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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Hirtenfelder

New episode: Phoenix Zones with Hope Ferdowsian

In the latest bonus episode of The Animal Turn, I talk to Hope Ferdowsian about Phoenix Zones, a concept that captures places and practices that advance the rights, health, and well-being of people, animals, and our shared environments. We discuss how crises present opportunities for change as well as how humans and animal who have experienced trauma show capacities for resilience when they are afforded with liberty, autonomy, and dignity.

Hope Ferdowsian, a professor of medicine and president of the Phoenix Zone Initiative, notes that crises are opportunities for change and that "in medicine and in public health... the best time to launch an intervention is often in the middle of a crisis or just after a crisis." That is, there are opportunities to push forward agendas that address the root causes of problems and re-build health care systems after a crisis like COVID or a conflict situation - situations which cause immense amounts of suffering and trauma.

For Hope, it is not only humans who experience trauma from violence. Humans and animals experience fear when their safety is threatened. Furthermore, there are structures that make some more vulnerable than others. For animals such as Negra, a chimpanzee who was taken from her mother when she was very young and forced into decades of captivity and experimentation, she is particularly vulnerable because of her property status. While Hope concedes that suffering is part of living she firmly believes that more can be done to resist violence and to create resilient societies in which animals and humans thrive. To this end, Hope focuses on resilience and develops the concept "Phoenix Zones."

"Phoenix zones" is developed from the medical concept "phoenix effect" which captures how some people rebound, and possibly even do better, following a severe medical event like a heart attack. Hope extends this concept stating that the shared neurobiology of animals and humans means that they have the necessary neuroplasticity to rebound from violence but that doing so requires sustained opportunities for liberty, sovereignty, justice, love, and dignity. Phoenix zones are currently places, like sanctuaries, that put these principles into practice and create spaces for resilience and recovery. These spaces offer chances to break, what Hope calls, "cycles of suffering" and they show that it is possible to live in healthy multispecies communities.

While phoenix zones, such as animal sanctuaries, are promising there is a need for a societal shift towards engaging in practices of love, dignity, and justice because, according to Hope, the more we practice these ideals the more contagious they become and the more likely we are to combat problems such as habitat destruction, intensification, farming practices, trade, and trafficking. Hope captures these sentiments when she shares a quote from Paul Rogart Loeb "The Impossible Will Take a While."

Indeed, the impossible will take a little - so we best get started!


Win a copy of Phoenix Zones:

If you want to win a copy of "Phoenix Zones: Where Strength is Born and Resilience Lives" make sure you share the competition posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn before thee 31st of October 2023.


Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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