Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Taos
What is your suggestion or idea?
Delete: We honor the sacred interdependent web of all existence. We covenant to cherish Earth and all beings by creating relationships of care and respect. With humility and reverence, we acknowledge our place in the great web of life, and we work to repair harm and damaged relationships.
Insert: With reverence for life, we honor the rights of nature, acknowledge our dependence on the Earth, our wondrous home, and work to reduce the suffering and harm caused by human dominion over other creatures.
What is the reason for your amendment idea?
Humankind is at a crossroads. Our exploitation of the natural world has brought not just humankind, but the continued existence of life on Earth, to the brink.
My language replaces the proposed Article II text with a stronger statement. The phrase ““reverence for life”” was coined by Albert Schweitzer (one of our Unitarian forebears) and carries historic connotations. For Schweitzer it implied minimizing the suffering inflicted on other organisms as far as practical. It sprang from a recognition that other creatures have a claim to well-being equal to our own. Pelicans like people are ends in themselves, not merely means-to-an-end. They are not commodities available for human appropriation. They make moral claims, not just to be ““cherished”” in our sentiments but to be left alone, free from interference, to pursue their own separate yet amazing lives.
This means that other creatures have ““rights.”” A right establishes not just an appeal for ““care”” or compassion but an assertion of autonomy and a demand for justice. Invoking the language of rights is a powerful declaration that the natural world does not belong to us. We are not its owners or proprietors. It is wiser and more realistic to relinquish all such assertions of human supremacy. For in the truest sense, we are not ““interdependent”” with our planet. Rather, our human species is utterly dependent, completely reliant upon the vast biological cycles that we did not create but require for daily survival.
While all of nature has rights, we owe a special obligation to sentient life forms - those capable of experiencing pain - with a duty to abstain from unnecessarily adding to the world’s torment.
The notion of human “dominion” over nature is at the root of our predicament. Dominion must end for co-evolution to continue on this wondrous, fragile planet. .
Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?
I have shared these ideas in a forum with other UUs involved in the UU Animal Ministry. I have been preaching and acting on these precepts for close to forty years. My first book ““The Souls of Animals”” (originally published in 1991 and still in print) has carried these thoughts to 100,000+ readers in America and abroad. I hope the Study Commission will consider these suggestions intended to strengthen our commitment to living in right relation with our Earth community.