PAN Works began as an informal lab. Our Slack workspace networked collaborators across the globe for our first work product, “A Moral Panic Over Cats” (2019). This publication upended the conversation about cats and biodiversity, contributing to an ongoing reassessment of how we think about new species on the landscape. New projects and publications have since cascaded, and in 2021 we moved to incorporate into PAN Works.
Why Use the Acronym PAN?
Pan as a prefix comes from the Greek πᾶν meaning “all”, “of everything”, or “involving all members” of a community. Pan is also the Greek god of the wild. For our purposes, PAN also serves as an acronym for People, Animals, and Nature. Too often those interested in environmental issues think only in terms of human society and the environment. This leaves out individual animals and their socio-ecological groups as a distinct domain of moral and scientific concern. Yet animals are our closest connection to the nonhuman world, and our complex relationships to them deserve greater attention. We enrich our understanding about both society and nature when we include animals in the conversation. Hence PAN.
Is PAN Works an Advocacy or Lobbying Organization?
No. A think tank is a body of experts providing insights on matters of public concern. Ideally, think tanks should be operated for the common good, and we include animals in our vision of what that means. PAN Works does not engage in lobbying or political campaigning, and our work does not represent the views of any of our collaborators’ home institutions.
Are Think Tanks of Any Practical Use?
Think tanks have been indispensable in the public sphere for over a century, looking over the horizon at emerging issues that impact our individual and collective wellbeing.
In this spirit, our work is both theoretically rich and eminently practical. Society cannot chart an ethical and sustainable path into the future if we do not have guidance on where to go. An ethical and sustainable world will be one where people, animals and nature are cared for, respected and treated justly. We aim to help chart that course.
An analogy may be of help. In response to the horrors of Nazi, racist and other exploitative medical experimentation on human beings and nonhuman animals, the field of bioethics was innovated at think tanks in the 1970s and thereafter. Today bioethical principles govern health care and biomedical research as a matter of both law and policy.
What Makes PAN Works Different From Other Think Tanks?
Many think tanks focus on social or environmental issues with the laudable intent of improving the lives of people and protecting the natural world. Unfortunately, animals are often ignored or treated as a subordinate concern. How we ought to live with other animals is thereby given little attention in the academy and society. PAN Works is the first independent ethics think tank in North America focused on animals, and we differ from animal-oriented advocacy and educational organizations in two ways.
First, our focus is on animals themselves – as individuals as well as members of their own social and ecological communities. PAN Works seeks to explore the roles of animals in our shared ethical, ecological and social lives. Towards this end, PAN Works endeavors to fill the vacuum when matters of public concern fail to care for and respect the wellbeing of other animals. Animal-specific issues in agriculture, biodiversity conservation, rewilding, sustainable development, and urban ecology are some of the areas ripe for this kind of research and public engagement.
Second, our practical approach to ethics sets us apart. The kinds of animals who exist and interact with us are manifold – from mussels to megafauna like sperm whales. No one theory of ethics can properly account for this multiplicity of animal kinds and the multifarious ways humans interact with them. We benefit in this respect from the large number of collaborators who are experienced in ethical problems that demand keen attention to context, individual circumstances and natural/social dynamics.