by listening to music, looking at art, or just staring out of the window, waiting for an inspirational muse. The world of science already caters for those who learn and function primarily through logic and quadratic equation, building block by building block. But the Climate Crisis (as shorthand for the multilayered ecological problems that now face us) is of such gravity that we now need also to bring on board those who are primarily ‘right-brained’ in order for us to react in tandem to mitigate it. Another way of saying this is that Yang and Yin are both needed, a function of dualism. Hence the creation of Greeneralia. Are you suffering from Generational/General* Dread? And yes, it is a thing:
 Almost overnight, I’d turned into that annoying person who manages to bring up climate trauma in every discussion. And when I cried about the climate, it was real deep grief, like someone I loved had died. I also felt new levels of rage and scorn for people who didn’t seem to care about ecocide…. …there is nothing pathological about feeling eco-anxious; how psychiatric trauma sets in after fast moving climate disasters and slower moving ecological events; how social injustice – the kernel of climate change – affects emotional wellbeing; what individuals can do to cope when the dark scientific data in their head takes over; why the secret sauce for emotional resilience lies in community ties; and what kinds of system overhaul are needed to climate-proof the mental health system. Dr Britt Wray
Dr Wray writes not only about individual ecological angst but also about how we can harness that angst in the interest of community and our collective future. Watch her TED Talk on ‘How Climate Change Affects Your Mental Health’ For me, just looking at that expression of quiet determination on her face gives me some confidence that there may be a way out of our global pool of tears. Not just determination, but Kenneth Clark’s ‘Smile of Reason’?

Things You Can Do

-Follow the various links to find more about Dr Wray and her contribution to ‘wellbeing’ in the ecological sense. -Follow her on Twitter here and get a sense of her journey by scrolling back through her tweets -See whom she follows? I, for instance, discovered Daniel Rubin, who has the deceptively simple tag in a tweet:
Find Community & Reject Doomism: Tell Others To Do The Same

* Dr Wray is presumably intending us to read ‘Gen Dread’ as Generation Dread, (cf Generation X, Y etc). For Boomers like myself and others of previous generations, I hope she will not mind my including ourselves in this way as we of course share the dread. In fact, since the situation is unlikely to improve in our lifetimes, our situation is possibly worse – our hope lies in working for a future we shall not see.

Hot Off The Press, July 2021

The Climate Crisis Is a Call to Action. These 5 Steps Helped Me Figure Out How to Be of Use BY KATHARINE WILKINSON JULY 19, 2021 Dr. Katharine Wilkinson is an author, teacher, co-founder of The All We Can Save Project, and co-host of the podcast A Matter of Degrees. Her books on climate include All We Can SaveThe Drawdown Review, Drawdown, and Between God & Green.
Anyone who spends their days working to address the climate crisis, as I do, hears this question again and again: What can I do? On the one hand, the question brings me joy: so many people want to help, to be part of fixing the mess we’re in. On the other hand, I find myself feeling twitchy. That’s because I hear in the question a craving for simple answers to an enormously complex challenge—but even more so because I feel responsible for providing a good answer. Science tells us that wholesale transformation of society is urgent. I want all minds, hearts, and hands to be able to make their best contributions, and I understand the agony that not knowing how can brew.

I follow Dr Lertzman on twitter at @reneelertzman· Her pinned tweet, which introduces this TED talk, is “How do you feel about our planet situation? Do you feel a mix of complicated emotions? What does a pandemic do to our climate anxiety?”
Dr. Elizabeth Sawin @bethsawin· What might it look like to respond to our crises with a different worldview than the one that created them? A few months ago, thanks to an invitation from Oregon State Univ. I shared some of my answers to that questions. #multisolving In this talk, Elizabeth Sawin, co-founder and co-director of Climate Interactive, presents “Multisolving Our Way Forward: COVID-19, Health, Justice, and Climate
Another eco-heroine (and I am not deliberately limiting my choice to women, it is just that they are leaders in the field we are looking at this month. You know, all that yin) is Dr Katherine Hayhoe. Her bookSaving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World is due to be published on 21 September. Her website has a link to numerous video clips of her and she tweets as @KHayhoe. She has 185k followers on twitter, where she describes herself as ‘Climate scientist, Chief Scientist @nature_org, polisci professor, knitter, pastor’s wife, @joinsciencemoms. UN Champion of the Earth’

Revive Our World has launched a petition which you might like to sign:

Nature is in crisis.Join our campaign and demand legally binding targets to Revive our World.
“In 2020 the importance of having nature in our lives has never been clearer, but the crisis facing nature is huge. So huge that our wellbeing, our economic future, and our very survival depend on the choices we make now. If everyone works together, we have time to turn it around. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone. We need politicians with the power to make big changes to help us build the world we want to live in.” They are calling for: -Laws that protect wildlife and green space for people and nature. -An economic recovery that prioritises green jobs, infrastructure and sustainability. -Global agreements committed to solving the climate and nature crisis. -Farming practices and food production that’s also good for the environment.

