The Zoöp project underlines the necessity to move away from a purely human-centric worldview to include more-than-human perspectives on the world we live in, in order to create a circular regenerative non-extractive economy that exists in full supportive exchange with the natural world. We call this a Zoönomy.
The global climate crisis and the degradation of ecosystems are the effect of a social system in which economic gain always takes precedence over the interests of other-than-human life. This economic logic in turn is based on a culture that operates from an artificial separation between the human world and the natural world. Nature is seen as a collection of resources and raw materials for human use, or at best as a backdrop for human recreation.
Recovering ecosystems – ecological regeneration – is sorely needed to mitigate the climate catastrophe, and to allow the quality of life of all organic life to flourish in the future. For this recovery to be successful, humans need to genuinely care about the interests of other-than-humans. Therefore, the interests of other-than-human life need to be more than a mostly poorly budgeted item on the agenda. They need to be actively represented in organisational decision-making and policy-making processes.
The Zoöp model is inspired by rights-of-nature developments, in particular by the recognition of Te Urewera forest, Mount Taranaki and Whanganui River as legal entities and by the recognition of rights for Pachamama (mother nature) in the constitution of Ecuador. But in the culture where Zoöp originates, there is no (colonised) indigenous culture that emancipates itself through legal developments. European indigenous culture is precisely the originator of the absolute separation between the meaningful world of humans and the object-oriented world of nature.
The Doughnut Model
It is evident that ecological regeneration also requires a transformation of our economy. British economist Kate Raworth developed a visual framework for sustainable development – shaped like a doughnut. The model combines the concept of planetary boundaries with the complementary concept of social boundaries. Planetary boundaries are those beyond which lie unacceptable environmental degradation and potential tipping points in the Earth’s life-supporting systems. Think of a stable climate, fertile soils and biodiversity. The social boundaries are derived from internationally agreed minimum social standards, as identified in the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Think food, housing and healthcare.
Meeting the social standards without overshooting the ecological ceiling creates a distributive economy that allows humans to thrive, and should allow ecosystems to recover. The Doughnut Model has been embraced by numerous countries and municipalities worldwide. However, the model is a collection of goals; it does not include a blueprint on how to get there or a governance model to implement these goals in organisational bodies. Also, the Doughnut Model leaves the nature-culture divide basically intact; it may allow ecosystems to recover, but will not lead the way to human-inclusive ecosystems. Our preliminary explorations demonstrate that the Zoöp model has great potential as a governance model for the Doughnut Economy, while adding the principle of collaboration between human and other-than-human life, that addresses the root cause of the current predicament: the conceptual separation between the natural world and the world of humans.
Many governments are slowly becoming aware of the above mentioned issues and challenges, and are looking for ways to formulate answers. Individuals also try to bring about changes in their own living environment and many organisations and companies too are becoming aware of their responsibility. However, all struggle with the question of how to actually give form to a practice that offers real alternatives. In short: what is lacking is a concrete action perspective.
With the Zoöp model, we offer various parties practical, actionable tools and methodologies. Zoöp is a concrete, specific, realistic, measurable and achievable model to work towards ecological regeneration and the fostering of an economy that supports the planetary ecology.