Culture, Ecology, Animality.

“For those of us reared in the tradition of Western thought, ‘human’ and ‘animal’ are terms rich in association, fraught with ambiguity, and heavily laden with both intellectual and emotional bias. From classical times to the present day, animals have figured centrally in the Western construction of ‘man’—and we might add, of Western man’s image of woman. Every generation has recreated its own view of animality as a deficiency in everything that we humans are uniquely supposed to have, including language, reason, intellect and moral conscience”Tim Ingold.

1 We people…

Our relation to animals is complicated, sentimental, and fearful (Fig 1). Some can eat you, and you can eat some of them or render them extinct, just by behaving as normal consumers.  The trouble is that the ‘normal behaviour’ of human consumers is stripping Earth of its renewable resources.  A new knowledge framework is needed that fosters the understanding that we are animals and a part of something larger than ourselves.  Present levels and types of human consumption are not environmentally sustainable.  Therefore, consumers need to learn to become more sensitive to environmental issues and the political implications of their behavior. Political consumerism is an expression of humanity that refers to the use of the market as an arena for politics in order to change institutional or market practices found to be ethically, environmentally, or politically objectionable.

Fig 1 Elmgreen and Dragset’s Dawn, 2016: courtesy the artist/Marian Goodman Gallery

Animality defines the combination of features or qualities that form the distinctive character of all animals, including humans.  Humanality defines the combination of features or qualities that zoologists have selected as the distinctive characteristics of humankind, defining people as highly intelligent terrestrial animals who share a common origin with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Within this group, called primates, we characterise our humanality by our: 

  • erect posture;
  • bipedal locomotion; 
  • high manual dexterity;
  • large scale invention of tools; 
  • open-ended and complex language; 
  • exceptionally large and complex brains;
  • unique mental ability to make plans, and 
  • highly advanced and organized societies.

Regarding our basic animality, we have placed ourselves in the animal kingdom, where, because we have a backbone we belong to the group known as chordates. Because we have hair and milk glands,  we are placed in the class of mammals.  In our physical growth, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny: i.e. the development of the embryo mirrors in its stages our evolution from more elementary life-forms, a process that began with the origin of life 3.77 billion years ago.

Knowledge about animals is contained in the distinct subject of zoology, which makes a huge impact on our planet through the scientific study of the evolution, anatomy, physiology, behaviour, habitats, and health of animals including humans.  Zoology applies diverse approaches to understand animals, such as electron microscopy, molecular genetics, and ecology.  Importantly, zoology is the only subject devoted to the study of animal selfhood that positions humankind as part of nature in all its manifestations, at every level, from biochemistry to transcendental consciousness. We are part of nature in all that we do. Therefore by studying zoology we are able to develop a better understanding of how we people, as animals, function and interact with the world around us. In particular, within zoology we become aware that the psychological distance between self and other animals is quite short.  This primordial awareness of oneness with nature expresses itself socially in different ways according to local culture. For example, in belief systems such as Buddhism, enlightenment brings with it the realization that separation into this or that, you or me, is an illusion, because all animals are part of the same creation and therefore all non human animals demand our equal respect.  We are also the dominant life form on the planet with the capacity to seek answers to questions about who we are, where we come from  and what is our destiny.  This puts humankind in the unique position of being able to affect change, empower better choices, and develop solutions for a stronger and more stable global ecosystem with plans for making Earth hospitable to life in generations to come.  

Cultural ecology is a full-fledged research perspective within geography aimed at establishing the relationships between people, resources, and space, ideas often associated with human ecology.  This blog is about broadening the subject of zoology to strengthen its position as an educational interface with culture and ecology.  The aim of this extension is to explain the bonding of people and animals as a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship that is influenced by behaviors considered essential to the health and well-being of both. The bond includes, but is not limited to, the emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.  It is in this interdisciplinary systems perspective that zoology is a subject for teaching “Oneness”, the idea that everything in the world is connected and interdependent, as a general orientation of education toward the life of animals, including humankind.  

Our separation from the natural world may have given us the fruits of technology and science, but it has left us bereft of any instinctual connection to the spiritual dimension of life which connects us to the rest of the world.  What is missing is the knowing that we are all part of one living, spiritual being.   Exploring these ideas of oneness in young children Rebecca Nye coined the term ‘relational consciousness’ to encompass the idea that ‘oneness’ is a spiritual awareness rooted in our biology.  By that she meant an awareness of our interdependence with other beings, including animals, and other humans, is an inbuilt spiritual experience.  The experience seems to involve a primordial, biologically based awareness of a relationship with manifold reality: with the self, with other people: with the environment: and, for believers, with God. The thesis can be summarized in a diagram (Fig 2).  

