If you prefer audio, you can find my conversation with Zion on our podcast here or by searching for “Sentientism” on Apple or most other podcast platforms.
In these Sentientist Conversations (subscribe!), we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
“Do you want a habitable planet for your children?” “We all want to ‘Live Long and Prosper!'”
Zion Lights is an author & activist known for her environmental work & science communication. She is UK director of Environmental Progress. She has been a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion (XR) UK on TV and radio, and founded & edited XR’s Hourglass newspaper. She has written for The Huffington Post, authored the evidence-based nonfiction book The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, and given a TEDx talk.
We talk about:
- Front line environmental activism (before & during XR)
- Why the environmental movement should commit to evidence & reason, even when it’s uncomfortable (e.g. nuclear)
- The risks of genuine cause commitment leading to dogma & the ignoring/warping of evidence
- How a lack of evidence risks undermining the credibility of movements (particularly when being interviewed by Andrew Neill)
- Individual change vs. systemic change – making it easier for people to do the right thing
- How XR have helped bring env. concerns into the public consciousness
- Energy Justice, finding sustainable ways to get energy to people that most need it
- Understanding the reality of life in less-developed countries & acting with compassion as we pursue solutions
- Avoiding the developed country trope of: “We burned fossil fuels to get rich & happy – but you developing countries can’t, because we’ve destroyed the environment”
- Embedding compassion (for human & non-sentient beings) in our environmentalism
- Growing up in England with Punjabi parents, one Christian & one Sikh
- Exploring religions but being “baffled” by them
- How other dogmas (e.g. anti-vaxx, anti-masking) relate to religious dogmas
- The good (compassion) & bad (e.g. caste discrimination) of religious ethics
- Fatalism, karma & crossing the road in Indian cities!
- Fatalism & prayer as ways of coping with a difficult life, but ones that trap people
- Avoiding romanticism about living “simple” lives. These lives are often short, risky & full of suffering
- Superstitions as another set of un-founded & potentially dangerous beliefs
- The sense of freedom from letting go of superstition & religion & adopting a scientific worldview
- Marrying a doctor for safety/health as well as status reasons!
- Risking family & social connections to take a different path (whether shunning or something less formal)
- The value & constraints/dangers of community obligations
- The importance of freedom & autonomy
- The image of animal products as high status, aspirational or a “treat”, even going back to hunter/gatherer times
- Curry for breakfast, lunch & dinner 🙂
- Going vegan
- The challenge of early vegan “milks” & “cheese” & how much easier things are now
- The indoctrination re: animal product usage & how hard it can be to break out
- The env. impact of animal farming
- How plant-based + clean meat will accelerate the switch – moral persuasion is just too slow
- How consumption of animal products will come to be seen as decadent
- Whether people will switch their ethics more quickly once the alternatives are there
- How future generations will see our behaviour re: climate change & animal products
- How most Humanists have broken one form of indoctrination (religion) but remain trapped by another (anthropocentric ethics)
- How our traditional habits & ethics don’t match the modern world
- The ethics of climate impact… where do we draw the line?
- Perfection being the enemy of the good. Just because perfection is unattainable shouldn’t stop us from trying to do better
- Animal agriculture & fossil fuels as outdated, stranded assets
- Environmentalism sometimes neglects sentient wild & farmed animals while granting rights to rivers (which do also need protection because of their instrumental importance)
- Paganism & dogma in the env. movements & how they close of discussion
- The danger of putting anything (ecosystems, supreme leaders, gods, churches, nation state, the party) as more important than sentient beings
- The risks of eco-fascism
- The need for transparency when there are problems with renewables
- The importance of not dogmatically rejecting innovations (e.g. nuclear)
- A Star Trek/Kaku/Deutschian/Sagan future!
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason and compassion for all sentient beings.” You can find out more at sentientism.info.
Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome to join our community. Our main group is here on FaceBook.
Many thanks to Graham for his post-production work on this video. Go follow him (& maybe work with him!) at @cgbessellieu.