Have you caught up with Green New Deal yet?

The Green New Deal is our map to a future worth fighting for.
This decade is a fork in the road for humanity. We’ve been following one path for decades, guided by rules written by people who do not have our interests at heart – CEOs, politicians, and the elite defending their own wealth and power. To survive, we have to forge a new path for our economy to protect and build the things people really care about: things like health, fairness and community.
You can read their latest updates here.
Do you know the Plant Life website? “Every Flower Counts [ran from] Saturday 10th to Sunday 18th July! Simply count the number of flowers in a square metre patch of lawn and we’ll tell you how much nectar they’re producing and how many bees they’ll feed with your own Personal Nectar Score. If you did the survey last May, you’ll probably find your lawn is now home to more flowers – especially clover and selfheal – and producing more nectar at this time of year. And you’re likely to spot more pollinators such as bees and butterflies too. When it comes to providing vital nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects, every flower counts. And your lawn can help provide that feast. The more wild flowers you have in your lawn the more nectar will be produced. If you took part in #NoMowMay, #LetItBloomJune or haven’t mown at all this year, you’re likely to have many more wild flowers and lots more nectar. From your results, we’ll calculate a National Nectar Index to show how lawns across Britain are helping to feed our pollinators. We’ll also reveal the top ten lawn flowers and show you how to increase the number of flowers in your lawn. Find out more about No Mow May and Every Flower Counts in this webinar by Dr Trevor Dines.
And, while on the subject of Plant Life, do you know Bug Life?

Help Buglife save the planet

‘If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse.’ Sir David Attenborough

And he did it – Bravo Jude! 103887 signatures on the petition this morning and Jude will get his debate.

Meet the schoolboy inspired by Extinction Rebellion who is walking 200 miles from Yorkshire to Westminster to lobby ministers about climate change

While most 11-year-olds will spend their summer holidays this year playing with friends and spending time with families, one schoolboy from West Yorkshire has very different plans. By Susie Beever , Yorkshire Post Sunday, 11th July 2021

Photograph courtesy of Yorkshire Post

Jude Walker is planning to walk from Hebden Bridge to Westminster to raise awareness of a petition calling for taxes on companies emitting greenhouse gases Aptly-named Jude Walker has mapped out a route to hike from the cobbles and canal towpaths of Hebden Bridge to the towering buildings of Westminster. Although only finishing his time at junior school this month, 11-year-old Jude has spent recent weeks undergoing ten-mile training walks and sending letters to dozens of MPs whose constituencies he plans to walk through on the ambitious challenge. Halifax Labour MP Holly Lynch is one of several MPs who replied to his letters, and has told him she would meet him at the start of his walk on Sunday, July 25. Jude Walker is planning to walk from Hebden Bridge to Westminster to raise awareness of a petition calling for taxes on companies emitting greenhouse gases Inspired by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, the youngster is carrying out the 200-mile journey, set to span over three weeks, in a bid to draw attention to a national campaign lobbying the Government to introduce harsher taxes on corporations who emit the most greenhouse gases. The so-called carbon tax would tax companies based on the amount of CO2 or other greenhouse gases emitted – with more charged for the more they emit. A petition for the tax has already garnered more than 33,000 signatures. “He just wants to see the petition reach 100,000 signatures so that it is discussed in Parliament.”

Courtesy of Yorkshire Post

Editor’s Note. This is an abbreviated version of the full article, which you can see here.

Microbes and solar power ‘could produce 10 times more food than plants’ , reported Damian Carrington in The Guardian on 21 June 2021.

All the components of the system exist, but Leger said they now need to be tested together and at scale, in particular the capturing of CO2 from the air and ensuring that used solar panels can be recycled. “For human food, there’s also a lot of regulation that needs to be overcome,” he said. Pete Iannetta, at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, said: ““It’s a really interesting concept – you are divorcing food production from land use, which would mean you could have all that land available for rewilding.” But he said food is not only composed of the main nutrients, like protein and carbohydrate: “There are an awful lot of secondary compounds that are important for your wellbeing.” Iannetta also questioned whether microbial foods would become mainstream: “For example, we have used algae for a long time as a potential food resource, but it’s still not widely accepted.”

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