Comment: We All Live in a Planetary Ark

In Bernice Bovenkerk & Jozef Keulartz (eds.), Animal Ethics in the Age of Humans: Blurring Boundaries in Human-Animal Relationships. Cham: Springer (2016)
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The Biblical story of the Art (a floating, zoo-like device, constructed to survive climate turmoil and mass extinction) can be regarded as an archetypal image (in the terminology of Gaston Bachelard), capturing structural components of the human-animal relationship. Building on the contributions by Larson and Barr, Keulartz, Bovenkerk and Verweij, and Ramp and Bekoff, I will argue that, in the course of history, the Ark has evolved from a fictional (imaginary) icon into something increasingly real. The agricultural village of the Neolithic era already functioned as a sheltered enclave, a survival machine designed to allow a select number of humans and accompanying species to withstand environmental fluctuations and survival pressure. In the current situation, however, the Ark has developed into a Gestell of planetary dimensions. The concept of the anthropocene basically conveys the idea that we have entered a global symbolical Ark, conceptualised by Teilhard de Chardin as the noosphere (the world-wide web of intelligence and policies, technologies and engineering, research and regulations) and emerging against the backdrop of a necro(s)cene: an ambiance of mass extinction. Increasingly, prospects for survival of a disconcertingly large number of species depend on human behaviour and human decision: on our ability or failure to collectively address the daunting challenges of the present.

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Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam


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