From: Tom Atlee [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2008 8:54 AM To: undisclosed list Subject: Evolving into a Bigger Us with Nature Dear friends, One of the main trends in evolution is towards more inclusive whole systems -- the evolution of entities which "include and transcend" more primary entities. One popular map of this hierarchy of inclusion goes as follows: * Atoms include -- and are "more than" -- subatomic particles. * Molecules include -- and are "more than" -- atoms. * Cells include -- and are "more than" -- molecules. * Complex animals and plants include -- and are "more than" -- cells. * Societies include -- and are "more than" -- us individuals who make them up. In the last several hundred years, human societies and systems have developed and spread to global proportions. As we have collectively reached and encountered the limits of Earth and the demands of relationship in order to function, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is no "Other" and no "Away". We are all interdependent kin, alive together here in this one planetary home. We Are All. In This. Together. Martin Luther King, Jr., declared forty years ago: We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." And people around the world now celebrate Interdependence Day <http:// www.co-intelligence.org/interdependenceday.html> instead of Independence Day. Evolutionary pressure is building to include more varieties of people, species, and living systems within our definition of "us". I recently ran across two very intriguing news items I share with you below: First, Ecuador's Constitutional Assembly is proposing that natural communities and ecosystems have rights, thus initiating the first national legal system to include rights for both human and natural communities. Second, the Spanish Parliament voted last month to grant limited legal rights to our closest biological relatives, the great apes -- chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans, thus becoming the first nation to give legal rights to other species. Both of these pioneering initiatives go beyond laws governing animal abuse and species extinction, two earlier steps on the path. We also find new sciences like permaculture and biomimicry embodying an emerging respect for and partnership with the wisdom of nature. Some interesting videos -- which you'll find at the end of this posting -- also indicate an increasingly positive relationship with nature. This process of envisioning an increasingly inclusive and functional "us" is and will be slow for society overall. While as individuals we can realize the one-ness of all creation in an instant of insight, a society has to incorporate such a realization into the fabric and logic of its functioning as a complex system. That takes some reflection, creativity, trial and error, conflict... It is not an easy task. We've seen it with the anti-slavery, civil rights, and human rights movements even within our own species. But it is becoming increasingly obvious that rejecting our kinship with other organisms and natural systems is killing us. So our relationship with nature is now a matter of grave and growing concern. I find it useful to view this building up of such pressure in, around, and among us as a natural evolutionary process, a marker of impending transformation, part of a story that has been going on for 13.7 billion years -- a story, signficantly, that we are very much active players in. Evolution wasn't something that happened way back when, that has nothing to do with us. Evolutionary Transformations R Us. Similarly, I find it instructive to contemplate how human culture emerged into self-consciousness out of embeddedness in nature. Early human cultures honored and ritualized the human relationship, not so much with nature as an abstraction, but with the living beings, organisms, and systems of their local place and experience -- and they had (and have) a very inclusive sense of what is "alive". As human society grew more complex, breaking into interwoven functional roles and expanding into ever-complexifying civilization, our experience of nature has become more distant, abstract, materialistic, utilitarian, and our honoring of the source of Life has shifted into mystical, theistic, or Western scientific modes of engagement -- with all the resulting blessings and disasters we now see all around us. Evolution has thus brought us, step by step, face to face with the challenge of weaving vital human-nature connections newly for our more complex societies. We are about to become a new form of life. Together. Do it or die. Millions of efforts by Life to create more inclusive living systems don't work out, and go extinct. The one we're involved in demands -- and has available to it -- a much broader palette of individual and collective human consciousness than Life has ever had before -- different varieties and levels of individual and collective awareness, intelligence, wisdom, compassion, choice, etc. That's the Big Picture of the work so many of us are involved in. The impulse for inclusion is blowing in the wind. What we do with it will make all the difference in the world. Especially for the human species. And time is of the essence. Coheartedly, Tom =============== Ecuador Constitutional Assembly Votes to Approve Rights of Nature In New Constitution July 7, 2008 http://tinyurl.com/6jpepp Today, the <http://www.celdf.org/>Community Evironmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) announced that Ecuador became the first nation in the world to shift to rights-based environmental protection. There was a time when people were considered property (slaves) and this idea is no longer generally accepted in the developed world. Yet, Ecuador is the first country to begin to codify in its Constitution the concept that nature is not just property, but has an inherent right to exist. On July 7, 2008, the Ecuador Constitutional Assembly - composed of one hundred and thirty (130) delegates elected countrywide to rewrite the country's Constitution - voted to approve articles for the new constitution recognizing rights for nature and ecosystems. "If adopted in the final constitution by the people, Ecuador would become the first country in the world to codify a new system of environmental protection based on rights," stated Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. ... Over the past year, the Legal Defense Fund has been invited to assist Delegates to the Ecuador Constitutional Assembly to re-write that country's constitution. Delegates requested that the Legal Defense Fund draft proposed Rights of Nature language for the constitution based on ordinances developed and adopted by municipalities in the United States. The Legal Defense Fund has now assisted communities in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Virginia to draft and adopt new laws that change the