A Reflection on Animals, Nature and the Human Condition: The Spirituality of One Health

A REFLECTION ON ANIMALS, NATURE AND THE HUMAN CONDITION:

THE SPIRITUALITY OF ONE HEALTH

By Dr. Michael W. Fox

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” –Helen Keller.

Once all rivers ran clear, free and clean and the pure, sweet air sang through forests and grasslands: Food for the human spirit, body and soul as was all else the good Earth provided, engendering in our ancestors an abiding sense of thanksgiving, kinship, and reverence for all beings, animal and plant. That was long before the enslavement of man and beast; of genocide, ecocide, the fur trade, the timber, oil and cattle barons, moguls of mining and industry and the relentless drive of conquest, colonialism and empire building under political, economic, religious and military hegemony.

Once the springs from mountain valleys were pure but now the water is contaminated from the chemicals in the rain, air and snow the forested slopes and peaks collect and are no longer neutralized by the microorganisms and mineral filters in the valley floor because most have been destroyed and disrupted by human agricultural, mining and other activities ignorant of how Nature can help us.

We have changed our minds and ways, losing that spiritual connectedness to all that was once held sacred as witness the rising singular and collective violence, greed, prejudice (from racism to speciesism), hatred, delusion and psychosis in modern times. Many of the accepted norms of today, especially in our treatment of animals and Nature, would have been unthinkable to any civilized society. I do not link our early gatherer-hunter ancestors with the mythical “noble savage” but acknowledge their adaptability, social cooperation, empathy, indigenous ecological knowledge and transgenerational wisdom were essential elements of survival. Yet this is not to deny that some peoples, genetically and culturally/epigenetically, were less compassionate or cruel than others.

Dystopia, dysbiosis and dysphoria go hand in hand and we are challenged to face political corruption, coercion, loss of vision ( beyond “conquering ” outer Space) and the documented decline in cognitive ability, critical thinking and related IQ (Technology Is On The Rise, While IQ Is On The Decline – Forbes https://www.forbes.com › sites › 2020/04/29 › ).—and ultimately, our collective lack of reason and self-restraint.

The recovery of our humanity and sanity to make informed decisions for the greater good and the good of the Commons will help heal us, the planet and all our relations. This One Health initiative must be the primary agenda of civil society which I pray every nation state and community will embrace and include under the rule of law..( For details visit https://www.onehealthinitiative.com), Nature is not something that is separate from us: We are part of Nature. When we poison the environment is it no surprise to find poisons in mothers’ wombs and milk.? Taking a “moral inventory” in an amoral technocracy that has no bioethical foundation or vision of One Health is as meaningless as it is in any immoral autocracy. The hubris of science that promotes eugenics, exploiting and “improving” on Nature and taking the law into its own hands must be tempered by the precautionary principle, respect for the laws of Nature and the wisdom of humility.

Over-population, consumption and waste and pollution of natural resources would be better controlled voluntarily than by Nature’s various correctives such as plagues, pestilence, famine and our endless wars against each other as well as pests and diseases which we bring upon ourselves. The COVID-19 pandemic and Climate Change are wakeup calls to change our egocentric and human-centered (anthropocentric) world views and associated economy, ways of living and expectations, to one that is eco-centric: A consciousness that is more emotionally aware in a co-evolving communion with the life community of planet Earth. We may then be worthy of bearing the self-anointed title of Homo sapiens, Man the wise.

The current global extinction of species and loss of natural biodiversity are anthropogenic, our existential ignorance and inhumanity being contributing factors for many centuries. Therefore, we also need to take immediate steps to prevent the extinction of our humanity. Otherwise, the surviving species in human form may not be recognizable as being human in any spiritual, empathic and ethical sense but rather, biologically, as a planetary parasitic infestation.

The reality of Nature, where one species kills and consumes, parasitizes or otherwise exploits others is seen by some as the tragedy of reality and evidence that there is no God while others justify such behavior themselves, exploiting animals variously for food, labor, fur, and for developing vaccines and profitable drugs for an at-risk and sickening human populace. According to a July 15,2021 report in the science journal Nature, the US government is investing heavily to breed more monkeys at the national facilities that house primates for biomedical research. The goal is to offset an ongoing shortage of these animals, which grew worse in 2020 as scientists tested scores of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments on primates before trials began in people. National Institutes of Health’s Dr. James Anderson says. “What happens if [a pandemic] happens again, with another virus in three years? We want to be ready for that.” But with a human population soon to reach 8 billion this demand on the animal kingdom is non-sustainable and bioethically questionable especially considering that laboratory animals are made to suffer and be “sacrificed” to find cures for diseases we bring upon ourselves.

Three-quarters of novel or emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and the international wildlife trade – estimated to be a $10 billion market each year – is a major source of risk. A series of public health crises have put the issue in the spotlight, shifting attention from diseases of economically important livestock species to those that are most likely to cause problems in humans, but experts say a One Health approach that accounts for the entire human-animal-ecosystem interface is the solution to mitigating risk JAVMA News (623).

