We are doing interviews with folk in Manchester about who they are, what they do. The latest is Hannah, who tweets as @bathelina
a) Who are you, how did you end up doing a PhD at University of Manchester?
I’m Hannah, a Londoner who has found themselves living in the Peak District just outside of Manchester. My journey to being a PhD student UoM started in 2011 when I began a Classics degree at Manchester. Realising quickly that philosophy was the area I wanted to study, I switched my degree to Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics. My undergraduate dissertation was on the topic of radical theology in the Global South. I spent a few years working in the ‘real world’ before returning to Manchester university to study a Masters in Philosophy. This was very daunting but extremely rewarding. I didn’t plan to try and apply for a PhD, but I found an area of research that I felt I could contribute to and, to my amazement, I was offered a funded place at UoM, and here I am a year on from starting!
b) what is your PhD about? What gaps is it trying to fill/puzzles is it trying to unpick? Who will it be “useful” to (you’re allowed to say “me”)
My PhD research concerns multispecies justice and the overarching questions of what justice is and to whom/what it is due. More specifically, I am exploring the applicability of Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to inform a framework of justice that can accommodate all the more-than-human entities and communities that ought to be considered – crucially, not just those that are sentient. The problem I’m trying to answer is how we can account for justice to and for those beings that aren’t sentient, but which plausibly should be included within the community of justice (but have been largely omitted from conventional theorising). I have in mind nonsentient entities such as ecosystems, and many forms of plant/vegetal life.
In the context of multispecies justice scholarship in the UK, I have found there is a tendency to only include sentient creatures within discussions of multispecies justice: I have encountered an assumption within the literature that a hard line can be drawn between the sentient and nonsentient, with the former qualifying for consideration and the latter being an ‘out group’ that, at best, is only derivatively important (to the extent that nonsentient life benefits sentient life). I hope that my research will benefit all who are working in the field of multispecies, ecological, and environmental justice, as well as animal & environmental ethics more broadly.
I think it might also benefit those working on the considerability of non-biological life (for example Artificial Intelligence): I think it is likely that in the future, human beings will live alongside sophisticated non-biological life forms, comprised of circuits and wires rather than flesh and blood, to whom we might need to extend ethical consideration. I am not convinced that conventional approaches which draw a sharp line between the sentient and nonsentient will be sufficient tot help us address the questions that will arise from our coexistence with such entities. I hope that the area of multispecies justice, and my contributions to it, might be able to offer some insightful concepts and theories in this area.
c) What are your thoughts on climate activism in general, but ideally specifically around Manchester, and what could be done to make it more inclusive, more effective
In general, I think climate activism should be at the forefront of all of our minds and should inform our daily lives. We are existing in a world that is in crisis, we must all be climate activists now. I know that I could, and should, be doing more as a climate activist. I think taking a local approach can be effective, empowering ourselves by starting at the local level and showing that change can be made if we come together cooperatively. I do what I can to inform those around me of the facts and encourage my local community to make changes and become advocates for climate justice. To make climate activism more effective and more inclusive, I think we need to continue to create spaces where all voices can be heard and amplified. I feel my main role should be amplify those voices that aren’t being heard. I am still very much learning about how I can do this.
To become more effective, I think climate activism should continue emphasising the immanency and urgency of the situation at hand, with a focus on the fact that we can still avoid the worst case scenario. I hope that I can become more active in this area. I think as climate activists in and around Manchester we ought to emphasise the importance and ease of adopting a vegan diet (and ultimately, a vegan lifestyle). The vegan scene in Manchester is booming, and further uniting the vegan community with the climate activism community is something I think could enrich climate activism in our area. I feel that being compassionate and supportive to those who are struggling to make changes that align with climate activism is key, here (including ourselves – we are all learning).
d) Complete this sentence “a year from now, success for the climate movement is….” (and you can answer that at local, national or international level, or some combo)
“A year from now, success for the climate movement is…the successful galvanising of change off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. By this I mean, the integration of more climate-friendly lifestyle changes at local, national, and international levels that are extensions of the changes we have had to make during the pandemic. I hope that the climate activism movement can harness the changes that many of us have made to our lifestyles and perspectives (travelling less, engaging in mutual aid, appreciating the role of care workers and the need for care in our society, to give a few examples) and show that we are all capable of changing our ways of life such that we take less, use less, exploit less. Our old way of life is not the only one we are capable of, nor the only one that can bring us fulfilment. I think success for the climate movement will involve emphasising the adaptability of our communities: we are not wed to the extractive, consumptive, destructive form of existing.”
e) Anything else you’d like to say.
I’d like to express my appreciation for all those climate activists, past and present, who have worked to raise awareness and who have advocated for change and dedicated energy to this endeavour. I see you and I appreciate your efforts. I hope that I can meaningfully contribute to the climate activism efforts in my area (Greater Manchester / The Peak District) and I welcome any suggestions or invitations to get involved in activism here.
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