status of natural communities and ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities. Those local laws recognize that natural communities and ecosystems possess an inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that residents of those communities possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of those ecosystems. In addition, these laws require the local governments to remedy violations of those ecosystem rights. In essence, these laws represent changes to the status of property law, eliminating the authority of a property owner to interfere with the functioning of ecosystems and natural communities that exist and depend upon that property for their existence and flourishing. The local laws allow certain types of development that do not interfere with the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish. In the past, I've been involved in <http://www.celdf.org/>CELDF's Democracy School programs in Seattle and written about this kind of <http://www.onenw.org/toolkit/onelist/is-rights-based-organizing-a- future-strategy-for-environmental-activism/>rights-based organizing for ONE/Northwest's newsletter. It makes good background reading on the Democracy School movement. You can also watch a lecture by <http://www.idealog.us/2006/08/thomas_linzey_l.html>CELDF's Thomas Linzey given in Seattle in 2005 on YouTube. Ecuador's efforts stand in stark contrast to what happened in <http:// www.nader.org/opinions/oe6.19.96.html>South Africa's Constitution where transnational corporations were able to push through clauses giving corporation the same rights as people. ============== WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS EXTEND TO NONHUMANS By Donald G. McNeil Jr. New York Times July 13, 2008 <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/13/weekinreview/13mcneil.html> ...The environment committee of the Spanish Parliament [voted] last month to grant limited rights to our closest biological relatives, the great apes -- chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. The committee would bind Spain to the principles of the Great Ape Project <http://www.greatapeproject.org/>, which points to apes' human qualities, including the ability to feel fear and happiness, create tools, use languages, remember the past and plan the future. The project's directors, Peter Singer, the Princeton ethicist, and Paola Cavalieri, an Italian philosopher, regard apes as part of a "community of equals" with humans. If the bill passes -- the news agency Reuters predicts it will -- it would become illegal in Spain to kill apes except in self-defense. Torture, including in medical experiments, and arbitrary imprisonment, including for circuses or films, would be forbidden. The 300 apes in Spanish zoos would not be freed, but better conditions would be mandated. What's intriguing about the committee's action is that it juxtaposes two sliding scales that are normally not allowed to slide against each other: how much kinship humans feel for which animals, and just which "human rights" each human deserves. We like to think of these as absolutes: that there are distinct lines between humans and animals, and that certain "human" rights are unalienable. But we're kidding ourselves. In an interview, Mr. Singer described just such calculations behind the Great Ape Project: he left out lesser apes like gibbons because scientific evidence of human qualities is weaker, and he demanded only rights that he felt all humans were usually offered, such as freedom from torture -- rather than, say, rights to education or medical care. Depending on how it is counted, the DNA of chimpanzees is 95 percent to 98.7 percent the same as that of humans. Nonetheless, the law treats all animals as lower orders. Human Rights Watch has no position on apes in Spain and has never had an internal debate about who is human, said Joseph Saunders, deputy program director. "There's no blurry middle," he said, "and human rights are so woefully protected that we're going to keep our focus there." Meanwhile, even in democracies, the law accords diminished rights to many humans: children, prisoners, the insane, the senile. Teenagers may not vote, philosophers who slip into dementia may be lashed to their beds, courts can order surgery or force-feeding. Spain does not envision endowing apes with all rights: to drive, to bear arms and so on. Rather, their status would be akin to that of children. Ingrid Newkirk, a founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals <http://www.peta.org/>, considers Spain's vote "a great start at breaking down the species barriers, under which humans are regarded as godlike and the rest of the animal kingdom, whether chimpanzees or clams, are treated like dirt." Other commentators are aghast. Scientists, for example, would like to keep using chimpanzees to study the AIDS virus, which is believed to have come from apes. Mr. Singer responded by noting that humans are a better study model, and yet scientists don't deliberately infect them with AIDS. "They'd need to justify not doing that," he said. "Why apes?" Spain's Catholic bishops attacked the vote as undermining a divine will that placed humans above animals. One said such thinking led to abortion, euthanasia and ethnic cleansing. But given that even some humans are denied human rights, what is the most basic right? To not be killed for food, perhaps? Ten years ago, I stood in a clearing in the Cameroonian jungle, asking a hunter to hold up for my camera half the baby gorilla he had split and butterflied for smoking. My distress -- partly faked, since I was also feeling triumphant, having come this far hoping to find exactly such a scene -- struck him as funny. "A gorilla is still meat," said my guide, a former gorilla hunter himself. "It has no soul." So he agrees with Spain's bishops. But it was an interesting observation for a West African to make. He looked much like the guy on the famous engraving adopted as a coat of arms by British abolitionists: a slave in shackles, kneeling to either beg or pray. Below it the motto: Am I Not a Man, and a Brother? Whether or not Africans had souls -- whether they were human in God's eyes, capable of salvation -- underlay much of the colonial debate about slavery. They were granted human rights on a sliding scale: as slaves, they were property; in the United States Constitution a slave counted as only three-fifths of a person. As Ms. Newkirk pointed out, "All these supremacist notions take a long time to erode." She compared the rights of animals to those of women: it only seems like a long time, she said, since they got the vote or were admitted to medical schools. Or, she might have added, to the seminary. Though no Catholic bishop would suggest that women lack souls, it will be quite a while before a female bishop denounces Spain's Parliament....
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