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TitlePhoenix Zones: Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives
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Table of Contents
                            Part Three: The Rise: Building Phoenix Zones in a Conflicted World
	9. What Can We Learn from Phoenix Zones?
	10. Openings to the Impossible
Document Text Contents
Page 1

man being to be free isn’t over. However, international human rights

laws at least reflect the right to liberty and other rights we need to be healthy and
well. This isn’t the case for animals, begging the question of whether animals
like Negra should have a legal right to freedom as humans do.

A lawyer, and friend, by the name of Steven (Steve) Wise is fighting to end this
discrepancy— by seeking two fundamental rights for his nonhuman plaintiffs:
bodily liberty and bodily integrity, the same language used in human rights
law.23 For a chimpanzee, respect for bodily liberty would exclude spending life
in a laboratory, and respect for bodily integrity would prohibit being forcibly
inseminated or injected with a lethal disease. Steve makes the point that we
should not confuse these fundamental rights with human rights: “Human rights
are for humans. Chimpanzee rights are for chimpanzees. Dolphin rights are for
dolphins. Elephant rights are for elephants.”

In late 2013, Steve brought the first of several lawsuits to courts in New York,
attempting to establish basic rights to freedom for four chimpanzee plaintiffs.
One of his first plaintiffs was Tommy.

Before he brought the case before the New York courts, Steve met


Tommy on a compound near the Adirondacks.24 On an early October evening,
Tommy looked beyond the iron bars of his small cell to see Steve, the man
representing him. Tommy kneeled in what Steve described as a dungeon. For
years, Tommy lived in solitary confinement

in a small, dark cage in a used-trailer lot— with only a television and cement
walls painted with a jungle theme. Two months after his visit to see Tommy,
Steve legally petitioned the court to release Tommy from solitary confinement.
In court, he presented exhaustive scientific evidence from the world’s leading
primatologists about the capacities and needs of chimpanzees.

On December 4, 2014, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third

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On December 4, 2014, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third

Judicial Department, issued its decision. Tommy would not be released

from what Steve’s legal team refers to as false imprisonment. However, the
judge was not without sympathy. Fulton County Supreme Court Judge Joseph
M. Sise concluded: “I am sorry I can’t sign the order, but I hope you continue.
As an animal lover, I appreciate your work.”25 Steve and his team appealed the
decision and later addressed a judge in New York’s highest court, who didn’t
decide in Tommy’s favor but gave the

legal team a few more steps to stand upon.

After the trial, Tommy’s whereabouts became unknown. The people

who own him hid him from authorities. As Steve points out, despite his status as
a member of an endangered species under federal law, it is still nearly
impossible to reliably track Tommy’s whereabouts— that’s

the difference between being “something” and “someone.” This gap is

what the Nonhuman Rights Project is fighting to change. Meanwhile,

Steve has continued on with cases on behalf of other chimpanzees— including
Kiko, a chimpanzee owned by a couple in Niagara Falls.

If Steve is successful in the future, chimpanzees like Tommy will be

released to sanctuaries in North America that reflect their needs. Having visited
the sanctuaries where they could receive refuge, I can attest that the difference
between their current cells and the freedom they would experience in a sanctuary
is like night and day. In the sanctuaries, the animals are the point of focus. Their
needs, not the whims of those caring for them, are what matter. If an appeals
decision favors any of the chimpanzees Steve represents, it could set a precedent
— once and for all— to provide freedom for chimpanzees like Tommy.


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and Belgian imperialism. Unending war in the Congo has been

fuelled by western demand for the country’s natural resources. If

violence has dwindled in advanced societies, one reason may be

that they have exported it.9

Despite Pinker’s positive account, human atrocities continue. In some

places, they’ve intensified. It’s impossible to ignore the influence of au-
thoritarian regimes and mass violence that plagues much of the globe, or to
assume that peaceful trends will necessarily continue in other

parts. And despite Gray’s claims and the flood of suffering around the world,
there clear signs of moral progress. International rules now prohibit violence
committed disproportionately against women and girls during war, particularly
rape and sexual slavery. Only recently

has rape become a crime within international law; the earliest prohibitions of
rape existed to protect women by virtue of their status as the property of men.
Measured strides toward racial equity in the United States have been made.
Addressing the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow

laws, including inequitable mass incarceration practices, has garnered more
support.10 In Europe and North America, laws increasingly forbid
discrimination based on sexual orientation. Marriage equality is one


area of achievement. Animals have also seen some gains— circuses are closing
down, animals’ lives are receiving more attention, and laws to protect them are

For everyone who has benefited, these advances matter. Yet for any—

one still affected by subjugation or violence, Pinker’s and Gray’s perspectives

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one still affected by subjugation or violence, Pinker’s and Gray’s perspectives
are seemingly inconsequential. Lost in their argument is what we can do as
individuals and as a society to effect change through personal choice, grassroots
action, and policy change. We can become nei-ther complacent because of
Pinker nor discouraged because of Gray.

Going forward, we will be responsible for the moral residual we create and for
the empathy we distribute.

But in an age of accelerations, when the accumulation of historical

and ongoing oppression weighs heavily upon us, how can we rise up

to face the incredible task of meaningful, seemingly impossible, widespread
change? Those who have every reason to despair, but don’t, provide instruction.
From them, we can learn how to leave our silos, find common ground, and
discover unimaginable rewards among incredible costs.

From an Incredible Cost to an Unimaginable Reward


That is how one clinician responded when asked to reflect on her experience
providing forensic examinations to torture survivors. The

question was one of several in a paper I coauthored with my colleague

Ranit Mishori, a family physician and former war correspondent.12 It

was the first published study to evaluate the motivations and experiences of
health professionals who provide asylum evaluations. The

doctor’s statement echoed another sentiment— from a different time

and place— when a veterinarian who cared for abused animals told

me, “They’ve taught me so much. Some things I’d rather not know.”

Both health professionals were grappling with the costs of compassion.

In 2006, animal law professor Taime Bryant warned that vicarious

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Document Outline
Part One: The Clues: Finding Hope amid Despair

1. The Phoenix Effect: From Oppression and Vulnerability to Strength
and Resilience
2. Unearthing the Shared Roots of Violence and Vulnerability

Part Two: The Quest: Phoenix Zones—Principles in Action
3. Liberty: Refuge for Asylum Seekers and Chimpanzees
4. Sovereignty: Global Sanctuary for Unchained Elephants and People
5. Love and Tolerance: Combat Veterans and Wolves in a Desert
6. Justice: Shelter for Homeless Children and Their Companion
7. Hope and Opportunity: Rising Women, Girls, and Gorillas in Congo
8. Dignity: Safe Harbor for Degraded People and Farm Animals

Part Three: The Rise: Building Phoenix Zones in a Conflicted World
9. What Can We Learn from Phoenix Zones?
10. Openings to the Impossible


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