Fig 2  The socio biological roots of relational consciousness

Why have animals not been subject to greater interest in contemporary conversations and historical discourses in the arts?  With this question as a premise, an exhibition was curated by Jens Hoffman in the Marian Goodman Gallery in 2015.  Entitled ANIMALITY the exhibition examined how an artistic and theoretical impetus might be formed that challenges the way we think about beings that are not of our own species. In its essence, ANIMALITY asks what we as human beings can learn about ourselves when looking at the limitations of our own thinking with respect to nonhuman animals. The exhibition leads us to reflect on the importance of addressing ethical issues, thinking beyond our own cultures, and questioning accepted assumptions of who we are. ANIMALITY proposes that while some distinctions between humans and animals are valid, the two groups are more productively conceived as parts of an ontological whole. The exhibition unfolded around six themes— Crossings, Extinction, Markings, Origins, Traces and Variations.  It participates in a broader philosophical debate of the past two centuries that includes thinkers such as Michel Foucault, who has a particular importance to this exhibition. Foucault, in his groundbreaking 1964 book ‘Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason’, connects the idea of human madness with that of animalism. He describes how terms such as ‘wild beasts’, ‘untamed, and ‘frenzied’ have been applied not only to those actually suffering from mental illness, but also to humans from exotic places and cultures that, in the eyes of colonizers, had chosen to live like animals and thus were treated accordingly. 

There are clear parallels between Foucault’s idea and our contemporary realities of refugees and immigrants, expanding the dialogue to the larger social and political issues of our time. Contemporary and historical artworks as well as numerous artifacts, when juxtaposed, allow for relationships between art and non-art materials to emerge, creating strong and provocative links between historical and contemporary realities.

Thus, there is an eco-cultural perspective in zoology beyond the classical perspective based, for example, on anatomy, physiology and embryology.  Zoologists of the 1800s and 1900s operated within a narrow perspective being concerned largely with discovering new kinds of animals and describing their structure and their evolutionary relationships.  Employed in this sense, zoology is divisible into three great but subordinate sciences, morphology, physiology, and distribution, each of which may, to a very great extent, be studied independently of the others.  

Zoology in general now focuses on understanding how different animals solve the common problems of environmental survival, such as behavioural traits, obtaining energy and coping with climate changes. This wider scope is defined by three perspectives on the life of animals, namely ‘form and function’, ‘ecology’ and ‘culture’.

The cultural perspective of zoology has its origins in the Upper Paleolithic era 35,000 years ago with cave paintings of hunted animals associated with a sharp increase in human artefacts such as personal ornaments and grave goods with evidence of goal orientation in the form of advance planning. Archaeologists say this suggests a ‘theory of mind’ with the emergence of human self-conscious awareness separating self and world.  This is a shift away from a primal unity with mother and the world towards an awareness of Self in a world of Others that has led to cultural ideas about the origins of the cosmic unity of all living things.  

Early ideas proposed life was governed as a natural economy established by divine guidance in a universal cycle of “propagation, preservation, and destruction”.  This orderly system was thought to have that emerged to maintain the “established course of nature”.   This idea of a natural economy was replaced with cultural ecology, a cross curricular framework that focuses on the connections between people, ecology and place.  Cultural ecology is a body of knowledge illustrating how cultural beliefs and practices help human populations adapt to their environments and live within the means of their ecosystem, conserving its resources for long-term survival. The problem of being human today is that a person’s individual ecological footprint can have an impact that is thousands of miles away from where they live, which gives zoology a global oversight.  

Humans perceive nature and individual nonhuman animals in various ways. In particular, our animality has produced socially constructed nature, where our place is either within or outside of it. Such constructions from reality are elaborated conceptually and through cultural narratives.  The narratives show how nature and nonhuman animals happen to be perceived. In this connexion, ecological leadership is now a prerequisite for the conservation management of our use of natural resources because we human animals are causing a long-lasting and devastating ecological impact on the biosphere. At the extreme edge of the cultural perspective of zoology ecological leadership includes coordinating conservation management, within and between countries, to establish a fairer sustainable distribution of profits from economic development across social groups (Figs 3 and 4).

