Any honorable ethics for the anthropocene must transform our valuation of animals from utility to the respect conscious beings deserve. To that end, I love learning of examples of animal intelligence such as the meta-cognition of Western Scrub Jays: “Western scrub jays, corvids native to western North America, are a favorite of cognitive scientists because they are not “stuck in time”—that is, they are able to remember past events and are known to cache their food in anticipation of hunger…the findings are exciting because they provide further evidence that humans are not the only species with the ability to think about their thought processes.” –Scientific American, Jason G. Goldman
Earlier in the year, I had been hoping to write a series of essays exploring what ethics might look like now that we’re becoming aware that our impact on the earth has led to a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene (a contested term, but one whose general outlines I believe in wholeheartedly). That has not materialized due to a lack of time (and, I suppose, will) but rather than let this goal go, I’m going to start posting short excerpts of research and thoughts that might one day lead to a more serious series of essays: a field notes for Ethics for the Anthropocene. Here’s my first entry: “The study found that sea ice contains up to 240 microplastic particles per cubic meter–as much as 2,000 times the density of the particles that are estimated to float in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…up to several trillion pieces could be released as Artic sea ice melts…” –Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, based on a paper in Earth’s Future We’ll see if I can keep this going once I return to work, but nothing seems more important to me than each of us attempting to articulate an ethics that accounts for the rapid shifts in our interconnected and imperiled world.