Spirit Quest on responsibility

Spirit Quest

'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you'

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

 “A man’s heart can be judged by how he treats animals.” So wrote Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) who is probably better known and less well understood for his Categorical Imperative. His magnum opus, A Crtique of Pure Reason is a major stumbling block for most students of philosophy. The above statement is a pleasant break from his deep philosophical  writings. Nevertheless what he says about man’s relationship to the animal world raises difficult moral questions for us humans.

The animal kingdom is under severe stress. In a recent study by Dr. Mark Urban of the University of Connecticut, he points out that earth is on a course to lose biodiversity, virtually by degrees — literally — as climate change exacts an inexorable toll on the species around the globe.

The warming of the planet, primarily because of fossil fuel emissions is having a powerful negative impact on the growing number of plants and animals. One in six species will ultimately  be at risk of extinction within the foreseeable future.

We may love our pets, especially the canine species. Now that the warm weather has come my coffee shop has once again moved onto the patio. It is interesting to watch the patrons arrive with dogs of every size and description, all pure bred of course. The animals are tethered while their master/mistress goes inside to fetch their steaming cuppa. Occasionally they share a snack with their pet to their delight. The dogs hardly take their eyes off the door, and occasionally give a bark when there is too a long delay in their return. They are audibly elated when their “friends” return. The relationship between man and beast is often visibly intimate.

However our pets, particularly dogs, are only a small fraction of the animal kingdom, many of whom do not enjoy the warm relationship described above.

Think of the polar bear, a fearsome animal even on the streets of Churchill in northern Manitoba, which is threatened. The disappearing ice cover on the Bay makes the hunting for seals, their chief source of sustenance, precarious. Man’s incursion into the wilderness to mine, forest and farm has seriously interfered with the herding and breeding terrain of moose and elk. Whales and dolphins are very much at risk. Fish and birds find water contaminated. Huge numbers of them have died. In Africa elephant herds are diminishing at the hands of ivory poachers. And so are many other creatures of the jungles, to say nothing of the fate of the honey bee and the monarch butterfly.

Seen from that perspective one cannot help but wonder about Kant’s statement that how we deal with animals reveals the human heart. Are we a hard-hearted lot who put their own wealth and comfort ahead of the environment and their population?

It is not so long ago that nature thrived, even in my own lifetime. But in recent decades man’s appetite has become voracious for the world’s resources. Our incursion into nature has reached exponential proportions.

Kant who lived his whole life in the city of Koenigsberg in East Prussia, could hardly comprehend the world of today. He would be appalled at what is revealed about the human heart by way of our treatment of the animal world.

His Categorical Imperative bears some resemblance to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Can we include a deep concern for our fellow creatures as inhabitants of the globe? Have we the heart to think globally, indeed, to see ourselves as part of the animal kingdom? Have we the heart to share all of creation?

Spirit Quest, 1 June  2015

Other writings can be found at : skoutajanh.blogsport. com