Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Coexistence Hinges on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

One Health, conservation psychology, and compassionate conservation are key.

Key points

  • A "coexistence ethic" is apolitical and incorporates all cultures and classes of people and animals.
  • Personal and community-wide activities are foundational for supporting human, animal, and ecological health.
  • Increasing natural biodiversity goes with increasing diversity among those who have access to the outdoors.

I’ve lived in Colorado for many decades and have seen numerous changes in the way political leaders, community leaders, and the general population view the incredible privilege of living in a state full of diverse and well-intentioned people, amazing nonhuman animals, and stunning landscapes to which people from all over the world flock.

Cup of Couple/Pexels.
Cup of Couple/Pexels.

A "Proclamation for Peaceful Coexistence" based on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Using Colorado as an example for the rest of the world to follow, the following facts and guidelines, which some might call a "Proclamation for Peaceful Coexistence," follow up on a call for an initiative called Colorado for All 2023. They summarize many goals for moving forward and incorporating shared, deeply held values into personal and community-wide activities for maintaining and increasing human, animal, and ecological well-being and health.

It’s essentially a "coexistence ethic" that centers on diversity, equity, and inclusion—a conceptual framework that is fully recognized by the APA and that has wide-ranging benefits for everyone, including humans, animals, and diverse and magnificent landscapes. It is apolitical and incorporates all cultures and classes of people and animals. Here are some key points.

  • Living in Colorado and in other regions is a wonderful experience and privilege because people and animals live side by side.
  • Many people take great pride in living where they do, and everyone can make a meaningful difference to protect an integrated community of life.
  • Everyone has the right to enjoy the outdoors and the diverse animals, public lands, parks, and recreational opportunities to which there is easy access.
  • Humans should value individuality and know that diversity is a strength.
  • The well-being of wild and domestic animals is equally important.
  • Coexistence and the well-being of all people and animals go hand in hand. Helping one group helps the other, a point stressed by conservation psychology, the One Health approach, Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots program, and the transdisciplinary discipline of compassionate conservation. Conservation psychology "is the scientific study of the reciprocal relationships between humans and the rest of nature, with the goal of encouraging conservation of the natural world." According to the World Health Organization, "'One Health' is an integrated, unifying approach to balance and optimize the health of people, animals and the environment. The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines, and communities at varying levels of society to work together [and] involves the public health, veterinary, public health and environmental sectors." Similarly, Roots and Shoots focuses on the well-being of humans, nonhumans, and the environment and stresses the importance of the lives of all individuals. And compassionate conservation emphasizes that the interests of all stakeholders—human and nonhuman—must be taken into account in conservation decisions and protocols.1 The four guiding principles of compassionate conservation are: first do no harm, individuals matter, value all wildlife, and peaceful coexistence.
  • People and animals are inextricably linked, thus animal policies are necessary to include whenever and wherever human policies are being discussed, a point emphasized by the above programs.
  • Everyone is responsible for preserving and protecting natural treasures for our and future generations. Whether at the ballot box or through individual practices, it's essential to live our values through the actions we take.
  • People with different perspectives must talk with one another openly, learn where they agree, and make every effort to resolve disagreements through mutually respectful discussions.

How can we live the principles of a "coexistence ethic" and promote cross-species well-being?

A process I call “personal rewilding” asks everyone to put their feelings into action—to act from the inside out—and to get outside and enjoy and respect our lovely environs and their residents. It’s not only good for an individual’s well-being but also beneficial for communities of humans and animals to foster coexistence with one another. There really is no other way forward, because “we” (humans) and “they” (animals) have long evolved side-by-side, and disrupting these deep and essential connections results in humans feeling alienated from the outdoors and other animals needlessly being exploited “in the name of humans.”

In my home state, recent changes in the leadership at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and on the CPW commission offer much hope that we are moving in the right direction and can continue to do so by putting into practice principles that allow every Coloradan to enjoy and connect with the places they choose to visit.

All in all, embracing a culture that emphasizes diversity, equality, and inclusion means we must always lead with appreciation, compassion, and respect for the animals with whom we share time and space. Maintaining and increasing natural biodiversity goes hand-in-hand with striving to increase diversity among those who have easy access to the outdoors.

Peaceful coexistence among ourselves and with other animals is how we prove our commitment to humans and nonhumans alike. Research and common sense clearly show that we need animals as much as, and perhaps more than, they need us.

Embracing and realizing the above goals while working hand-in-hand not only is possible but also can set a global model for others to follow. Isn’t this the very image we would like all countries to portray to their residents and beyond?


1) For more details about compassionate conservation click here.

Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence.

More from Marc Bekoff Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today