Tag Archives: harm

Confronting the North Pacific Garbage Patch

A virtual installation

AIn a stretch of the North Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles away from any territorial state boundary, floats a massive object known colloquially as the ‘North Pacific Garbage Patch’. The term ‘patch’ is a euphemism; this object is so large as to be indeterminate in size, despite the best efforts of marine scientists to measure and model it. Billions of plastic objects and fragments are drawn together in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a vortex effect created by the large-scale clockwise rotation of ocean currents, high atmospheric pressure and the whirlpool effect created by westerly winds on the north side and easterly trade winds to the south. In 1997, Captain Charles James Moore encountered the ‘garbage patch’ while crossing the North Pacific on his way back from a yachting race and, struck by its immensity, attempted to measure the density of plastic particles within it. He  estimated that the visible plastic amounted to about half a pound for every 100 square metres, or 3 million tons of plastic total, a figure corroborated by US navy calculations.N

The ‘garbage patch’ is the site of numerous harms. Seabirds, turtles, cetaceans and plankton, mistaking fragments of plastic for food, ingest them and feed them to their young, whilst playful marine mammals or fish become tangled in ‘ghost nets’ where they drown and decompose. Although synthetic polymers are bio-inactive (that is, they cannot decompose in the stomachs of these animals), they can cause harm to these animals by blocking internal organs, preventing the intake of calories or causing internal injury. It is difficult to estimate how many animals die in these ways as most of their bodies sink to the bottom of the sea or are dispersed  Even though the plastic itself is bio-inactive, it acts as a sponge for toxins such as heavy metals or resilient poisons like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and DDT which, although banned since the 1970s, still permeates Mplastic waste today. Plastic fragments also carry POPs (persistent organic pollutants), which can cause a range of harms in animals from endocrine disruption to mutagenesis or carcinogenesis. There is substantial concern that these substances may bio-accumulate as they enter and pass up the food chain. Toxins are not the only things carried long distances by pieces of plastic – they also transport micro-organisms that might disrupt the balance of the ecosystems they enter. In addition, the accumulation of plastics may cause the smothering of the sea-bed, a process which can prevent gas-exchange and harden the sea floor, or change the composition of sediments in ways that alter the reproduction of marine species.G

I recently presented a paper (read it here) arguing that the spatial, temporal and ethical boundaries of the concepts of harm need to be challenged, and I used the ‘garbage patch’ as a central (if counter-intuitive) example. To make my points further, I wanted to visualize what it might be like literally to confront the ‘garbage patch’, as if one were directly immersed within it. I like Ian Bogost’s claim that academics can and should make things, and thought I’d give it a go. The result was an installation called ‘Gyre’, which was placed in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia in April 2014.IMG_6652

The installation is made entirely of plastics consumed or found by myself and co-creator Liam Kelly. It is intended to confront the viewer with the idea that the objects we treat as garbage may not ‘go away’ – instead, they remain, indefinitely, in a shared medium in which we, too, are immersed.  This point is underscored by transposing the mass of suspended plastic into the orderly environment of the university, the suburban neighbourhood – and, of course the air which composes so much of the terrestrial space that humans inhabit. The sculpture and accompanying photos are also intended to perform a ‘cosmopolitical‘ intervention, ‘forcing thought’ about the nature of harm, disrupting the boundaries of ethics and resisting its closure to a diverse cosmos.   But it also reflects the strange, eerie beauty of plastic ‘waste’, when the light filters through its glassy fragments or its filaments spin in a breeze. In this sense, it represents the powerful, abject magnetism of harm.

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Thanks to the department of POLSIS, University of Queensland, for hosting this project.

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A world of harm

ImageA few words on my new article, Only human? a worldly approach to security‘, Security Dialogue, Vol. 45, 1, pp. 5-21.

It’s hard to get a handle on harm. Almost any act of harm we can think of  – from full-scale wars to the gradual erosion of ecosystems – impacts on multiple beings and forms of being. This means that harm is always worse than we think it is, and perhaps more complex than we can ever grasp. But my new article argues that this is no excuse for ignoring the depth and multiplicity of harm – or for not trying to grasp it.  International relations, and the field of security, are largely pragmatic, operating in a context of limited resources, competing demands and entrenched interests. So they tend to respond to harms by simplifying them and making them actionable within this context. Usually, this means focusing on just one (or at most a few) subjects: humans, or states, or occasionally objects such as the artefacts designated as ‘heritage’ and protected under international law. Even highly critical and generous conceptions of harm such as those of Andrew Linklater, usually draw the boundary line around humans or the animals with which they identify.

