Campaign Idea: The Many Voices Of Gaia

The political and economical pressure were driving the governments and corporations to pay less heed to environmental concerns across the world. The endangered species were dying out faster than they were even discovered. The biodiversity was diminishing and those who were calling for reasonable measures to protect the vanishing fauna and flora were ignored, mocked, or even silenced... Paving the way for the unreasonable measures...

The first sign was noticed by zoologist and veterinarians: a wave of mostly harmless flu-like epidemic among giant apes and elephants. Then, there was noticeable growth in the number of stillbirths and congenital abnormalities of those species. And then, the large number of healthy siblings of the stillborn ones started to show even greater cognitive capabilities than older apes and elephants, bordering those of human children...

Closer examination revealed even more starling revelation. The new generation developed physical qualities allowing them not only to understand human language but also use speech themselves. The cause was clear once biologist started looking for it. An extremely complex virus, or rather a set of viruses engineered to enhance simian and elephantine intelligence and ability to express it. When the news spread, a unheard before eco-terrorist group calling themselves Voices Of Gaia claimed responsibility for creation and initial spread of the virus, named Sapience-1A (simian), Sapience-1B (elephant), and Sapience-1C (cetacean). Indeed, when biologist started checking those claims, they confirmed that dolphins and whales were among the affected species, to a various degree. Voices proclaimed that the animals now will be able to join the fight for their rights and for the protection of Earth itself from human abuse. Many of the less fringe groups were less optimistic about the uplifted animals role in the world. Nevertheless they joined the fight for rights of the sapient animals, hoping that it will also open ways for improved legal standing of non-sapient creatures as well.

European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brasil,  was quick to adopt provisions for Non-human Personhood of apes, cetaceans, and elephants, with varying degree of approval of member states and proceeded to push for altering world-wide recognition of Human Rights into Personhood Rights. India and many African states were quick to join the convention as well, though restricting them only to actually sapient specimens, and while the basic protections were invoked, the struggle between promoters of full personal rights and proponents of limited personal rights started, with the later often claiming that sapient animals should be treated as wards of state or whatever corporation would take them under care...

The United States strayed behind when it came to granting personhood to sapient animals becoming another bone of contention between federal government and proponents of individual states right. Federalists stated that personhood rights were extension of basic human rights and as such were matter for congress to decide. Anti-federalists claimed that Constitution makes no provision for the animal rights and thus it falls to states to decide matter individual. Others proposed amending the Constitution with all its amendments to replace term human with term person and adding expanded definition of person—with certain lobbyists pushing for very generous one, that would extend corporate personhood even further.

Norway and Japan were very reluctant to grant personal rights to cetaceans because of their whalers. Both countries became targets of political and economical pressure from the states that approved the new conventions. China not only decided to write their own limited personal rights to sapient animals, it also proclaimed similar degree of protection from certain other animal species, the most prominent being pandas and tigers. They even went as far as to deem all the pandas Chinese citizens and request return of all the pandas home. This was mostly a public relations stunt, though, for they were more than willing to negotiate conditions for many zoos to keep their pandas. Russia made non-committing statements to the effect of supporting sapient animal rights but they also made certain overtures toward Norway and Japan trying to take advantage of pressure exerted by other countries on those two states.

Muslim countries mostly accepted personal rights of animals though they were reluctant to call them extension of "human" rights. Instead, they insisted on recognizing sapient animals as category of jinn. Some of the more radical clerics refrained from supporting that interpretation, claiming that as fruit of human hubris, they are corruption of divine creation instead of real people, while other radicals claimed that despite being created by human sin, they are, as a sapient beings capable of salvation by accepting faith in one true god. Christianity went through similar internal arguments, though unlike Islam, they lacked the existing scriptures supporting existence of non-human sapient beings capable of being saved by divine grace making the acceptance much slower. Many fundamental evangelic Christianity branches, particularly in United States, formed a strong opposition to acceptance of sapient animal rights, citing Bible giving humans dominion and use of animals as irreconcilable with notion of animal personhood.

Of course the matters could not remain that simple across the world. When everyone started thinking the situation is more or less under control, the virus spread to other animals... While some of the new strains might have been deliberate creation of the Sapience designers (or someone else who cracked the virus code and understood its mechanisms to a higher degree than mainstream biotechnologists), others were clearly the case of unpredictable mutation. Sapience-1D affected canids, Sapience-1E affected cats. Sapience-1A mutated into 1A1 infecting gibbons and Old World monkeys, 1A2 affecting New World Monkeys, and 1A3 series infecting lemurs and similar primates. The virus shocked scientist again when it started spreading beyond mammals: Sapience-2 family affected various groups of avians, mostly corvids, and Sapience-3 appeared among cephalopods...

The newly written laws were thrown in disarray, causing hasty corrections, changes, and extensions as well as even more opposition. The conspiracy theories grew abundant, fueled by the fact that Voices Of Gaia, beyond the revelation that cetaceans were recipients of the virus were either unwilling, or unable to provide more technical information about the virus, its development process, or the mechanisms of its workings, sparking the popular notion that they only jumped on opportunity present by the virus and weren't its creators... The lack of any concrete data supporting their existence before the spread of the virus muddled the matter more. How could a pro-ecological organization leave not a single a trace in the social medias?!

The popular explanations were a conspiracy of world governments planning to diminish human rights by diffusing them with animal rights, or to undermine democracy by creation of legions of new voters, loyal to their secret masters... The virus was divine providence of the benevolent god (or the god and the goddess as professed by some Wicca) tired of human abuse, possibly even with intent to replace humans completely, the virus was creation of the devil, the virus was creation of the aliens bent on conquering the humans (or making them better by having sapient companions...), the virus was sent from the future by sapient animals that completely replaced the humans, the virus merely awakened from dormancy after hundreds of thousands of years it passed since it enhanced cognitive abilities of early humans. Who knows the truth? Possibly only its creator, if there is one actually... The scientific research of the Sapience virus progresses but for every step forward, a two new complications arise... Will it affect more animals? How will the ecosystem cope with thousands of overly smart creature? Will it mutate to affect humans?

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