There is so much about the way the world is organized that we take for granted or think will never change. Often, as a result, far too many people and animals suffer around the globe. They are deprived of living freely and thriving. And though there are many efforts to address these injustices, they commonly occur in silos and provide only partial solutions—limiting their reach and impact.
As law professor and anthropologist Taimie Bryant once wrote,
“When activists, in any social justice movement, must be wholly dedicated to speaking truths that others will not or cannot hear, it is a gargantuan task for them to take on all of the forms of oppression intertwined with the truths they speak. . . . Each social justice movement participant is fighting just to be heard about the particular manifestation of violence [they see] most clearly. . . . Addressing both [human and animal cruelty] involves even more difficult work: reconceptualizing or dismantling the entire enterprise that oppresses both animals and people.”
Given the enormous task of taking on multiple forms of oppression, it is unsurprising that many movements to affect change work in separate silos. In some important instances, a focused approach has resulted in limited victories for those working in the fields of international human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, children’s rights, and animal rights, among others. This approach has created space for marginalized individuals where there once was none.
However, despite strides in some areas, the full road to securing human and animal rights is still quite long. Activists working on behalf of people and animals still wage many of the same battles advocates have been waging for centuries if not millennia. Today, we can and must dream bigger and plan on a scale commensurate with what is at stake—the soul of society.
The Phoenix Zones Initiative addresses the root causes of violence and injustice to help create more resilient communities of people and animals. We tackle the structure of violence at multiple levels—from individual choices to the social, economic, and cultural forces that inform and influence behavior.
Phoenix Zones are places that fuel wellness, recovery, and resilience—where great care is given to creating peace, strength, and hope. And they go even deeper. Through respect for freedom and sovereignty, a commitment to love, tolerance, justice, and opportunity, and a belief that each individual possesses dignity, Phoenix Zones foster what’s known in medical circles as the Phoenix Effect—wherein individuals can rise from the proverbial ashes, heal, and thrive.
The Phoenix Effect and Phoenix Zones are metaphors for how we can move beyond our collective history of violence and indifference. They show us how progress is not a zero-sum game. Each Phoenix Zone produces momentum for the next—an avenue to change and space to avoid the creation of harm in the first place. They show us how we can reimagine our future and reshape crises into opportunity and radical hope.
The Phoenix Zones Initiative seeks to create a world in which Phoenix Zones are no longer necessary—a world that is iteself a Phoenix Zone.