Fig 3  Ecological leadership

Fig 4 Four ecological leaders

A ‘Thoreau-Ecological Leadership’, for example, would be based on the truism that life, its abundance and variety, pays for economic development through our day to day increased consumption of non-renewable resources, higher levels of pollution, global warming and the loss of habitats and ecosystems.  

2  Zoology: ‘humanality’ observing ‘animality’

John Peter Berger (1926-2017) was an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet. His essay on art criticism ‘Ways of Seeing’, written as an accompaniment to the BBC series of the same name, is often used as a university text. In his essay ‘Why Look at Animals?,’ Berger examines the development of our relationship with animals and how they went from muses for cave drawings painted with animal blood, to spiritual deities, to captive entertainment (Fig 5) .  In the blog ‘Brain Pickings, Maria Popova addresses the questions “Why Look at Animals”: and “What Our Relationship with Our Fellow Beings Reveals About Us”.  The answers are framed within the following 14 quotations taken from, Berger’s essay ‘Why Look At Animals’.  The extracts have been arranged in a semi historical order.                    

Fig 5 Animality

1. To suppose that animals first entered the human imagination as meat or leather or horn is to project a 19th century attitude backwards across the millennia. Animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises. For example, the domestication of cattle did not begin as a simple prospect of milk and meat. Cattle had magical functions, sometimes oracular, sometimes sacrificial. And the choice of a given species as magical, tameable and alimentary was originally determined by the habits, proximity and “invitation” of the animal in question.

2.  With their parallel lives, animals offer man a companionship which is different from any offered by human exchange. Different because it is a companionship offered to the loneliness of man as a species. Such an unspeaking companionship was felt to be so equal that often one finds the conviction that it was man who lacked the capacity to speak with animals — hence the stories and legends of exceptional beings, like Orpheus, who could talk with animals in their own language.

3.  What were the secrets of the animal’s likeness with, and unlikeness from man? The secrets whose existence man recognized as soon as he intercepted an animal’s look.

In one sense the whole of anthropology, concerned with the passage from nature to culture, is an answer to that question.

4.  What distinguished man from animals was the human capacity for symbolic thought, the capacity which was inseparable from the development of language in which words were not mere signals, but signifiers of something other than themselves. Yet the first symbols were animals. What distinguished men from animals was born of their relationship with them.

5.  In the last two centuries, animals have gradually disappeared. Today we live without them. And in this new solitude, anthropomorphism makes us doubly uneasy.

6.  This reduction of the animal, which has a theoretical as well as economic history, is part of the same process as that by which men have been reduced to isolated productive and consuming units. Indeed, during this period an approach to animals often prefigured an approach to man.

7.  The practice of keeping animals regardless of their usefulness, the keeping, exactly, of pets (in the 16th century the word usually referred to a lamb raised by hand) is a modern innovation, and, on the social scale on which it exists today, is unique. It is part of that universal but personal withdrawal into the private small family unit, decorated or furnished with mementoes from the outside world, which is such a distinguishing feature of consumer societies.

8.  Equally important is the way the average owner regards his pet. (Children are, briefly, somewhat different.) The pet completes him, offering responses to aspects of his character which would otherwise remain unconfirmed. He can be to his pet what he is not to anybody or anything else. Furthermore, the pet can be conditioned to react as though it, too, recognizes this. The pet offers its owner a mirror to a part that is otherwise never reflected. But, since in this relationship the autonomy of both parties has been lost (the owner has become the-special-man-he-is-only-to-his-pet, and the animal has become dependent on its owner for every physical need), the parallelism of their separate lives has been destroyed.

9.  In the accompanying ideology, animals are always the observed. The fact that they can observe us has lost all significance. They are the objects of our ever-extending knowledge. What we know about them is an index of our power, and thus an index of what separates us from them. The more we know, the further away they are.

10.  About 1867, a music hall artist called the Great Vance sang a song called Walking in the zoo is the OK thing to do, and the word ‘zoo’ came into everyday use. London Zoo also brought the word ‘Jumbo’ into the English language. Jumbo was an African elephant of mammoth size, who lived at the zoo between 1865 and 1882. Queen Victoria took an interest in him and eventually he ended his days as the star of the famous Barnum circus which travelled through America — his name living on to describe things of giant proportions.