But if we really want to get a handle on what harm is and what it does, we need to keep two things in mind. First, harm happens to multiple beings. Second, these beings cannot be treated separately or simply added up. Rather, the beings harmed are inter-twined and co-constitute each other, so what is harmed is not a single being or a group thereof, but a whole, unique world. So, if we want to respond ethically and practically to harm, we need to see worlds and the conditions of worldliness as what Rob Walker calls the ‘subject of security’. “Only Human” is my first stab at addressing this problem. I argue that we should understand harms not in terms of human subjects (however broadly construed), but rather in terms of complex, co-constituted worlds. Then I explore a series of approaches (largely from philosophy and applied ethics) to dealing with harm beyond the human.

First, I ask whether we need to ditch anthropocentrism entirely in order to understand harm. Drawing on weak anthropocentric ethics, I argue that there it’s not possible fully to escape an anthropocentric perspective. But there is nothing wrong with a perspective that starts from the human, as long is it is not one that instrumentalizes all other beings to human needs. But I also argue that we need to rethink humans as part of worlds – that is, as beings that co-constitute and are co-constituted by, a range of other beings.

Second, I explore the ‘expanding circle’ approach to ethics that has been popularized by Peter Singer, Paola Cavalieri and many other key thinkers in the area of animal studies. But I also discuss arguments to protect artifacts and made objects on the basis that they help to make us human, put forward by authors such as Hannah Arendt, Elaine Scarry and, more recently, Martin Coward. This approach allows for some other beings to be protected within existing laws and norms of security. But it also means that myriad other beings are excluded, and that harm is treated as an aggregate, rather than the property of a whole. So this approach can’t help us to understand harms to worlds, either on an ontological or an ethical level.

Third, I discuss the more recent contributions of ‘new materialism’ (especially the work of William Connolly and Jane Bennett). This includes the notions that all material beings participate in be(com)ing, and that humans should cultivate responsiveness to the quasi-agential powers of other beings. New materialism, I argue, offers a powerful ontological challenge to existing practices and norms of security by forcing us to look more carefully at causality and to reconsider the inertness of the ‘stuff’ of security (and of being). But it doesn’t expand enough on what kind of ethics this shift might entail, which makes it hard to think about security ethics – that is, about what we harm and what we should protect.

Taking all of this into account, the article reconciles aspects of all three approaches. It goes on to show that there is no need to throw out categorical thinking entirely in order to comprehend harms to worlds, and that there is no inherent inconsistency between weak anthropocentrism and new materialism or ‘expanding circle’ approaches. Rather, I argue that a ‘worldly’ approach to security involves transforming existing concepts of harm to reflect the ontological conditions of worldliness. This approach offers a new concept – ‘mundicide’- to capture harm through this lens. Mundicide is not intended to be a legal category, but rather a phenomenological concept to help us think harm to worlds and worldliness.  Instead of going into detail here, I’ll let interested readers see how I approached this – and whether or not they think I’ve succeeded.

An important caveat: I’m still convinced that it’s impossible to grasp harm in its full enormity, whatever its scale. And it’s definitely beyond the capacity of humans to prevent or respond adequately to all forms of harm.  But I think that we can still make more of our (limited) human perspective and capacities to gain a better sense of what harm entails and how we might respond to it. In fact, I think that our current understandings of harm can be expanded massively, and in multiple directions – for instance, through awareness of other forms of being, of multiple timescales, of multiple physical scales and properties, and so on.  And I think that discussions of security (international or otherwise) are an important place to do this. Let me know what you think!


