Nonhumans deserve honouring too
BY GERI RAMSAY
The March 21 edition of the Driftwood contained an obituary for a beloved family and Salt Spring Island community member, Lucy.
It was my understanding, based on two conversations prior to approval and payment, that the obituary for Lucy, who happens to be a horse, would appear in the “Deaths” section alongside those of departed human community members. Instead, I found her memoriam segregated to a separate page and placed in a section named “Pets Remembered.”
I am not writing for the purpose of requesting redress. Rather, I am writing to highlight what I see as an incongruence with who we are as a community and in the hopes this letter may prompt a rethink of policy and how we hold the passing of human and nonhuman community members with whom we share this island — this interdependent ecosystem in which we all reside and participate.
We, who are so fortunate to call this special part of the world home, have the privilege of living more closely attuned with nature than most. And in doing so, we are perhaps better able to recognize our interconnectedness and appreciate the delicate web of partnerships so vital to sustaining life. Rather than living from a dualist worldview and position of human exceptionalism, we are inclined to live in balance and harmony, revering, preserving and protecting nature. In this way of thinking, we are in equality with nature and all inhabitants.
This idea of equality across species isn’t a new one. It has been about 150 years since Charles Darwin upset the Cartesian apple cart and advances since, in the areas of neuroscience and ethology, for example, have confirmed a species-common model of brain, mind and behaviour, leading to the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness and the acceptance that nonhumans and humans share similar capacities for cognition and emotion.
As a student and intern of Dr. Gay Bradshaw, the founder of trans-species psychology, the subjects of human/nonhuman symmetry and our reorientation within nature are near and dear to my heart. Here, within the property we call home and sanctuary, I and my husband, George Grams, share the land with a vast array of nonhuman animals, none of which are considered pets. Rather, all inhabitants and the ecosystem are supported and held as having agency, culture, language, rights and freedom of expression.
The placement of Lucy’s obituary may seem a trivial matter and yet is it not on thoughts, words and actions that paradigms hinge and shift? At this time in our world, as we suffer from what Daniel Quinn refers to as “The Great Forgetting” and Jerome Bernstein as our collective dissociation and disorientation from nature, the honouring of our interrelationships with nonhuman kin and their inherent value seems a lovely step into congruency.
The writer is a Salt Spring resident.