| BC declared a state of emergency
on July 7th due to the wildfires
Raging fires, roaring floods… it can be hard to get out of bed in the morning if you’re fortunate enough to still have one. According to the UN in early August, there were already 65.3 million people displaced from their homes worldwide. The latest round of weather-related emergency evacuations means that tens of thousands of new environmental refugees are now swelling those ranks. Beyond Houston, densely populated areas like Mumbai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Sierra Leone, and even Northern Ireland and Windsor, Ontario were overcome by catastrophic weather events within the same general time frame. The statistics alone are enough to induce psychic numbing, and that is exactly why we have to change our thinking as we face the reality of climate breakdown.
“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will,” said Mother Theresa. And indeed she hit the nail on the head when it comes to our human capacity for a proactive response to overwhelming crises. Paul Slovic (University of Oregon) has spent decades researching “the dance of affect and reason.” His work has shown that while caring people will “exert great efforts to rescue ‘the one’ whose needy plight comes to their attention,” the abstract nature of big numbers fails to spark emotion or feeling and thus fails to motivate action.
The occasional donation to an emergency relief organization notwithstanding, it’s hard to accept that we may be programmed for apathy when it comes to grand-scale suffering. But that certainly explains the reluctance of so many to respond more conscientiously to the plight of animals also. For an awful lot of people it is literally ‘easier’ emotionally to experience moral outrage over the killing of one lion (like Cecil), than to be moved by the suffering of billions of cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc., that no one with the privilege of choice needs to eat for their own survival in the first place. It doesn’t have to be this way. But animal agribusiness counts on consumers distancing ourselves from the reality of individual personhood when it comes to the sentient beings they ‘convert’ into meat, dairy and eggs. As long as we remain under the spell of dissociation, we aren’t helping our own species face the increasingly uncertain future that lies ahead for all of us.
| Ironically, farmed animals like these Texas cattle trapped
by flood waters are major contributors to GHG emissions.
|Houston, 08/28/17 Jonathan Bachman/Rueters photo|
Slovic doesn’t have any easy answers to the problem of psychic numbing, which often includes the sense that we can’t possibly make a difference in the greater scheme of things anyway. But awareness of our thought processes is a necessary first step. Because the good feelings we experience when responding with empathy to an individual human or nonhuman may be lacking when we attempt to broaden our scope, Slovic suggests we not rely solely on our emotions to guide our actions. It is in our collective best interests to fight against false feelings of inefficacy because, as he so succinctly puts it, “even partial solutions can save whole lives.” Don’t be misled, he adds, by the fact that you can’t do it all.
Penny (above) jumped off of a truck bound for the slaughterhouse in Saskatchewan.
Of course time is of the essence and scale matters immensely, but systemic change doesn’t happen without individuals pushing it forward. Human-oriented relief organizations and animal-advocacy groups alike make a point of personalizing their outreach by telling the stories of individuals. They understand full well that compassion fatigue is exacerbated by abstract numbers. If you’re ready to take the next step and adopt a kinder, more climate-conscious diet, it can help to seek out the stories of farmed rescue animals on line. Better still, visit a sanctuary (like RASTA on Vancouver Island) and sponsor a special someONE sure to help keep you on track.
Directions: Cut or tear the stale bread into 1.5 inch chunks. Fill a large bowl with cool water and dunk the bread into it until just barely wet through. Squeeze the water out of the bread chunks immediately with your hand and place in a large serving bowl. Add the vegetables and toss. In a smaller bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over your salad, toss again, correct seasoning and serve. Buon appetito!
|A Well Fed World: Nourishing People, Helping Animals|