11.  The zoo to which people go to meet animals, to observe them, to see them, is, in fact, a monument to the impossibility of such encounters. Modern zoos are an epitaph to a relationship which was as old 

12.  Children in the industrialized world are surrounded by animal imagery: toys, cartoons, pictures, decorations of every sort. No other source of imagery can begin to compete with that of animals. The apparently spontaneous interest that children have in animals might lead one to suppose that this has always been the case. Certainly some of the earliest toys (when toys were unknown to the vast majority of the population) were animal. Equally, children’s games, all over the world, include real or pretended animals. Yet it was not until the 19th century that reproductions of animals became a regular part of the decor of middle class childhoods — and then, in this century, with the advent of vast display and selling systems like Disney’s — of all childhoods.

13.  All sites of enforced marginalization — ghettos, shanty towns, prisons, madhouses, concentration camps — have something in common with zoos. But it is both too easy and too evasive to use the zoo as a symbol. The zoo is a demonstration of the relations between man and animals; nothing else. The marginalization of animals is today being followed by the marginalization and disposal of the only class who, throughout history, has remained familiar with animals and maintained the wisdom which accompanies that familiarity: the middle and small peasant. The basis of this wisdom is an acceptance of the dualism at the very origin of the relation between man and animal. The rejection of this dualism is probably an important factor in opening the way to modern totalitarianism.

14.  The zoo cannot but disappoint. The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity of looking at animals. Yet nowhere in a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal. At the most, the animal’s gaze flickers and passes on. They look sideways. They look blindly beyond. They scan mechanically. They have been immunized to encounter, because nothing can any more occupy a central place in their attention. Therein lies the ultimate consequence of their marginalization… This historic loss, to which zoos are a monument, is now irredeemable for the culture of capitalism.

Kay Anderson believes the conceptual boundaries which segregate humanity and animality are being disturbed.   The way is being cleared for us to unthink the cultural categories, both popular and scientific, which map our understanding of the animate environment of which human and nonhuman animals are a part. In their paper, Is everybody human?, Douglas Kawaguchi, and Danilo S Guimarães compare the Book of Genesis, with The Falling Sky myth related by a Yanomami Shaman.  They show that Western and Amerindian narratives present mostly opposite conceptions concerning the relationships between “humanality” and “animality”.  The meanings for “human” and “animal” differ essentially in both.  Western psychology lays its foundations on a worldview that presupposes a strict split between Nature and Humanity.  So, there seems to be an insurmountable incompatibility between the impulse of our “natural” desires and the regulation and prohibitions imposed by “culture”.  This contrasts Amerindian cosmology and its relationship with nonhuman animals and calls into question the ethno- anthropocentrism that is present in Western psychology since its birth. 

3 Speciesism

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men” (St. Francis of Assisi)

Charles Darwin, writing in his notebook in 1838, asserted that man thinks of himself as a masterpiece produced by a deity, but that he thought it “truer to consider him created from animals”,  In his 1871 book ‘The Descent of Man’, Darwin argued that:

‘There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties … [t]he difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals’.

English writer and animal rights advocate Henry S. Salt in his 1892 book Animals’ Rights, argued that for humans to do justice to other animals, they must look beyond the conception of a “great gulf” between them, claiming instead that we should recognize the “common bond of humanity that unites all living beings in one universal brotherhood ” (Fig 6).

Fig 6 Speciesism and oneness

“Speciesism” is the belief that non human animals (NHAs) are inferior to humanity. Speciesist thinking involves considering animals, who have their own desires, needs, and complex lives, as means to human ends. The term speciesism was coined in 1970 by animal rights proponent Richard D. Ryder to argue that granting humans more rights than animals is an irrational prejudice. The term was popularized in 1975 by the philosopher Peter Singer, known for his contributions to Utilitarian philosophy and his book Animal Liberation.  

