Note — Apr 21, 2019

It’s Wrongheaded to Protect Nature with Human-Style Rights

Human rights were rarely truly equal (as attested by the fights various minorities had to take on), and it does a disservice to our “varied partners in the dance of life” and to ourselves to base our thinking on a belief in our superiority and centrality, we must instead see ourselves as entangled “in the midst of a lively materiality.”

Tempting as it is, this move must be resisted. For one thing, human rights have proven to be exclusionary – even within our own species. Its emergence as a set of legal and moral norms betrays the fact that the white, European, male property-owner is the paradigm case of ‘the human’: others, historically, have had to fight even to be seen as fully capable of bearing rights. […]

Perhaps we can find ways of understanding ourselves as entangled partners, and sometimes co-sufferers, with nonhuman animals, beings and systems in a ‘more-than-human world’, as the gender scholar Astrida Neimanis at the University of Sydney put it in an article in 2014. […]

Perhaps we should not extend outwards from ourselves, so much as question humanity’s entitlement to act as a model. After all, it is a hubristic belief in our own singularity and exceptionalism that’s partly responsible for destroying the planet.