Last Wednesday, I was sitting in the Underground reading about how overpopulation is apparently not the source of poverty in developing countries and that the real culprit is colonization. And the entire time I’m just thinking, I wonder if anyone had calculated the carrying capacity of their ecosystem?
Hello I’m Kristina and I’m a biology major. (This is the part where you say Hi Kristina.) This is how I felt while doing the reading for this class last week. I did not think that taking Ecofeminism as a biology major would be difficult. It had “eco” in the name, which reminded me of ecology, an area I am very familiar with. It sounded cool, something I would like. However, I didn’t not expect to be tested by the material the way I was last week. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated the entire time I was reading. I wanted more information, I wanted data and facts. In the biology department, we don’t talk about human issues or starvation in developing countries very often, but when it does come up the tone is usually the same. The culprit? “Overpopulation of course. Those people are starving because they have exceeded their carrying capacity and they need to have fewer babies to get their population back in control.” I had never considered the reason to be anything else. After all, I spent the last few years researching overpopulation of white tailed deer. I know what happens when a species has no natural predator. Or at least I thought I did.
Last night I was talking to my friend online and she told me how sad she was that her boyfriend had hit a deer while driving home from work. My response was “Good, they’re overpopulated and destroying the forest.” But if you stood in front of me with a kid from a third world country and said, “He’s starving to death because there isn’t enough food for him.” I doubt I’d reply “Here, let me run him over with my car. His death will give the others a chance for more food and reduce human impact of the environment.”
In Ecofeminism through an Anticolonial Framework Andy Smith said “Saving people should be just as important as saving trees.” I find this quote slightly comical since it implies her reader base value animal/plant life over human life, while in my experience I’ve found it’s usually the opposite. Usually I’m the one defending animals. Saying that all life is sacred and that animal/plant life is just as valuable as human life if not more so because of all the trouble humans cause for everything else. It was funny to see the situation reversed.
One of the points that Smith makes is that humans are animals and therefore a part of nature. So if people believe in saving nature they should also believe in saving humans. I agree with this to a point. I do believe that humans are animals and because of that everything humans create in nature. I think that the more humans try to distance themselves from animals, the worse we become. But I also think that people use the “humans are animals” argument only when it is convenient for them.
Isn’t it in the nature of animals groups to oppress each other? A few days ago I was watching an episode of Planet Earth in which a family group of chimps attacked another family and ran them off their territory so they didn’t have to compete with them for resources. The attacking group even caught, killed, and ate several of the other groups young. You may be disgusted by this, but remember evolutionarily Chimps are one of our closest relatives. So if humans are animals, should we not expect this behavior and consider it “natural”? Then how much of our behavior is natural and should be expected? Then where do we draw the line and say, no that behavior has gone too far and is no longer natural and expected? Humans are animals. But owning that means that we need to accept all the traits that make us animals, and not just bring it up when we can use it for the sake of an argument, but then take it back when someone does something barbaric.
Am I biased? Probably. My weakness is my failure to be absolute. Ethical relativism is the idea that morality changes based on the situation. If you feel that killing one animal is more horrible than killing another, that is relativism based on the situation of the animal. (For example, my mother thinks that all cute animals like bunnies should never be killed but scary animals like spiders should get squished.) I feel that it is one the biggest issues in society today. I shouldn’t feel different about the termination of different species. If humans and deer are both just animals, and we are willing to kill a deer and justify it by saying they’re damaging their environment, we should be willing to do the same for a human. The opposite is true as well.
The issue arises when humans are perceived as “better” than animals. As if we are somehow worth more because we are more evolved than them, smarter than them. Because we are a keystone species we feel entitled to rule over “lesser” animals and in some cases even “lesser” people.
The thing is, I love animals. I would do virtually anything to protect them. But the idea that many people fail to grasp is that it’s not about saving one individual endangered bat. It’s about balance. The worth of the species as a whole outweighs the worth of the individual. This applies to humans too. If allowing some to die to make life better for the rest is what needs to be done, shouldn’t we do it? Or do we blind ourselves with compassion and try to save everyone and doom us to strip the world of all its resources? If we agree that the world is overpopulated (not necessarily everywhere but in some places), do we stop researching cures for new certain diseases and accept that our apex predator is now a mutation called cancer? Do we stop resuscitating people with heart disease if they are over a certain age? And justify it by thinking, well if there is one less person, then there is one less life draining resources? I don’t have answers to these questions. They are just questions that need to be asked.