A growing concern

What plants can tell humans about violence, harm and ethics

Spread Leaf by Stefan Sager (http://bit.ly/JQIOZp) licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs (http://bit.ly/1ldMcMT)

Spread Leaf by Stefan Sager (http://bit.ly/JQIOZp) licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs (http://bit.ly/1ldMcMT)

 “I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me.  I am not one of the beautiful; I am not one that by any other name instills flutters in the human heart… I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions.  I am zucchini – and I am in space”

These are the opening lines of US Astronaut Don Pettit’s quasi-fictional Diary of a Space Zucchini (listen to a dramatized version here):  an account of ten days in the life of a plant growing on the International Space Station. Through a series of short entries, the zucchini writes about its growing awareness of the people with whom it interacts, including its knowledge that its ‘kind’ is regularly eaten by them. It discusses its feelings and sensations, such as its embarrassment at having it roots exposed, its enjoyment of light and a good view, or its distaste for the nourishment it is given. The zucchini communicates with its human companions – and of course its audience – and tries hard to understand its surroundings. By taking on the voice of a vegetable, Pettit goes beyond talking to plants, and talks as a plant. Is he crazy?

In Western secular cultures, the ways in which humans relate with nonhumans often function as markers of the boundary between sanity and insanity.  In a supposedly disenchanted universe, it’s regarded as a sign of mental illness to imagine mere ‘things’ as being capable of having a perspective, of speaking or being spoken to. And it’s considered crazier to think this about some things than others. As Val Plumwood argued, it’s more or less acceptable to speak to animals that are known to respond to human language – perhaps because of the widespread human affinity for them, the fact that they display forms of intelligence that remind us of our own, or even the success of animal welfare activists in convincing some humans of their sentience. But talk to a tree and you’re bound to provoke strong and negative reactions.

So it takes a brave soul to admit that one has been talking to, let alone thinking like, a plant. Luckily, in their recent books, Michael Marder and Matthew Hall have been courageous enough to do just this. Both authors challenge the Western (and, in Hall’s case, the non-Western) traditions which have cemented plants as mere resources to be dominated, manipulated and exploited for the use of humans and other animals. From the perspectives they develop, Pettit’s vegetable-eye view is a bit zany, because it attributes human (or at least zoological) forms of subjectivity to a plant – not because it treats a plant as a subject.

In the proverbial nutshell, both Marder and Hall provide persuasive arguments and evidence that we should consider plants as beings with their own forms of subjectivity, which are distinct from, but linked to, our own. Marder’s work is a challenging re-thinking of the being of plants through the lenses of phenomenology and deconstruction. Instead of evaluating plants in human terms, he focuses on their unique ontological conditions. These include total openness to their environment; the fact that they are multiplicities instead of selves, simultaneously singular beings and instantiations of a species; their ability to express and communicate through their embodiment; and the unique forms of temporality and freedom they experience. He also argues convincingly that plant-being is deeply entwined with human being – in other words, plant being is a dimension of human being – an argument that dissolves the human/nature duality imposed by Western metaphysics. Marder’s intriguing claim is not (only) that plants should be given consideration within the scope of human ethics, but also that plant-being can offer an alternative ethics from which humans can learn.

Hall takes a slightly different approach, focusing on the zoocentric tradition in Western thought, but also in other systems of belief such as Buddhism. He shows how judging the ethical status of plants on the basis of animal physiology and capabilities sets plants up to lose, literally disqualifying them from ethical consideration. Indeed, Hall demonstrates how the dogmatic backgrounding of plants, often in the face of contradictory empirical evidence, has been deliberately used to underwrite and defend exploitative practices. But he also shows how a range of cultural and spiritual systems – from new animisms and Jainism to European paganism (ancient and contemporary) – have treated plants as subjects worthy of ethical treatment – including as nonhuman persons. In these cultures, treating plants as subjects isn’t (or wasn’t) considered crazy.

Green Leaf by @Doug88888 (http://bit.ly/JQIOZp) licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Non-commercial-ShareAlike (http://bit.ly/JQK66Q)

Green Leaf by @Doug88888 (http://bit.ly/JQIOZp) licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Non-commercial-ShareAlike (http://bit.ly/JQK66Q)

In framing plants as ethical subjects, both authors bring us to a crucial problem. If plants deserve ethical consideration, then we cannot go on destroying them without a second thought. This problem strikes right to the core not only of ethics, but also of our understandings of violence and harm. This, if you were wondering, is why someone concerned with international security should care about the ethical status of plants.

