Firstly, my thoughts are with those who have been hurt by Hurricane Irma.
As we all know, Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded, has wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and Florida just days after Harvey hit Texas. The governments and relief agencies are doing their thing to help and of course more can always be done.
But aside from the relief effort what else is there to do? Some Floridians decided that shooting at Irma could stop her in her tracks. Not the most sensible course of action in my opinion. Of course there are no short term actions to stop hurricanes but one key longer term action would be to tackle climate change.
I referred to Irma as her in the above paragraph. Shooting at her almost as if Irma was alive was the response by some, but as John Beckett asks over at Patheos.com, is Irma a person?
Speaking as an Animist, my unequivocal answer is yes. It is interesting how we have anthropomorphised the hurricanes by giving them names though, almost as if the weather agency responsible was staffed by Animists. They have consciousness too, both hurricanes and meteorologists. Not in the sense that they can decide whether to devastate Barbuda or watch the latest episode of Suits but they have the consciousness that all things have. For me, consciousness is in all things and is connected to all things as if through a web.
Personhood has consciousness part of which is a will and what Hurricanes have in spades is a will, they have a real intent to blow hard. The will is not directed at people or at places in particular, it is not a rational thinking type of will that we recognise in humans, it is a will fuelled by energy from the sea, a will that is as natural as the desire to exist. Indeed the will of the hurricane is to be a hurricane and to do what hurricanes do best, blow hard and knock things over.
How can a hurricane be a person? A hurricane can’t have the same status in law as a human? Yet we have given that status to things we have created. Companies have a legal status akin to personhood, they have a legal identity, one that can sue and be sued. One that has a will and is conscious. Humans were stupid to endow such as flawed concept as a company with rights and a will but then humans obviously have a will too and our will can be quite stupid at times.
Just like humans and corporations, hurricanes – or for that matter mountains, worms or planets – have personhood. They have a will which may simply be a will to exist, to be what they are, and they are all part of the wider web of consciousness.
Humans and corporations are ‘persons’ in the eyes of the law, they have rights. But hurricanes, mountains, rivers, the trees, plants and animals lack rights in our human legal system. Of course they intrinsically have rights but the vast majority of humans don’t recognise them. Our legal system allows them to be trashed, to be raped, to be scoured for resources without regard and to be destroyed without question. While some countries are bringing Earth rights into their laws following the example set by Ecuador ten years ago, most others are a long way from following that example.
There are some great organisations and people working hard on Earth jurisprudence. The Rights of Mother Nature are working on the UN to adopt Earth jurisprudence, a “Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth”. They are pushing the concept into the consciousness on the world leaders and while many of these leaders continue to reject the idea, some, more enlightened leaders, are open to the discussion.
As an Animist, Pagan and Druid, I hold Nature sacred. I am part of Nature and Nature is a part of me. It was part of me that helped flatten homes in the Caribbean, my CO2 emissions contributed a little to the ferocity of the storm. If humans can give rights to corporations that we have invented then surely we can give rights to Nature and Mother Earth.
Until we start to recognise that we have responsibilities to protect Nature, to protect our wider selves against ourselves by granting rights to the natural world then we are going to continue to suffer the consequences of our self destruction.