PAWS Magazine

Issue 43, Fall 1999

Hope For the New Millennium

Kenneth Shapiro
Executive Director, Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

It is a pleasure to have the freedom to speculate about and propose an ideal future—a relief from the daily rounds of limited efforts to solve big problems and the nagging background sense that the future will be burdened by similar, if not more oppressive, problems.

An ideal world 100 years from now has a population of two billion people on this planet. Just a moment ago, I received an E-mail announcing that on this day, October 12,1999, that population will reach 6 billion. I'll leave to you the symbolism of the fact that today is Columbus Day, celebration of the "discovery" of a "New World."

Ninety percent of these two billion people live in 20 megalopolises, three of which are in the United States—the Boston-DC and LA-San Diego corridors and Greater Dallas. These giant bubbles of people will be nearly closed systems—only semi-permeable to the rest of the world. Most of the resources necessary to maintain them are produced through recycling and sustainable yield of materials within each system. The residual necessary resources are provided by the remaining ten percent of the population whose job it is to oversee (in a laissez faire fashion) the natural world. Some of them also produce foods on "sustainable" farms and extract limited minerals and metals to supplement that available within the bubbles.

This resolution of the overpopulation problem leads to an end to famine and war, at least on a large scale. It also allows for the renewal of the natural environment.

On a more subtle and psychological level, there has been a shift in our relation to the world. The circle of rights-bearers has been extended to include nonhuman animals. The extension of rights across the species border has taken the exclusive focus off our own kind and the sense of our own special entitlement. It also has been accompanied by a greater respect for the natural world.

This shift toward giving greater consideration to the well-being of nonhuman animals and to the integrity of the natural environment is achieved through a political alliance between the Environmental, Labor, Feminist, and Animal Rights Movements. It has resulted in the assimilation of the values of these groups by the general public. It is a measure of their strength that most political analysts and historians believe that these values, and the technology in their service, have replaced economics as the major determinant of events.

Kenneth Shapiro is the founding editor of "Society and Animals," a journal of social scientific studies of the human side of human-nonhuman relations, founding coeditor of "Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science," and the cofounder and executive director of Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has been active in the Animal Rights Movement since 1980, a vegetarian since 1966, and a vegan since 1990. His book, "Animal Models of Human 'Psychology: A Critique of Science, Ethics, and Policy" was published by Hogrefe and Huber in 1998.

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