An example of applied speciesism is the devaluation of the British grey squirrel.  Red squirrels entered squirrel-free Britain after the last ice age.  In 1876 grey squirrels were introduced to the English countryside from North America as an ornamental species in the grounds of stately homes. It soon became clear that they could out-compete the red squirrel which is now confined to a few remaining areas of the United Kingdom.  There are now moves to exterminate the grey squirrel on ecological grounds because it has been classed as a NHA outside the range it occupies naturally or could not occupy without direct or indirect introduction or care by humans.  Greys are an economic problem in forestry because they strip tree bark.  In extreme cases the tree dies but even minor damage can reduce the value of timber. It is therefore classed as a pest.  The search is on for a method of eradicating grey squirrels without posing any risk to red squirrels and the spotlight is on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene technology.  By encoding the CRISPR editing system into an organism’s DNA, geneticists can make a desired edit reoccur in each generation, driving the trait through the entire population by modifying the genetic makeup of only a few individuals.  Although evolution has enabled some naturally occurring genes to propagate above their expected frequencies, the recent discovery of CRISPR can cause this to happen at exceptionally high rates for chosen genes in the form of “gene drives.”  Applied to the grey squirrel a gene drive which altered the sex ratio so that there are more males than breeding females, will cause the population to fall. This could be done by ensuring that fewer females are born, or that some are sterile. Those gene technicians carrying out such measures, which might end in extinction, are working with the belief in a human- NHA divide.  Dominique Lestel, building on his critique of the very philosophical foundations of the ethological tradition, argues that “To be human does not mean to have fled animality, but on the contrary to live within it and to let it live within us…we are animals and animals are us.”  Regarding extinction, looking at the relationship between animal and human, Lestel argues that species loss has both an ecological and symbolic consequence on our culture, as every species contributes to our very being, our meaning as being. He warns that “each species that disappears is a part of our imagination that we amputate perhaps irreversibly.

When Charles Darwin returned to England in 1836 from his voyage aboard HMS Beagle, he brought back with him not only revolutionary ideas of evolution and natural selection, but also the spark for debate about the very definition of a human being. He drew lines between humans and

nonhuman animals in order to maintain a comfortable separation between “us” and “them,” citing morality as the main difference between man and animal. However, modern scientific discoveries provide sufficient evidence to support the concept of morality in humankind’s closest relative, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes).  The standpoint is that all social animals have had to constrain or alter their behavior in various ways for group living to be worthwhile. Now, due to indications that chimpanzees have morality, a trait that Darwin and modern scientists claimed to be unique to humans, the line between human and animal becomes fundamentally blurred. Should the grey squirrel be granted the same basic rights to life that modern society safeguards for humans by having its genome changed irreversibly?  Shouldn’t we people who caused the problem learn to live with the ecological system produced that was produced as a whim. 

 Although it goes unnoticed by most people, speciesism has devastating real-world effects on billions of animals. Some would say that it is also at the biological roots of racism.   Furthermore, connections between speciesism and racism have been found in addition to links to other forms of human to human biases (e.g. sexism and homophobia) which devalue certain cultures in comparison to their own.  Research has shown that attitudes towards NHAs correlated significantly and positively with attitudes towards outgroups, i.e. participants who had positive attitudes towards NHAs also liked human outgroups more.

Both attitudes and the tendency to perceive human outgroups as inferior are forms of ideologies that encourage hierarchical and unequal relationships between people and countries. Also, studies have linked Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), a preference for social inequalities, with a tendency to exploit the environment in unsustainable way.  This is associated with a belief in a sharper human and NHA distinction, and a tendency to endorse utilization of NHAs as ethically justifiable, and a belief in human superiority. Research has found that participants’ SDO was related to a tendency to dehumanize immigrants. In addition, studies have demonstrated that SDO is a key factor connecting ethnic prejudice and speciesist attitudes.

In her paper, ‘Animal Bodies, Colonial Subjects: (Re)Locating Animality in Decolonial Thought’ Billy-Ray Belcourt argues that animal domestication, speciesism, and other modern human-animal interactions are possible because of and through the the emptying of Indigenous lands for settler-colonial expansion. That is to say, we cannot address animal oppression or talk about animal liberation without naming and subsequently dismantling settler colonialism and white supremacy.  They are political machinations that require the simultaneous exploitation and/or erasure of animals and indigenous peoples. She begins by re-framing animality as a politics of space to suggest that animal bodies are made intelligible in the settler imagination on stolen, colonized, and re-settled Indigenous lands. Anthropocentrism is seen as a racialized and speciesist aspect of settler coloniality to re-orient decolonial thought toward animality. 

In 1904, the Herero and Nama people of Namibia (Fig 7) revolted against German colonial rule and were brutally crushed by imperial German troops. On Christmas Day 1906, Catholic missionary Johann Malinowski brokered a peace deal between the Bondelswarts, a Nama ethnic group of Southern Africa living in the extreme south of Namibia, and the German colonial army. The army continued to fight other clans for another two years. It’s estimated that by 1908, more than 75,000 Herero and Nama were killed. Some historians even put the figure at 100,000.

