We have agency. We are the managers of biodiversity, in the age of man we have created for ourselves. We have a responsibility and a role as humans to rectify the relationships to nature. The incentive for doing so may be economic, intrinsic value, value for conservation, or a collective sense of responsibility to change our understanding of nature. Or, the driver could be pain, “sorrow, anger, mourning.” But as Stewart Brand states in his TED talk, “Don’t mourn. Organise.” (Brand, 2013)
For instance, a collective approach to managing biodiversity is demonstrated by Amphibian Ark (AArk). Almost eluding to Noah’s arch, the collective group of conservationists have a mission in “ensuring the survival and diversity of amphibian species focusing on those that cannot currently be safe-guarded in their natural environments.”
Ethics, values, moral obligations, pain and attachment. In this period titled the Sixth Great Extinction, Pooley writes in ‘Endangered,’ (2015, pg. 261) that “we should acknowledge the deeply entangled relations of humans and all other living beings and ecosystems.” Our values play a major role in shaping our choices. As does attachment and pain. As human beings, we relate, and deeply empathise with pain and suffering. But why is it that we often struggle to relate to the pain of endangered species, why are deaf and blind to this ethical demand for responsibility in the ‘face’ of the other. (Dooren, 2010, pg. 274)
Perhaps because we are struggling to comprehend the pain that is not of humans. As humans, pain is a strong part of our identity. The class discussion made we realise that pain is how we experience and remember things (childbirth, pain vs. pleasure of bodily desires) Humans relate to other humans, we have the capacity to empathise. Dooren builds upon the power of imagination to give a face to animals. He does so with the hopes that we can grasp their pain threshold; emotional, physical and sensory. He builds upon the case of corporeal responsibility through pain vs. psychology. Dooren argues that we are living in an interconnected world of human and non-human ecosystems, where the aspect of ‘functional extinction’ arises and as a result of this connectivity of ecosystems, or ‘worldlings,’ we are often ignorant to the threatening ripples of further disturbance and death in the world. He posits that “we all suffer and are brought into pain in a multispecies world.” Using the example of the Asian white-backed vulture, he demonstrates how the mass death of vultures as a result of chemical poisoning generatively opens the “entangled worlds of relationship and accountability.” Human cultures, such as the Indian communities reliant on the vultures for their economic, cultural and religious systems will we caught up in ripples of disturbance produced by the loss of vultures, highlighting that human ‘cultures’ like human-nature are multispecies projects.
Researching the case study, ‘The Pollinator Pathways,’ I observed how the project embodies this changed mindset where our relationship with nature changes; Nature is no longer ‘over there’ or it is not ‘the other’ – it is indeed us. As designers, it is confronting and hopeful to have the abilities to be active agents for biodiversity and conservation in farms, urban environments and the wilderness through working across networks. The project aims to design “cities as drivers of ecologies, rather than the ecology in cities.” This reminds humans of their role in The Anthropocene, encouraging the employment of ecological power to design for the sustenance of not only humans, but the planet.
Van Dooren, T. 2010, ‘The Pain of Extinction: Death of a Vulture’, Cultural Studies Review, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 271-89.
Pooley, S. 2015, ‘Endangered’, Environmental Humanities, vol. 7, pp. 259-263.
Brand, S. 2013, The Dawn of De-Extinction. Are You Ready? TED Video
p-next> accessed 20 March 2018
Pollinator Pathway, 2018, ‘The Pollinator Pathway’ < www.pollinatorpathway.com/about/> accessed 20 March 2018