Thinking about plants as ethical subjects forces humans to confront a disturbing and poignant fact: harming other subjects is not incidental to our form of being. Harm is the very condition of our existence. This is probably the most important problem that concepts and practices of ethics, violence and security must contend with.

And it’s not something that most people would like to admit. Most people recognize that other kinds of animals rely on doing harm to other beings, and normally excuse them for it. Think of the myriad nature programs in which children are told not to cry for the antelope being devoured by the lion because ‘that’s how it goes in nature’. But one of the many ways humans have tried to distinguish themselves from other animals is by believing that we can choose not to harm others, or at least control our urges to do so. As I’ve argued elsewhere ,Western secular societies in particular abhor violence – both the idea of being its victim and its perpetrator. A human who ends up in either of these positions is treated as a dehumanized being. Andrew Linklater argues that the entire history of human efforts at security and civilization has sprung from the desire to minimize harm and regulate violence.

This doesn’t mean that Western secular societies don’t commit violence. On the contrary, like the many other cultures that Hall explores, they define violence and harm in ways that make their norms and actions appear to be non-violent. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to disqualify certain kinds of beings from ethical consideration – whether plants, other animals, or ‘dehumanized’ humans. If a being isn’t capable of being harmed, then how can destroying it be considered violence, and why should we worry about the violence we do to it in our everyday lives?

Plant-thinking, as Marder calls it, forces this violence into the foreground in a unique way. Certainly, other approaches draw our attention to the suffering of others and our violence against them (animal studies in particular). But recognizing plants as ethical subjects shows not only the violence we do, but also the impossibility of escaping this violence.

To understand why, simply compare plants to two other beings: water and nonhuman animals. Humans and most other life forms absolutely need to consume water in order to survive. However, by consuming the water, we do not destroy it (although we change its form). In contrast, humans do not, strictly speaking, need to consume the bodies of animals in order to survive (veganism demonstrates this point, and the development of lab-generated meat opens new horizons for it). Even those who eat animal products need not necessarily harm or kill the animals involved (for instance, if one is a vegetarian who uses free range animal products). In contrast, we cannot live without consuming plants, and in order to consume them, we need to destroy them, at least in part (e.g. by consuming their fruit, roots, leaves or flowers). So unlike the other two examples, plants are both necessary to our form of being and must be harmed in order to support this form of being.

Thinking of plants in this way also shows us that everyone –including many other kinds of animals- is part of this harm. Even the dedicated pacifist and committed vegan must harm plants in order to live, and therefore, from this perspective, must do violence against ethical subjects. Moreover, plants offer us no easy escape route. Short of opting for voluntary extinction – which, as Peter Singer argues, is an option, but not a desirable one – we have no choice. We have to harm plants in order to be human.

Understanding this is crucial in understanding the ethical problems of harm and violence. If we recognize as subjects many of the beings we habitually instrumentalize – animals, landscapes, other humans – then suddenly the world appears as a much darker place, and we appear as much more violent beings than we might have thought. By recognizing the ethical status of previously disqualified others, we multiply, amplify and deepen every instance of harm, all the while knowing that we can’t completely remove ourselves from it.

Does the inevitability of this harm mean that we should just throw in the towel and embrace our violence? Yes and no. None of this suggests that we should glorify the violence we do or accept it in an unthinking way. And the amount of effort to which human societies have gone over centuries and across multiple contexts to disqualify certain beings from ethical consideration suggests that there is little appetite for revelling in it. We’d much rather pretend it’s not there by instating a kind of amnesty toward the other. This is quite like futural amnesty, but it is applied to beings that we share the present with. It involves giving ourselves permission to render certain things unthinkable so that we can get on with our daily lives without guilt or horror. It is precisely this kind of amnesty that has led to blindness and irrational denialism in the face of ecological breakdown and the ruthless exploitation of billions of living beings, human and otherwise.

