While many countries have responded to environmental crises with meaningful legislation and policies that have improved regional air and water quality, environmental problems are increasing. Global climate change, rapidly decreasing biodiversity and growing extinction rates, dwindling resources, and pollution are serious and escalating threats.
Environmental issues are inextricably linked to human rights, animal protection, and economic and political issues. For example, placing polluting industries in poor neighborhoods is both an environmental and a social justice issue.
On a global scale, something as ubiquitous as the burning of fossil fuels contributes to pollution, acid rain, and climate change. These problems, in turn, contribute to human health declines and increased weather-related disasters. The ownership by multinational corporations of natural resources, such as water, causes shortages – for humans and animals alike – and contributes to poverty.
We all depend on the natural world for our survival, so every environmental issue becomes an issue for both humans and nonhuman animals.
Environmental concerns are frequently pitted against human rights, inhibiting the search for solutions that benefit both people and the natural world. For example, we are asked to choose between loggers and owls, as if there is no way to protect jobs and other species. And species are often pitted against individual animals, so that we may choose to trap and kill certain animals to protect an ecosystem or other species.
Humane education invites people to explore more complex and far-reaching solutions to these scenarios that are often framed in an either/or way.