Natur Is Violent

Someone has to feed the cubs. Image: Jon Connell/Flickr
When it comes to issues of environmental ethics, it’s common to argue from the gut, with advocates on any given side of an issue defaulting to vague, emotional statements about natural “harmony” and what is “felt” to be right. The “Bambi effect” and other reductive ecological representations have helped facilitate a Western view of nature as a placid space. In reality, nature is brutal.

By Kristen Gunther|MOTHERBOARD

In a recent article, Vox contributor Jacy Reese introduced a new, sweeping argument to the mix of emotional pleas for environmental change: that humans should contemplate and intervene in the experience of all suffering by wild animals.

Equipped with the viral story of Cecil the Lion and the subsequent debate over trophy hunting, Reese suggests that our obligation goes beyond the alleviation of human-induced forms of suffering, to the eradication of “natural agonies” such as wildlife disease and the pain visited upon prey by predators. He also unintentionally offers readers an instructive look at why arguing for environmental approaches through self-centered assumptions is foolhardy, arrogant, and often immensely destructive.

It is the height of narcissism to assume that humans can fully understand and predict an ecosystem and then drastically alter its functioning.

Reese neither explains why we have a moral duty to end animal suffering, nor indicates which forms of suffering we should prioritize. Using dramatic examples of eye-gouging and venomous attacks, he focuses on the pain suffered by prey animals as something we should work to alleviate, but offers no possible methods for doing so. This is perhaps unsurprising: it is not easy to solve the natural world’s fundamental tendency to be “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson put it, in the space of a paragraph.

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