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Frequently Asked Questions

What are Phoenix Zones?

Phoenix Zones are places that recognize and advance the rights of people and animals, allowing individuals, communities, and society to live well, rise, and thrive.

Phoenix Zones foster what’s known in medical circles as the Phoenix Effect: conditions that allow individuals to ascend from the proverbial ashes. Through respect for liberty and sovereignty; a commitment to compassion, tolerance, justice, and opportunity; and a belief that each individual possesses dignity, the Phoenix Effect and Phoenix Zones are also metaphors for how we as a society can rise up and move beyond our collective history of violence.

What are human rights and animal rights?

When we at Phoenix Zones Initiative talk about rights, we’re referring to life-sustaining needs that are essential to health and wellbeing. For living, sentient beings—including humans and nonhuman animals—basic needs include the right to be free and to choose what happens to our bodies and lives; safety and protection from violence and exploitation; and the right to be valued for our intrinsic worth and potential. Sometimes these rights are referred to as natural or inalienable rights.

Currently, many of these rights are recognized in international human rights frameworks, but there is still much more work to do to ensure that every human being has access to these inalienable rights. And there is even more work to do to ensure that nonhuman beings receive similar protections. History has shown that we cannot adequately address one problem without also addressing the other.

What is structural violence?

Structural violence is a form of institutional violence in which some social structures—including norms, beliefs, legal and economic frameworks, and political priorities—can harm individuals, communities, and societies by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

What is structural resilience?

Structural resilience is a form of institutional resilience in which social structures—including norms, beliefs, legal and economic frameworks, and political priorities—can help individuals, communities, and societies be healthy and thrive.

What are the connections between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing?

There are strong, evidence-based links between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing. Connections between the suffering of people and animals are fueled by structural violence: unjust systems that trickle down to individuals and communities in the form of suffering, illness, and death.

Structural violence is perpetuated by social, cultural, political, economic, and legal systems that violate the rights of people and animals. Examples include the disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color; xenophobic patterns that increase the risk for hate crimes against immigrants; cultural traditions that lead to sexual and gender-based violence; and existing economic paradigms that discount the intrinsic value of people and animals.

Structural violence against animals can also harm people. For example, animal cruelty is a red flag for child abuse and intimate partner violence, and it can be an early warning sign of future violence. Similarly, violent crime rates in communities are independently correlated with the locations of exploitative animal industries. There are also connections between different forms of institutional prejudice such as racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and speciesism. More and more, historians, scientists, and medical and public health professionals highlight links between the abusive treatment of animals and the adverse treatment of vulnerable and marginalized human beings.

How is Phoenix Zones Initiative different from other organizations?

Fortunately, more organizations are focusing on connections between the health of people and animals. Phoenix Zones Initiative goes further by centering our work on interspecies rights and justice and by working to dismantle systemic forces fueling structural violence.

In order to catalyze solutions to some of the most difficult problems afflicting society, Phoenix Zones Initiative helps expand the common ground of movements serving people, animals, and the environment by working with partners to scale, enhance, and accelerate ideas and solutions that advance ethics, empathy, and meaningful and lasting impact.

We strive for a world in which individuals are not defined by their ability to produce economic value or by other historical systems of inequity.

Why and how does Phoenix Zones Initiative take on such big problems?

As disease patterns, the climate crisis, and countless patterns of exploitation have shown, the rights, health, and wellbeing of people and animals are intimately connected. Social and environmental injustices illustrate these connections in real time.

Despite strides in some areas, the full road to securing justice is still quite long. Activists working on behalf of people and animals still wage many of the same battles that advocates have been waging for centuries. Today, we can and must dream bigger and plan on a scale commensurate with what is at stake.

Our mission is intentionally broad and ambitious. Structural violence has not emerged spontaneously. The steps leading to structural violence have been deliberate, divisive, and far-reaching. Addressing systemic contributors to suffering must also be proactive, inclusive, and comprehensive. In an increasingly interconnected world, our efforts prioritize building bridges between organizations and movements that have traditionally worked in silos.

What about the environment and issues like climate change?

Threats to human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing have been magnified by the climate crisis and by extreme events such as drought, famine, floods, and fires. Communities that are already marginalized are the most vulnerable to climate change and environmental destruction.

This global crisis has arisen because we as a society have not adequately paid attention to rights, health, and wellbeing. We will identify adequate solutions only by paying close attention to the rights of individuals and communities.

Where does Phoenix Zones Initiative work?

We work with partners around the world to help bring promising, evidence-based solutions to scale.

Who can get involved?

Anyone who cares about advancing the rights, health, and wellbeing of people and animals can join us. If you are interested in being a partner or funder and would like to learn more about our initiatives, please contact us.

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