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Our future depends on changing how we relate to each other, other animals, and the natural world on which we all depend.

The climate crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, environmental degradation, human and animal exploitation, and other threats plainly illustrate how the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet are connected.

Phoenix Zones Initiative hosted a virtual event, Ecological Justice and the Right to Health, on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 7 pm EDT/4 pm PDT.

Our panel of experts discussed why and how centering ecological justice and a right to health across global and local policies and practices can help ensure that people, animals, and the planet can be healthy and thrive.

We’ll be sharing an edited and captioned recording soon; for now, watch the raw recording of the event: (Note: There were technical difficulties during Elan Abrell’s segment. Here are his speaking notes.)

Thank you to our Cosponsors:

Brighter Green logo
Center for Bioethics and Humanities
Health and Human Rights Journal
NYU Animal Studies Program
Vermont Law School logo

Our Panelists:

Elan Abrell

Dr. Elan Abrell, Visiting Assistant Professor, Wesleyan University; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Animal Studies MA Program and the Anthropology Department, New York University

Elan Abrell is a cultural anthropologist whose research, writing, and practice focus on human-animal-environment interactions, scientific knowledge production, and food-related technological innovation.

His work has also explored the socially constructed and historically shifting dividing line between who does and does not count as human, and how economic processes have reinforced this dividing line to rationalize the exploitation and mistreatment of both people and animals.

Dr. Abrell has written about systemic discrimination associated with the sanctioning of torture and other anti-civil rights policies, and his book, Saving Animals: Practices of Care and Rescue in the US Animal Sanctuary Movement, examines how sanctuary caregivers respond to a range of ethical dilemmas and material constraints while attempting to meet the various and sometimes conflicting needs of rescued animals.

Dr. L. Syd M Johnson

Dr. L. Syd M Johnson, Associate Professor and Consultant, Center for Bioethics and Humanities, Upstate Medical University

L. Syd M Johnson is a philosopher, bioethicist, and neuroethicist at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University. She’s an Associate Editor for Neuroethics, and a member of the NIH BRAIN Initiative Neuroethics Working Group.

Dr. Johnson’s books include The Ethics of Uncertainty: Entangled Ethical and Epistemic Risks in Disorders of Consciousness, The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers’ Brief, and Neuroethics and Nonhuman Animals.

Her research focuses on ethical issues related to animal ethics, research ethics, and brain injuries, including brain death and disorders of consciousness. Her interest in all things with brains includes every kind of critter, zombies, and robots.

Mia MacDonald

Mia MacDonald, Founder and Executive Director, Brighter Green

Mia MacDonald is the Executive Director of Brighter Green, a New York-based public policy action tank that works to raise awareness and encourage dialogue on and policy attention to issues that span human rights, the environment, animals, and sustainable development around the world.

Brighter Green has been a leader in focusing attention on the crucial intersections between food systems, climate change, biodiversity loss, animal welfare, and equity and sustainability.

Under Mia’s leadership, Brighter Green’s research and policy recommendations have been used, cited, taught, and applied in policy venues (global, regional, national, and local), among international networks, and in start-up projects and university classrooms and curricula in a number of countries.

Mia has been quoted in a variety of media, and has contributed to several books, including Unbowed, the bestselling autobiography of Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Peace Laureate, and A Bigger Picture, a memoir/manifesto by climate activist Vanessa Nakate.

Mia has served as chair of the board of the Green Belt Movement-North America and of the Culture and Animals Foundation, is a director of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare-U.S. is a contributing editor for Environment magazine.

Prior to founding Brighter Green, Mia was a policy analyst, writer, editor, and project manager as a consultant on sustainable development, women’s rights, reproductive health, population, conservation, and animal protection.

Jeff Sebo

Dr. Jeff Sebo, Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, Philosophy, and Law, and Director of the Animal Studies MA Program at New York University

Jeff Sebo is the author of Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves (Oxford University Press, 2022) and co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (Routledge, 2018) and Food, Animals, and the Environment (Routledge, 2018).

He is also an executive committee member at the NYU Center for Environmental and Animal Protection, an advisory board member at the Animals in Context series at NYU Press, a board member at Minding Animals International, a mentor at Sentient Media, and a senior research affiliate at the Legal Priorities Project.

Laurie Sellars

Laurie Sellars, MA student, Animal Studies, New York University

Laurie Sellars is a student in the Animal Studies MA Program at New York University. Her current work analyzes the representation of sharks in the US tourism industry. She is also the Research and Administrative Assistant at the NYU Center for Environmental and Animal Protection. This summer, she will join the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School as its 2022-23 Postgraduate Fellow.

Delcianna Winders

Professor Delcianna J. Winders, Associate Professor of Law, Director, Animal Law and Policy Institute, Vermont Law School

Delcianna Winders joins VLS from Lewis & Clark Law School, where she directed the world’s first law school clinic dedicated to farmed animal advocacy. She previously served as Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at the PETA Foundation, the first Academic Fellow of the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program, and a visiting scholar at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Her primary interests are in animal law and administrative law.

Her work has appeared in the Denver Law Review, Florida State Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, NYU Law Review, and the Animal Law Review and she has a forthcoming book chapter on the Endangered Species Act and captive wildlife. She has also published extensively in the popular press, including The Hill, National Geographic, Newsweek, New York Daily News, Salon, USA Today, and numerous other outlets.

Our Moderator:

Hope Ferdowsian

Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, Co-founder, President, and CEO, Phoenix Zones Initiative; Associate Professor, University of New Mexico School of Medicine

Hope Ferdowsian is president and CEO of Phoenix Zones Initiative, and author of Phoenix Zones: Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives. Over two decades, as a double board-certified internal medicine and preventive medicine physician, she has cared for vulnerable individuals and populations, and she has worked on public policies to address structural inequities, abuse, and exploitation.

Dr. Ferdowsian’s work across six continents has included collaboration with the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States and the development of medical, public health, and educational resources for nongovernmental organizations, national governments, and intergovernmental organizations.

Her work has been featured by Scientific American, HuffPost, the BBC, Voice of America, and other international media outlets. In 2017, she was named a Humanitarian of the Year in the American College of Physicians. She is also an associate professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, a co-director of the Society for Asylum Medicine, and a medical expert for Physicians for Human Rights.

For an introduction to ecological justice and the right to health, read the articles written by our moderator and panelists for the December 2021 special section of the Health and Human Rights Journal:

Ecological Justice and the Right to Health: An Introduction by Hope Ferdowsian

Emerging from COVID-19: A New, Rights-Based Relationship with the Nonhuman World? By Mia MacDonald

Slaughterhouse Workers, Animals, and the Environment: The Need for a Rights- Centered Regulatory Framework in the United States That Recognizes Interconnected Interests by Delcianna J. Winders and Elan Abrell

One Health, COVID-19, and a Right to Health for Human and Nonhuman Animals by Laurie Sellars, Kimberly Bernotas, and Jeff Sebo

Shifting the Moral Burden: Expanding Moral Status and Moral Agency by L. Syd M Johnson

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