Helena Maria Saari and the Envisioning Sustainability Research Hub invited me to give an online guest lecture for their monthly meeting on 28 April 2022. The Envisioning Sustainability Research Hub is part of the Biodiverse Anthropocenes Research Program of the University of Oulu. I gave an introduction to the notion of Interspecies Sustainability:

“Interspecies Sustainability – What is it? Why do we need it? Where does it take us?”

Here is the abstract:

In recent years, conceptual reframings of the dominant sustainability paradigm are taking hold and aspects of these are entering influential spaces such as UN reports. Unfortunately, the interests of nonhuman animals remain underrepresented if not ignored. This paper begins by outlining the reasons for the historical neglect of the interests of animals in the sustainability discourse. To better understand the intersection of sustainability and animal protection, this author underlines the need to differentiate between the notion of sustainability and the sustainable development agenda. The tensions and conceptual differences between the two and the positioning of animals in relation to them are addressed. Next, the conceptual development of the notion of interspecies sustainability is presented. Its building blocks, its epistemological and ontological dimensions, and its underlying critical social science basis are outlined. Then, an analytical tool is introduced, the Layers of Engagement with Animal Protection. This tool demonstrates the application of the framework of interspecies sustainability, and its implications for practice and policy development. It also serves to situate the animal welfare discourse, as opposed to the animal protection discourse, and seeks to guard against co-option of the latter. Finally, interspecies sustainability is positioned in relation to framings that are gaining influence in the sustainability discourse, or seeking to replace it, such as critical sustainability, regenerative sustainability, transformation for sustainability, and the symbiotic worldview. In conclusion it is argued that the notion of interspecies sustainability needs to be advanced to ensure that the protection of animals becomes integral to the sustainability discourse. It also serves to reveal the breadth and depth of the structural inequalities, the power imbalances and epistemic injustices that need to be overcome to protect animals, to protect life on this planet, and to ready society for the transformation to true sustainability. It renders visible the far-reaching impact of our unsustainabilities, but also the many leverage points for change. With all its implications, interspecies sustainability may generate hope and enthusiasm for the sustainability transformation.

Edited 11 Jan 2024