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Environmental Values

The Wild in Fire: Human Aid to Wildlife in the Disasters of the Anthropocene

Andrew McCumber, Zachary King

Environmental Values 29 (2020): 47-66. doi: 10.3197/096327119X15579936382671

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Should you help a wild rabbit fleeing a wall of flame? What is our responsibility to wildlife affected by wildfire? This paper focuses on two cases of ad hoc public aid to wildlife that occurred during California's 2017 'Thomas Fire' and were subsequently popularised online. We take the discourse surrounding these cases - specifically, a viral video of a man removing a wild rabbit from the fire's flames and the widespread call to leave out buckets of water for displaced animals - as an invitation to engage in broader ethical and theoretical discussion about our individual relationships to wild animals during the age of ecological crisis termed the Anthropocene. Through this case analysis, we identify emerging tensions between what we call 'interventionist' and 'anti-interventionist' positions and assert that, while anti-interventionist positions are generally framed in rational, empirical or technocratic terms, a full consideration of already-existing human entanglements with the natural world troubles this frame. We conclude that the Anthropocene presents unique circumstances that give substantial support to the interventionist position; at the same time, we continue to uphold the value of key critiques present in the anti-interventionist argument, which might yet help to shape the most effective form of human aid to wild animals and alleviate problems of ecological sustainability, more broadly.


Anthropocene, environmental sociology, human-animal interactions, public aid, wildfire

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: The Ethics of Human Intervention on Behalf of 'Others'. Claudia Carter

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