A web search for definitions will yield something that looks like this:
“A form of environmentalism holding that nature and the natural order should be valued over individual human happiness.“
If I knew nothing of the meaning and read that one I definitely would not resonate with the term! Here’s another one:
A philosophy that calls for a profound shift in our attitudes and behavior based on voluntary simplicity; rejection of anthropocentric attitudes; intimate contact with nature; decentralization of power; support for cultural and biological diversity; a belief in the sacredness of nature; and direct personal action to protect nature, improve the environment, and bring about fundamental societal change.
“..is an approach to ethics that holds that the non-human environment has intrinsic value that is independent of human interests. Deep ecology is a reaction to anthroprocentric approaches to the environment, which hold that the environment has value only as a means of promoting human interests. Deep ecologists view the value of human activities in a larger environmental context.”
If I read that one I would not want to become associated with any “reactionary” movements!
Lets look a little deeper because that is what the term asks for – deep. The Arne Naess and George Sessions yielded what is called
the “8 Point Platform” of Deep Ecology”
- The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth; intrinsic value; inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
- Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
- Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
- Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
- The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
- Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
- The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
- Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.
Bron Taylor, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and Michael Zimmerman, Tulane University wrote an excellent paper on the subject that goes deep into the background of the Deep Ecology movement. Here are some excerpts from their paper:
Taylor/Zimmerman Paper on Deep Ecology
Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess (b. 1912) coined the term “Deep Ecology” in 1972 to express the ideas that nature has intrinsic value, namely, value apart from its usefulness to human beings, and that all life forms should be allowed to flourish and fulfill their evolutionary destinies….
The term has since come to signify both its advocates’ deeply felt spiritual connections to the earth’s living systems and ethical obligations to protect them, as well as the global environmental movement that bears its name. Moreover, some deep ecologists posit close connections between certain streams in world religions and deep ecology.
Naess and most deep ecologists, however, trace their perspective to personal experiences of connection to and wholeness in wild nature, experiences which are the ground of their intuitive, affective perception of the sacredness and interconnection of all life. Those who have experienced such a transformation of consciousness (experiencing what is sometimes called one’s “ecological self” in these movements) view the self not as separate from and superior to all else, but rather as a small part of the entire cosmos. From such experience flows the conclusion that all life and even ecosystems themselves have inherent or intrinsic value – that is, value independently of whether they are useful to humans.
Although Naess coined the term, many deep ecologists credit the American ecologist Aldo Leopold with succinctly expressing such a deep ecological worldview in his now famous “Land Ethic” essay, which was published posthumously in A Sand County Almanac in 1948. Leopold argued that humans ought to act only in ways designed to protect the long-term flourishing of all ecosystems and each of their constituent parts.
Many deep ecologists call their perspective alternatively “ecocentrism” or “biocentrism” (to convey, respectively, an ecosystem-centered or life-centered value system). As importantly, they believe humans have so degraded the biosphere that its life-sustaining systems are breaking down. They trace this tragic situation to anthropocentrism (human-centeredness), which values nature exclusively in terms of its usefulness to humans. Anthropocentrism, in turn, is viewed as grounded in Western religion and philosophy, which many deep ecologists believe must be rejected (or a deep ecological transformation of consciousness within them must occur) if humans are to learn to live sustainable on the earth.
It is a common perception within the deep ecology movement that the religions of indigenous cultures, the world’s remnant and newly revitalized or invented pagan religions, and religions originating in Asia (especially Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism), provide superior grounds for ecological ethics, and greater ecological wisdom, than do Occidental religions. Theologians such as Matthew Fox and Thomas Berry, however, have shown that Western religions such as Christianity may be interpreted in ways largely compatible with the deep ecology movement.
We often speak of Green Fire as being a deep ecology-based church that is non-denominational. Words often get in the way of meaning, so we need to be clear that Green Fire is not about politics or any reactionary state of mind. Green Fire is about “Real Region” combined with whatever “Religion” your own free will resonates with. Green Fire is not about dictating doctrine – it is about sharing and building bridges between worlds that words can divide.
What we all can do to create our own “feeling sense” of the words “Deep Ecology” is go outside right this moment –
YES– walk away from your computer..
Go outside and find a tree…
or a patch of grass…
…or a body of water (fill up a bucket if you have to!)…
Look at the sky (if its cloudy put on a sweater or rainy take an umbrella)…
Touch the Earth…
And for a moment feel in your heart your connection with the Earth.
Then say the words “Deep Ecology” and know that these words mean the feeling that only YOU know about this connection between you and your home planet Earth…
In Lake’ch (Mayan greeting meaning “I am another you”)