Fig 7  Nomadic Khoikhoi dismantling their huts, aquatint by Samuel Daniell (1805)

 In July 2015, the German government referred to the massacre as genocide for the first time. Namibia’s government has been trying to buy and distribute land to those who don’t own any, but the process has been slow. “We are landless because of the genocide,” says Johannea Matroos, head of the Bondeslwarts Traditional Authority. He is one of the traditional leaders of the Nama. His ancestors lost this land and their cultural heritage of cattle-pastoralism both of which became the spoils of the German colonialists more than 100 years ago.  This land issue is still not being addressed. It is in this context of colonialism that Belcourt propose a decolonized zoological ethic that finds legitimacy in indigenous cosmologies to argue that decolonization can only be reified through a totalizing disruption of those power apparatuses (i.e., settler colonialism, anthropocentrism, white supremacy, and neoliberal pluralism) that lend the settler state sovereignty, normalcy, and futurity insofar as animality is a settler-colonial issue.

From all the above it can be seen that zoology is the body of knowledge which crosses the boundary of culture and ecology, leading us to view the oneness of the human/animal relation overall. There is not a strict separation of humans and animals as categorically distinct entities.  Rationality and animality are in fact entwined, with both contributing to the goodness and full realization of human life.

5 ‘Thinking about Transhumanism’

Systems thinking by making mind maps can be a powerful classroom tool, giving students a personal participatory role in the learning process. By viewing teaching through the lens of systems-thinking  educators can help students recognize how seemingly disparate systems interact, identifying meaningful connections in the wider world around them.  For example, students were tasked with developing plans for a new national park that met specific design requirements: parks needed to be attractive to users, inflict limited environmental harm, and respect a tribal burial ground.  These are three cross-subject areas that have to be integrated and weighted into the plan. During the process of developing their designs, students discovered connections between the social, ecological, and economic components of the project.  To take another instance, in 2012 a book,  Beyond Human: From Animality to Transhumanism’ was produced by the UK University of Edge Hill.  This title explores the implications of our animal origins and posthuman futures to understand our humanity and our relations with other species. In particular.  “Beyond Human” investigates what it means to call ourselves human beings in relation to both our distant past and our possible futures as a species, and the questions this might raise for our relationship with the myriad species with which we share the planet. It draws on insights from the following 13 study areas, which the editors called the fingerprint of the project.

  • Animality
  • Posthuman Future
  • Animals
  • Theology
  • Cave Art
  • Rational Animal
  • Cultural Studies
  • Upper Paleolithic
  • Zoology
  • Biotechnology
  • Planet
  • Human Being
  • Aesthetics

An international line-up of contributors explored the origins of humankind as reflected in early cave art in the upper Palaeolithic through to our prospects of survival at the forefront of contemporary biotechnology. In the process, the book positions ‘the human’ in readiness for what many have characterized as our transhuman or posthuman future. Our status as rational animals or ‘animals that think’ has traditionally distinguished us as apparently superior to other species, but this distinction has become increasingly problematic. It has come to be seen as based on skills and technologies that do not distinguish us so much as position us as transitional animals. It is the direction and consequences of this transition to an equitable, carbon free, zero growth economy that is the central concern of “Beyond Human”.  Looking to the future, if we are to make this transition smoothly, education for sustainability has to take up mind mapping as a central pedagogy of education for sustainability.  The central topics to be mapped are animals, ecosystems and cultures, which together comprise three interconnected perspectives embedding science firmly in the humanities. A demonstration of how this could be achieved is being explored by International Classrooms Online (ICOL) using the GoConqr educational platform, to explore the three pillars of cultural ecology namely zoology, ecology and culture (Fig 8). To see the interactive mind map go to:

Fig 8 Mind map of cultural ecology

6  Internet References

How the world became consumerist

Systems thinking in education

Animals Ecosystems Cultures


What squirrels can teach us about speciesism

The elephant in the room

Thoreau: a sage for all seasons

Gandhian relevance to environmental sustainability

Scweitzer reverence for life

Aldo Leopold

A lobster or the study of zoology

Future of life on earth

Mexican art museum

Zoology and religion


Spirituality as a natural part of childhood

The human being and the animal kingdom

The human being and the animals


Hiroshi Sugimoto’s museum dioramas

Fur in fashion

Why look at animals

The beast within

Art review animosity

From animal to animality

Animality  in decolonial thought

Arts Jungle vips

Humanity and animality

Is everybody human?

Classifying animals

Evolution of human consciousness

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