Roots by George L Smyth (http://bit.ly/1ldR1G9)Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0 (http://bit.ly/JQK66Q)

Roots by George L Smyth (http://bit.ly/1ldR1G9)Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0 (http://bit.ly/JQK66Q)

But we should own up to this violence to the extent that it forces us to confront the full enormity of the harm that is bound up with our existence. Here, we should listen to Zizek’s call for the citizens of Western democratic states to acknowledge their violent histories (and presents). He disdains the unwillingness of these people to recognize either the violent roots of their own ‘peaceful’, liberal orders or the virtues of totalitarian regimes. In short, he is disgusted at their disgust at the very conditions which have made their lives possible, and urges them to face up to these. One needn’t accept Zizek’s political programme as a whole in order to benefit from this message: that we need to confront the full enormity of the harm in which we are implicated.

Being willing to do this is an ethical act, and it is the first step towards a powerful, confrontational ethics. Confrontational ethics is responsive: it requires that we open ourselves to the ethical callings of the others that we encounter rather than following strict, abstract rules about ethical conduct.  But it is not passive, in the sense that it does not involve waiting to come into contact with the other. Instead, it requires that we seek out the other who is the subject of harm and face this other directly – even as we are harming it.

It also demands that we look for harm even where it is well hidden, breaking through the various forms of amnesty that allow us to live our lives in ignorance of it. We needn’t immerse ourselves in thoughts of violence in every waking moment, but we should reflect on the harms that we do as we are doing them – for instance, when we sit down to eat or choose fruit at a supermarket.  This kind of ethics acknowledges that we must do harm to other ethical subjects, but impels us to do it in a way that is thoughtful, and attempts to minimize the harm wherever possible. Most importantly, perhaps, it demands that we have the guts to look straight at another being and to own up to the harm that we do to it.

This is precisely the conclusion that Marder and Hall come to, in their own separate ways. Neither of these authors asks humans to stop eating plants or harming them completely. I have to admit that I downloaded Marder’s article ‘Is It Ethical to Eat Plants?’, then ignored it for several months for fear that it might peg my own (vegetarian) diet as unethical.  I preferred to cling to amnesty towards plants than to face an even more restrictive diet, or the gloating of carnivore friends. But Marder doesn’t suggest that we abstain from vegetables. Instead, he urges us to think about just how much harm it is really necessary for us to do in order to support our forms of life, and what harms can be minimized. For instance, he suggests that we should think carefully about the plants that we eat and the processes by which they end up on the ends of our forks. For instance, instead of supporting bio-engineering processes that maximize the value of plants for human consumption, we should find ways to ‘let plants be’. This might mean allowing them to adhere to their own temporal cycles, or leaving uncultivated spaces for them to grow.

In a similar vein, Hall suggests that we should adopt something like the ‘new animist’ approach, which acknowledges that we must kill nonhuman persons in order to live, but that we should treat them with respect. This involves working actively towards the flourishing of the others who we kill, not for our instrumental purposes, but rather as a sign of solidarity. It also involves ensuring that we do not waste the lives that we take (for instance, in the well-documented phenomenon of food waste that accounts for up to 1/3 of food produced for human use in Western countries). In short, both authors argue that we need to be responsive to, and respectful of, the subjects that we harm.

At first glance, it seems that both of the positions outlined here retain  the very hierarchies they are trying to dissolve. We will go on harming plants, they suggest, but we should be thoughtful and ethical in how we do so. Surely, if we were truly to treat ‘plants as persons’, then this proposition would sound a lot less reasonable. Imagine if we said that it was ok to maim or kill humans, provided that we tried to minimize it and only killed for good reasons. In fact, this is the basis of the logics of killing and ‘saving’ that currently underpin international politics, in particular the ethics surrounding military intervention rooted in the just war tradition.  So perhaps the message to take from this is that all persons – human or otherwise – remain subjected to ethical hierarchies, no matter how hard we try to level them. This is another unpalatable truth that plant-thinking can help us to see.

So, as it turns out, plants can tell us a great deal about violence and harm. Traditionally, plants are considered to be amongst the weakest and most vulnerable beings in relation to humans. But look at the power they have to force humans to confront their own violence and reflect on their ethics if we are receptive to them.

