Some Thought on the Deep Ecology Movement
by Alan Drengson
In 1973, Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess introduced the phrase “deep ecology” to environmental literature. Environmentalism had emerged as a popular grassroots political movement in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring. Those already involved in conservation and preservation efforts were now joined by many others concerned about the detrimental environmental effects of modern industrial technology. The longer-range, older originators of the movement included writers and activists like Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and Aldo Leopold; more mainstream awareness was closer to the “wise-use” conservation philosophy pioneered by Gifford Pinchot.
In 1972, Naess made a presentation in Bucharest at the Third World Future Research Conference. In his talk, he discussed the longer-range background of the ecology movement and its concern with an ethic respecting nature and the inherent worth of other beings. As a mountaineer who had climbed all over the world, Naess had enjoyed the opportunity to observe political and social activism in diverse cultures. Both historically and in the contemporary movement, Naess saw two different forms of environmentalism, not necessarily incompatible with each other. One he called the “long-range deep ecology movement” and the other, the “shallow ecology movement.” The word “deep” in part referred to the level of questioning of our purposes and values when arguing in environmental conflicts. The “deep” movement involves deep questioning, right down to fundamental root causes. The short-term, shallow approach stops before the ultimate level of fundamental change, often promoting technological fixes (e.g. recycling, increased automotive efficiency, export-driven monocultural organic agriculture) based on the same consumption-oriented values and methods of the industrial economy. The long-range deep approach involves redesigning our whole systems based on values and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of natural systems.
Arne Næss and George Sessions
Basic Principles of Deep Ecology
In April 1984, during the advent of Spring and John Muir’s birthday, George Sessions and Arne Næss summarized fifteen years of thinking on the principles of deep ecology while camping in Death Valley, California. In this great and special place, they articulated these principles in a literal, somewhat neutral way, hoping that they would be understood and accepted by persons coming from different philosophical and religious positions.
Readers are encouraged to elaborate their own versions of deep ecology, clarify key concepts and think through the consequences of acting from these principles.
Introduction To Deep Ecology
Deep ecology is a new way to think about
our relationship to the Earth - and thinking is a prelude to action
An Interview with Michael E. Zimmerman, by Alan AtKisson
One of the articles in Global Climate Change (IC#22)
Summer 1989, Page 24
A philosophy is, among other things, a system of thought that governs conduct. But in the original Greek it meant "love of wisdom" - and we need all the wisdom we can get to face the implications of global climate change. Several new philosophies have developed in response to the worsening environmental crisis, and among the most interesting is something called "deep ecology." It calls for nothing less than a complete overhaul of the way humans live on the Earth.
Deep ecology is not without its critics, nor its competitors. And like any radically new way of thinking, it raises more questions than it answers. But since every major change of direction in humanity's recent history has been supported - or ignited - by a new philosophy, its appearance is a very hopeful sign.
Michael E. Zimmerman is Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University, New Orleans, and was recently named to the Chair of his department. He has written widely on technology and the environment and recently completed a second book on the work of Martin Heidegger. In our issue on militarism (IC #20), he wrote on the distorted mythologies that drive the arms race and the new mythologies we must develop to achieve "something other than war."
Recently Michael was in Seattle to deliver a lecture on deep ecology to philosophy students at Seattle University. We took the opportunity to speak with him about deep ecology, its relationship to ecofeminism, the mystery of postmodernism, and how a philosophy might change the world.
Alan: What is "deep ecology?"
Michael: Deep ecology is an environmental movement initiated by a Norwegian philosopher, Arnie Naess, in 1972. He wasn't the first to dream up the idea of a radical change in humanity's relationship to nature, but he coined the term "deep ecology" and helped to give it a theoretical foundation. Deep ecology portrays itself as "deep" because it asks deeper questions about the place of human life, who we are.
Ecofascism: Deep Ecology
and Right-Wing Co-optation
by Kev Smith, Greenpepper
Alongside the rise of environmental activism in the last few decades, nationalist and even fascist ideas are gaining an increasingly high profile in Europe. With social tensions exacerbated, neo-fascist groups of various kinds are winning electoral representation and committing acts of violence against foreigners.
To a casual observer, there would seem to be a vast gulf in ideology and outlook between the new right and environmental activism. But these movements are invoking ecological themes to update their ideology and now speak the new language of ecology. In ways that are similar to the beliefs of progressive-minded ecologists, fascist groups emphasize the supremacy of the Earth over people and evoke "feelings" and intuition at the expense of reason.
This is an extremely sensitive issue among activists. To accuse an individual or a philosophy of racist tendencies is always going to cause offense. Much-needed debate has been poisoned by wild mud-slinging and sensationalist accusations of eco-fascism. In this article, I don't want to point the condemnatory finger at groups or individuals and ignite a McCarthyist witch-hunt. Rather, I want to illustrate how the nature and content of certain belief structures within the environmental movement make it easier for new-right groups to reach a wider audience. I will discuss this in the context of Deep Ecology as it has been one of the most widely debated and has parallels with 1930s Germany.
