here’s a recent posting on My View by Cyril, the great photographer and champion of elephants. DVW heartily endorses this effort and hope it happens.
Connection with other species supports our humanity
Recently, a group of scientists and philosophers from Canada have urged the world body to give cetaceans legal rights under international law. This declaration of rights for whales and dolphins argues that because these remarkable beings know who they are and are self-aware, they should be protected as nonhuman persons. If this declaration becomes law, this would impact captive animals in theme parks, aquariums and other vehicles of entertainment. Killing them would be murder. If this law is recognized it would radically realign our place as unique on Earth because it would force us to acknowledge once and for all that we are not alone.This same declaration should be extended to chimps and elephants, for they too know who they are and pass the mirror test for self-recognition. More than 50 years ago, Romain Gary, who knew about the loss of freedom amid the concentration camps of World War II, wrote about the elephants, “They’re the last individuals.” For him the great herds marching freely across the last open spaces of Africa represented freedom. We humans continue to kill cetaceans and elephants, which are being ransacked for the ivory trade. It is time our species be brought to task for what we are doing to the so-called other. The other, we must now recognize, is part of our very psyches, for without them, without the great web of existence, we cease to be fully human.The Samburu of Kenya say that there is a seed of a human being inside each elephant. This relationship defines a relationship that is at once numinous, and totemic. The Samburu have known for millennia, as have all native people, that our psyches are enfolded inside each other’s minds and this latest urgings by “experts” in the dominant society is only a verification of something that runs very deep inside our souls: That we are not alone in our ability to mourn, be altruistic, share and transmit culture and know who we are as a species. This realization represents a Copernican revolution in the making for the dominant society. While tens of thousands of elephants are being killed for trinkets, while whales were killed for oil to lubricate ICBMs as recently as the 1970s, the Earth shudders for the life force.Bernhard Grizmek, who wrote Serengeti Shall Not Die, which should have been translated as Serengeti Must Not Die, wrote that only nature is eternal, unless we senselessly destroy it. In
50 years time, nobody will be interested in the results of the conferences that fill today’s headlines. But when 50 years from now a lion walks into the red dawn and roars resoundingly, it will mean something to people and quicken their hearts whether they are Bolsheviks or Democrats, or whether they speak English, German, Russian or Swahili.Our society has fantastically outdated and dangerous ideas about wealth and endless growth for a finite planet while we ignore the true irreplaceable wealth of what makes this planet precious beyond calculation. The loss of biodiversity could cost the world almost 20 percent of world economic output by 2050, but I surmise this loss will cost our children much more if we were to tell them, “This is where the wild things were.” This is what elephants and whales and dolphins looked like, but they have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Marvel and awe is no more. Something incalculable is happening to the invention of life. If the children of the future lose the ability to wonder, we will inherit a world with severely crippled children, and all the derivatives and balance sheets of the world will not make up for the lost revenue of the unfathomable and incalculable.
Before the potential of a planet we no longer recognize, we have been given the gift of acknowledging, of finally realizing, of finally admitting that we are not alone in the universe, that there are life forms that are our peers and that all life is utterly priceless. The Samburu say that without the elephants, we “will lose our minds. Only the crazy people will be left.” Without whales and dolphins and frogs and birds, we will no longer have able-bodied children.
Cyril Christo co-wrote Walking Thunder with Marie Wilkinson. He lives in Santa Fe.
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