There is nothing more palpable and democratic than conscious experience. All of us have it and all of us recognize that others share in the richness and wonder of being conscious. To respect and love one another is to recognize that the “other,” no matter how different from oneself, is also conscious, and thus subject to the same range of possibilities for joy and suffering.

At the same time, because of our nature—our having circumscribed individual consciousnesses—we are unable to empirically prove that anyone other than ourselves is actually conscious in the same way that we are. It behooves us as loving, sharing eco-citizens to agree to hold and cultivate the lived assumption that all other humans are created equal by virtue of their sharing consciousness. This is in fact the foundational assumption behind our notion of universal human rights: we are all conscious,...

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