…many environmental groups …still rate population growth over the systematic over-consumption of the industrialized world.
Ecosophy, and ecophilosophy, are neologisms formed by contracting the phrase ecological philosophy.
Confusion as to the meaning (suggesting that such a meaning should be singular and exact) of ecosophy is primarily the consequence of it being used to designate different and often contradictory (though conceptually related) concepts by the Norwegian father of Deep Ecology, Arne Næss, and French post-Marxist philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari.
Naess's definition of ecosophy
While a professor at University of Oslo in 1972, Arne Naess, introduced the terms "deep ecology movement" and "ecosophy" into environmental literature. Naess based his article on a talk he gave in Bucharest in 1972 at the Third World Future Research Conference. As Drengson notes in Ecophilosophy, Ecosophy and the Deep Ecology Movement: An Overview, "In his talk Naess discussed the longer-range background of the ecology movement and its connection with respect for Nature and the inherent worth of other beings." Naess's construction of a Nature which sits outside the human sphere of culture, and furthermore his preference for 'natural' values over cultural (particularly Western) values demarcates him as a dualist - which sharply contrasts with the alternative construction of ecosophy outlined by Guattari.
Naess defined ecosophy in the following way:
By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution, resources, population, etc. but also value priorities.
—A. Drengson and Y. Inoue, 1995, page 8
In Praise of Wildness and In Search of Harmony With Everything That Moves
by John McClellan
Introduction and Summary
Liberal thinkers today admit most animals and plants, even microbes to the select company of sentient beings. Even rocks & clouds are beginning to be accepted too as part of the "natural living world", i.e. that world that existed before mankind brought civilization out of his brain and spread it across the landscape. But recognizing this prized quality of aliveness in technology, in human-machine social behaviors, and in the activity of abstract symbolic systems is something else again. Buddhanature, in nuclear bombs? in the computer systems of our urban networks? in the workings of pure mathematics? No one in the environmental world seems willing to go that far-only cyberpunks and techno-futurists have such thoughts, and they are generally dismissed as frivolous by us serious, 'nature' loving deep ecologists. Us Buddhists, and Muirists, and Thoreauists.
Today's Deep Ecology seems to regard technology as an evil force, something alien to the natural world, loosed almost by divine mistake on this planet. These new energies are not regarded as legitimate expressions of sentience, universal lifeforce, or granted the respect we accord to "natural processes", but rather as something wrong, something to be controlled and repressed. Deep ecologists seem to have the same fear and loathing toward today's out of control technology as humans have had until just recently toward uncontrolled Nature, with her savage, untamed wastelands. They call technology inhuman, cruel, and heartless, using the same words we once used to describe cruele wildernesse-and like humans of the 19th century waging war on wild nature, environmentalists today long only to conquer technology, to subdue and control it, as we have nature herself.
An earlier version of this article appeared in The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy, Vol 14, No. 3, Summer 1997, pages 110-111, entitled “An Ecophilosophy Approach, the Deep Ecology Movement, and Diverse Ecosophies” Thanks to Arne Naess and Ted Mosquin for their suggestions.
During the last thirty years philosophers in the West have critiqued the underlying assumptions of Modern philosophy in relation to the natural world. This development has been part of an ongoing expansion of philosophical work involving cross cultural studies of world views or ultimate philosophies. Since philosophical studies in the West have often ignored the natural world, and since most studies in ethics have focused on human values, those approaches which emphasize ecocentric values have been referred to as ecophilosophy. Just as the aim of traditional philosophy is sophia or wisdom, so the aim of ecophilosophy is ecosophy or ecological wisdom. The Practice of ecophilosophy is an ongoing, comprehensive, deep inquiry into values, the nature of the world and the self.
The mission of ecophilosophy is to explore a diversity of perspectives on human-Nature contexts and interrelationships. It fosters deeper and more harmonious relationships between place, self, community and the natural world. This aim is furthered by comparing the diversity of ecosophies from which people support the platform principles of the global, long range, deep ecology movement.
Here is Arne Naess’s original definition of ecosophy: “By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution, resources, population, etc. but also value priorities.” (See A. Drengson and Y. Inoue, 1995, page 8.)
Ecological and Psychological Study
Deep Ecology is defined as:
- a philosophy based on our sacred relationship with Earth and all beings
- an international movement for a viable future
- a path for self realisation
- a compass for daily action
Deep Ecology Supports:
- continuing inquiry into the appropriate human roles on our planet
- root cause analysis of unsustainable practices
- reduction of human consumption
- conservation and restoration of ecosystems
- a life of committed action for Earth
Arne Naess’s original definition of ecosophy is:
"By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution, resources, population, etc. but also value priorities."