What Violence Counts?

by on January 30, 2014 · 4 comments

in Environment, Health, History, World News


By Will Falk / San Diego Free Press

More than 100 species went extinct yesterday. They were my kin.

Despite this, I have been hearing people talk about how the world is getting better, how progress is being made, and how we have a bright future.

For example, CJ Werleman recently wrote an article for AlterNet titled “Humanity is Becoming Increasingly Less Violent, with One Exception – Religious Violence.” His opening line declares, “Studies demonstrate the world is becoming less violent, and that human warfare is on the decline.”

Last night, after reading Werleman’s article, I opened my fridge and took out a package of tilapia fillets to make fish tacos. I stopped for a moment wondering why I couldn’t find cod or haddock anymore. Werleman’s words filled my head “Humanity is becoming increasingly less violent.”

Werleman bases his statements on a recent Pew Research Center study. He even quotes Dr. Stephen Pinker who says, “Today we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence” and “In a century that began with 9/11, Iraq, and Darfur, the claim that we are living in an unusually peaceful time may strike you as somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene.”

Pinker is right. This blindness is obscene.

The only way Werleman’s article makes any sense is through a refusal to acknowledge non-humans as beings capable of enduring violence. To accept Werleman’s and Pinker’s statements is to silence the natural world so that we may exploit natural communities. This ignorance is part of the ecocidal disaster we have landed ourselves in.

Would Werleman tell what is left of American old growth forests that have been reduced by 95% by human activity since European arrival that humans are becoming increasingly less violent?

Would Pinker care to look golden toads, baiji dolphins, spix’s macaws, Liverpool pigeons, West African black rhinos, and black-faced honeycreepers – all species driven completely extinct in the last decade due to human activity – and tell them this is the most peaceful era in our species’ existence?

No. Because non-humans don’t count, do they?

So, how about the increasing number of American little girls under the age of 8 who are suffering from chemically-induced puberty over the last 10 years? Or how about the mothers in the world (it is all of them) who now have dioxin – a known carcinogen – in their breast milk? Or is this not violence?

I understand what Werleman is trying to do. He writes at the end of his article, “The findings of the Pew Research Center’s study confirm the importance of secularism…” Werleman is trying to draw attention to the foolishness of religious violence. The way he does it, however, ignores his own religious tendencies. He ignores the human supremacy he is participating in through ignoring violence done to non-humans. Ignoring his own religion, he fails to account for the ecological wars being waged on non-humans and humans alike.

Environmental writer Derrick Jensen explains how this is a problem in an interview in CounterPunch titled “Against Prometheus,” “The fundamental religion of this culture is that of human dominion, and it does not matter so much whether one self-identifies as a Christian, a Capitalist, a Scientist, or just a regular member of this culture, one’s actions will be to promulgate this fundamentalist religion of unbridled entitlement and exploitation.”

Do not rest complacent and safe in the fallacy that human violence is dwindling. It isn’t. To ignore this reality is to participate in a fantastic leap of faith as surely religious as the religious violence Werleman’s secularism claims to save us from.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

judi curry February 3, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Hey Will. You are such a welcome addition to the OBR and SDFP.

But….you might want to check and see if you really want to eat that Talipia after all. Quote is from the NY Times.

” Farmed tilapia is promoted as good for your health and for the environment at a time when many marine stocks have been seriously depleted. “Did you know the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week?” asks the industry Web site, abouttilapia.com. But tilapia has both nutritional and environmental drawbacks.

Compared with other fish, farmed tilapia contains relatively small amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, the fish oils that are the main reasons doctors recommend eating fish frequently; salmon has more than 10 times the amount of tilapia. Also, farmed tilapia contains a less healthful mix of fatty acids because the fish are fed corn and soy instead of lake plants and algae, the diet of wild tilapia.

“It may look like fish and taste like fish but does not have the benefits — it may be detrimental,” said Dr. Floyd Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who specializes in fish lipids. ”

In fact, you might want to check on eating any farmed fish at any time.


Will Falk February 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

Thanks for the comment, Judi!

And I completely agree with your points. I’ve read the article you cite.

I think it brings up a very important issue which is how the health of everyone suffers from the destruction of natural communities. We see this with the rise of factory farming on land, too. Animals fed by corn and grains on factory farms are sicker than free range animals. Then, when they are eaten by us, we receive less nutrition from them. When we return them to the soil as food for plants or when we ourselves return to the soil, the plants don’t receive as much nutrition from the animals or us.

Eating fish is further complicated by the fact that many scientists feel that free fish may be completely extinct by 2050.

One of my points with the article is, as long as violence done to the natural world remains invisible or is ignored, mass extinctions are all but ensured.


Stephanie Mood February 5, 2014 at 10:05 am

Will, I really like your argument here. I think about this all the time, the human supremacy, the assumption that human needs, desires, entertainment are primary on the planet. The latest example is the unsurprising State Department report that Keystone will not harm the environment. Rape the land and sea and to hell with its animal and plant inhabitants. The earth is a stately pleasure-dome for humans, but verily, they know not what they do.


Will Falk February 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, Stephanie.

I think your use of the word “rape” speaks to many levels of the nature of the crisis we are in and is a sufficiently serious word to use. I think rape stems from a cultural impulse that the bodies of others are merely things to use. Rape is a horribly toxic mimic of a real relationship. And relationship is built off the respect for the other’s existence not as something to use, but as a being who’s life is as valuable to him or hers as yours is to yours.

Thank you for your response!


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