The consumption of exotic wild animals, wildlife farming and trade, livestock management practices, keeping exotic animals as pets and human encroachment on wildlife habitats all put humans at risk for zoonotic diseases, researchers reported in Biological Reviews. (Silviu O. Petrovan, et al Post COVID-19: a solution scan of options for preventing future zoonotic epidemics. Biological Reviews, 07 July 2021 https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12774).

In the anarchic complexity of Nature there is no ruler or authoritarianism but competition and cooperation within and between species that maintains and sustains a whole greater than its parts, an ecosystem. Ecosystems are complex, dynamic, unstable equilibria interconnecting to form a global biosphere. Such organization, in human political terms, is democratic. One life gives life to another taking life and death renews as exemplified by an often cyclical pattern of prey and predator numbers. Ecosystems become dysfunctional and can collapse or succumb to invasive species when there are too many prey species (herbivores) or too few or too many predators (carnivores). The human species has not yet learned to live in accord with Natural law, being too many to live as predators and displacing wildlife and reducing self-regulating natural biodiversity by raising billions of livestock and poultry for consumption. Such an economy and culture is neither sustainable nor ecologically just and amounts to ecocide.

From : EcoWatch contact@ecowatch.com An international panel of 12 legal experts has drafted an official definition of ecocide after months of deliberation. The definition was released with a proposed law that would be the fifth crime prosecuted by the International Criminal Court if enacted. The experts have defined ecocide as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.” If the law attached is enacted, those accused of ecocide would be tried alongside those who have been accused of crimes against humanity and genocide.

An international panel of 12 legal experts has drafted an official definition of ecocide after months of deliberation. The definition was released with a proposed law that would be the fifth crime prosecuted by the International Criminal Court if enacted. The experts have defined ecocide as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.” If the law attached is enacted, those accused of ecocide would be tried alongside those who have been accused of crimes against humanity and genocide.(EcoWatch contact@ecowatch.com 2021)

Albert Einstein observed, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Only from the perspective of our being part of Nature can an objective, rational and existential assessment be made of our life’s purpose and its consequences in terms of how our life-choices and values affect ourselves and others for better or for worse. Solutions for most existential problems come from cooperation rather than competition; acceptance rather than denial; education rather than indoctrination; renunciation rather than conformity; passion for justice rather than retribution and the courage to speak truth to power.

The best qualities of human nature, of character, empathy, compassion, respect for life, innate potentials and individual genius can be best awakened and nurtured by appropriate relationships with other species wild and domesticated that engender respect and understanding along with experiences in Nature that inspire awe and wonder. When we realize that we are related to each other and to all sentient beings we discover the true meaning of freedom for all and begin to live spontaneously in accord with the Golden Rule. We all need to consider Sioux Medicine man Chief Black Elk’s statement “Nothing will be well unless we learn to live in harmony with the Power of the World as it lives and moves and does its work.” The redemption of our species and recovery of our humanity lies in restoring right relationships with Nature and other species, plant and animal, rather than treating Nature as our own exclusive resource and other sentient beings variously as commodities, objects, pests and disposable pets.

Postscript:

If there were no stones, we would have no minerals for our bones and never walk, or for our brains and never talk. If there were no trees and other green life on land and in the seas we would not exist without the oxygen they give. We would not be red in blood and living free. Without the microorganisms in healthy soils we would have no nutritious plant foods nor our own related microbiome in our guts essential for our health, immune and digestive systems. Ecology, molecular biology and other natural sciences affirm these life-giving and sustaining relationships between the universal and the particular, humanity and Earth, self and other.

We have ignored, exploited and violated many of these relationships for millennia and now face the nemesis of Nature’s retribution. The worse is yet to come if we do not, as the Hopi Prophecy warns, collectively and singularly repair these relationships and respect all our relations, plant and animal, water, soil and stone. The Climate Crisis is in part due to various human industries and a civilization that must be transformed quickly to prevent an anthopogenic apocalypse because global warming (which geoengineering will not rectify) is also non-anthropogenic as per the research report indicating our Universe is heating up. See Yi-Kuan Chiang, Ryu Makiya, Brice Ménard, Eiichiro Komatsu. The Cosmic Thermal History Probed by Sunyaev–Zeldovich Effect Tomography. The Astrophysical Journal, 2020; 902 (1): 56 DOI: 10.38471538-4357/abb403 We will need to prepare for the latter which we cannot prevent and address the anthropogenic contribution to climate change which we can and must prevent with a “green”, carbon-sequestering and regenerative global economy based on eco-justice, social justice and recognition of the rights of all sentient beings to equal and fair consideration.

Renunciation of our self-worship of gods created in our own image would be a good beginning toward living in harmony with all life, the spiritual root of One Health and the antidote to our pathogenic anthropocentrism. Indeed Global Sustainability via a One Health approach as a moral compass is critical to our planet’s Survival and thereby ourselves.