Modern society loves to categorise. Labels create boundaries - making sure things are divided, arranged, (and a favourite recent word) archived. And we all know that societal structures often can’t withstand attempts to redefine these barriers, as it could hinder the preconceived hierarchies fixed by rules that privilege some over others.
For example in today’s judicial system it seems ludicrous for nature to share the same rights as people (some animals excluded, ie. India’s holy cows, and endangered species). But we needn't look as far as that to find such hierarchies - different ethnicities and sexual orientation continue fighting to rightly share the same fundamental rights as cis gender whites. And as we’re seeing today, reshaping these core foundations of a society that has been pre-planned for a one-size-fits-all human being would mean to shake the structures of the power that allows certain groups to remain on top of the pyramid.
As feminist and environmentalist theorist Donna Haraway once put it: “Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute. Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic.” Haraway is certainly not the only one that refuses to distinguish between human, nature, and technology, but her research is particularly inspiring when it comes to challenging normative structures.
If on the one side the development of new ways of thinking, aiming to benefit the environment and the cohabitation between species is slowly but increasingly becoming more popular, than on the other side, the spreading of bigot politics and economy-driven legislations are threatening basic rights.
Today we are witnessing a disjuncture: rivers are beginning to gain the same rights as us humans, the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in India and Whanganui river in New Zealand, whilst the US President just signed an executive order to ban regulations that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We are leaping forward in terms of human rights for women, the LGBTQI community and nature itself, but at the same time under threat of all this progress being simply erased. At this contradictory moment it is essential to circulate positive and groundbreaking narratives – such as the ones told by Donna Haraway – and keep moving forward.