“Ethics in our Western world has hitherto been largely limited to the relations of man to man. But that is a limited ethic. We need a boundless ethic which will include the animals also.… the time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics. Ethics is in its unqualified form extended responsibility to everything that has life.” — Albert Schweitzer, 1924
Ninety years later, we have slaughtered countless millions of life forms and obliterated countless species, not out of necessity, but to have their heads mounted on our walls or their ivory or fur or habitat, for all kinds of reasons, heedlessness, obviousness, ignorance, indifference, “sport,” kicks. In the l950s when I was growing up in Bedford New York an hour north of New York City, the woods was crawling and pulsing with life, frogs, snakes, birds singing their hearts out, meadows swarming with dozens of species of butterflies, deafening cicadas. This was the case in most of North America. This kind of riotous abundance that was once everywhere is really hard to find anywhere now. We need to act on Schweitzer’s exhortation even more urgently now.