If Marder is right, then we can also draw on aspects of plant-being in order to act ethically. The confrontational ethics I discussed above can draw a great deal from this approach. Despite the connotations of the term ‘confrontational’, I am not looking for a violent, aggressive form of ethics. In fact, the kind of ethics I’m advocating draws on several of the qualities that Marder attributes to plant-being: radical openness to one’s surroundings and the other beings within it, receptivity to the multiplicity of one’s self and others, resistance (however weak) against the forces of instrumentalization it and receptiveness to multiple possible futures. This kind of ethics does not just involve adding plants to an increasingly long list of beings that we need to consider in our existing ethical terms. It also means that we can reshape our ethics by being, and thinking, a little bit more like plants. To the close-minded, this might very well seem crazy, but it is a powerful – and, I think, a courageous – way of addressing the violence and harm at the roots of human existence.


Lost worlds: the Guarani-Kaiowa confront mundicide

Image

Photo (‘Alone in the dark’) by Samchio licensed under creative commons attribution 2.0 Generic. This picture shows deforestation undertaken to make way for sugar cane farming.

According to a recent report by the NGO Survival, the Guarani- Kaiowa tribe of Brazil faces one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  Indeed, in 2012, it was reported that the entire tribe threatened to commit suicide after a court ruled that they must leave their sacred land. This epidemic of self-harm has been linked to the destruction of the landscapes the Guarani- Kaiowa hold sacred and have traditionally inhabited. Much of this land has been sold for the purposes of ranching, sugar cane farming and the production of biofuels – all of which require the destruction of ancient forests and their ecosystems.  Many landowners have hired armed security guards to deter members of the tribe from returning to the land. Thousands of Guarani- Kaiowa have been moved to crowded camps fraught by violence, where they face high rates of depression and alcoholism.

How can we understand harm of this kind? It goes far beyond the loss of ‘land’. What the Guarani- Kaiowa are suffering from is not simply the absence of a set of resources for production and consumption, or a source of ‘livelihood’ (the way the courts understand it). They are also severed from relationships that they had with this land, its other living inhabitants and its inanimate features.  These relationships gave rise to distinctive ways of life, whose histories were inscribed into the earth, trees and bodies of the people and animals who lived there.

A recent article claims that we might frame this situation as a ‘silent genocide’. But genocide is not quite the right term, and not only because this kind of harm fails to meet its basic legal criteria (for instance, the intention to destroy a people). It is also, in another sense, not extensive enough,
because it refers specifically to the destruction of human groups. That is, it presumes that groups of humans can be destroyed in isolation from the complex worlds in which they are embedded, and which they co-constitute with other beings.  What the Guarani- Kaiowa are confronted with is not only the loss of a people, but also the loss of a world.

Indeed, the article goes on to quote Mary Nolan, a US nun and human rights lawyer, who argues that  “the Guarani people think their relationship with the universe is broken when they are separated from their land”.  This framing of the situation  – as the destruction of an irreducible, intricate, unique whole – comes much closer to expressing the kind of harm in question. Indeed, the author states, “many in the community cosmologically interpret their situation as a symptom of the destruction of the world”.

This is a very astute observation (and it’s not every day that journalists write about cosmology). The destruction of ‘world’ is not just about damage to ecosystems or the removal of land rights. It involves the destruction of the conditions of being that make being on earth what it is.

In his book Being Singular Plural, Jean-Luc Nancy argues that the term ‘world’ does not denote a planet or a social construct. Rather, ‘world’ refers to conditions of ‘being-together’ with multiple kinds of beings.  Each form of being exists only in relation to others, and no particular form of being has ontological primacy. In fact, as Nancy puts it, we would not be ‘humans’ if there were not ‘dogs’ or ‘stones’. From this perspective, worldliness is a state in which radically diverse kinds of beings co-constitute each other and form collectives that cannot be reduced or disaggregated.

If we understand worlds in this way, it is impossible to imagine harm like that faced by the Guarani tribe occurring just to humans – or, for that matter, to any other set of beings. Instead, it is the conditions of worldliness that are harmed or destroyed. For this very reason, Nancy argues in his book The Sense of the World that we cannot understand genocide adequately if we think of it only as an attack on a people. Rather, he claims, it is an attempt to destroy the conditions of worldliness – “the putting to death of the world”.

This is precisely what is happening in south-western Brazil, and existing concepts of harm cannot capture it – not the loss of ‘land’ or territory, not the collapse of human rights, not even genocide. We need to call harms like this what they really are: mundicide, or the destruction of worlds. Only this term can capture the depth, complexity and irreplaceability of what is lost.


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