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Non-human natural persons absolutely have responsibilities. The plants are responsible for photosynthesizing, the fungi for decomposition, etc. They do their holy work and we all get to stay alive, if we hold up our end of things as well.



Plants aren't responsible for photosynthesis. They just photosynthesise. Fungi aren't responsible for decomposition. They just decompose.

Saying they are "responsible" for those things is like saying that a river is responsible for flowing or the Earth is responsible for rotating.


It's a role not a responsibility. Responsibility would imply that they can be hold accountable for not delivering. Such as blaming plants for not taking enough CO2 from the atmosphere.


If my plants ever stop photosynethizing you best believe they're getting a beating


Not in MY garden you don't, you little photosyntard!

smack a leaf with the back of my hand


Perhaps "duties" is a clearer word here.

It is not the duty of plants to photosynthesize. It's just something they do. It is important to distinguish these two concepts, because if you equate them, then for example it is the duty of Exxon to destroy the environment. And this whole discussion presumes that humans and collections of humans like Exxon actually have a duty to not destroy the environment.


> It is important to distinguish these two concepts, because if you equate them, then for example it is the duty of Exxon to destroy the environment. And this whole discussion presumes that humans and collections of humans like Exxon actually have a duty to not destroy the environment.

Well, this is a true statement. There is a meme "100 companies are responsible for climate change" which implies the companies could change their ways and customers don't have to do anything, but it's not true; we keep them around by buying oil and then we burn it.

The only way it could be different would if they could make carbon-neutral synfuels but it doesn't seem like this is happening.


I agree with you, that meme is highly misleading. To some extent company behavior is just aggregate customer behavior.

However, it's not the whole extent. For example Exxon knowing about the CO2 greenhouse effect in 1982 and keeping quiet about that knowledge is problematic behavior that is not excused by customers' desire to buy fossil fuels IMHO.

I'm not wedded to the Exxon example. If you prefer, substitute any company that willfully breaks environmental protection laws to increase profits.


We downplay the impact systems have on human behavior. Let's look at the claim that people have a need to buy oil, and that oil companies merely meet demand.

In America, most people cannot buy groceries without having access to a car. Car ownership is not required de jure, but it required de facto because of a lack of alternatives. America used to have transportation choice. Anywhere where there was transportation diversity, car, tire, oil companies bought out public transit and shut down the operations. On April 1974, San Francisco mayor and antitrust attorney Joseph Alioto testified that "General Motors and the automobile industry generally exhibit a kind of monopoly evil", adding that GM "has carried on a deliberate concerted action with the oil companies and tire companies...for the purpose of destroying a vital form of competition; namely, electric rapid transit [0].

Oil (and other) companies stimulate demand for their products. When consequences occur, the modus operandi of corporations is to shift blame to their customers. The concept of personal carbon footprints are the result of a PR campaign by British Petroleum [1].

I think the reason 100 companies is a meme is because it resonates. It feels right, but the counter arguments are convenient, easy. It resonates because it hints at phenomena that we can't see directly, but have tremendous influence on our lives.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_consp...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/23/big-oi...


Is it really Exxon that’s the problem? Consumption is something we as a species seem evolved to do.


I think I see where you are coming from. I think "responsibility" is a human social construct, but there is a concept that can be generalized for any living system. Plants have a role in the ecosystem with their photosynthesis. So even though they might not have the same kind of agency and volition as humans and photosynthesis is something plants _do_, nevertheless, a plant's relevancy to the ecosystem it belongs to is with their photosynthesis. The ecosystem would not function without it -- or if it does, it would be an entirely different kind of ecosystem.

I think in Carol Sanford's talks on living systems, the unique contribution a living system has for the ecosystem it lives within makes it non-displaceble.

Whether that should be recognized in our legal system, and something that helps humans participate in the ecology ... I don't know. The idea of legal personhood, at least, acknowledges that a living system is its own whole (if we are not just using it as a legal fiction), and it seems to me a stretch to say that a river "wants" legal representation. That sounds like the kind of stuff pre-modern tribal shamans do. That's not necessarily a bad thing in my book, but I don't know if our modern society is ready for that.

On the other hand, it could work as a balance to corporations having legal personhood.


> Non-human natural persons absolutely have responsibilities. The plants are responsible for photosynthesizing, the fungi for decomposition, etc. They do their holy work and we all get to stay alive, if we hold up our end of things as well.

No, those are not about responsibility. Is a river responsible for someone drowning in it?


Just because they can't market those responsibilities in a format that we are used to doesn't mean they don't do the work. It's just like the quiet worker in an office who does his job but is never noticed because he can't/doesn't care about selling his work to others.




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