Deep Ecology

Arne Naess writes in his essay "The Deep Ecological Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects" about the necessity of the philosophy and against shallow ecology. He argues that those who have the power to strengthen responsible environmental policy do not, due to exponential forces of growth and the jeopardization of their jobs. He claims that even if the motivation is purely humanity driven, even modest steps forward in conservation are unreachable without the support of deep ecology. Those working in the “shallow resource-oriented environmental sphere” need to advocate deep ecology in order to get the public to also advocate it, a step which would further the movement in ways officials cannot. Shallow aims are anthropologic. Even if there is an ecocentric approach, it is for tactical, practical reasons, not because they believe it valid. Deep Ecology is necessary because validity is more effective than usefulness, and educational policy should proclaim its validity, not practicality. When people intrinsically love conservation and the environment they will give voice and not want to hide, creating more change, quicker.

Fundamental Rules of Deep Ecology

1. Every living being has intrinsic value (value not dependent on its utility for humans).
2. Richness in diversity of life forms contributes to to independent value and has its own individual value.
3. Only to satisfy vital needs should humans have the right to reduce this diversity.
4. Humans could have a smaller population and still thrive, and non human life depends on it.
5. Humans excessively interfere with the non-human world; policy must change, affecting basic economic, technological, and ideological structures.
6. Ideologically, people must appreciate life quality, not higher standard of living. Bigness and greatness will be very different.
7. If you believe this, you must try and make these changes happen. Other terms for deep ecology include eco-philosophy, the new naturalism, ecological resistance, green philosophy and politics, sustainable Earth ethics, and ecosophy.

Shallow ecology differs drastically from deep ecology. Pollution is seen as something to spread out and export. Resources are for humans, controlled by supply and demand. Overall population decline is seen as very negative, and over population appears to only be a problem in developing countries. The universal adaptation of all nations into industrialized nations is ideal. The land and sea are seen as fragmented and owned by people, countries, and corporations. The long term is not often considered. Physics and Chemistry (the “hard” sciences) are emphasized, and economic growth is seen as needing to be combined with the maintaining of a healthy environment.

Deep ecology, however, thinks nearly the opposite. Pollution’s deeper causes should be fought, evaluating biospherically. Pollution should never be exported, and is a “crime” (267) against all forms of life. Resources are for all life forms, not only humans. The larger picture is emphasized compared to individual problems. The overall human population must be decreased. Cultural diversity must be protected and technology scrutinized when endangering cultures. The earth is not owned by the human race, we only live here. Lastly, consumerism should be decreased and an higher emphasis placed on the soft sciences.

Through a derivational system, there are four levels to creating deep ecological theory. Level one is the ultimate premises and ecosophies, level two includes the eight-point deep ecology platform or principles, level three is the general normative consequences and “factual” hypotheses, and level four is the particular rules or decisions adapted to particular situations. Level one consists of three different parts merged together: Buddhist, Christian, and Philosophical. Naess argues that deep ecology comes from a deeper belief, even differing ones. Shallow ecology, however, skips from level one to level 4 making it irrational. There may be some differences in the ultimate premises and ecosophies, based on each supporter’s basic fundamental beliefs and attitudes.

Ecosophy T, Arne Naess’s personal philosophy system derived from deep ecology, is summed up maximizing Self-realization, maximizing diversity, and his belief in “simple in means but rich in ends” over than material-driven standards of living.

Naess places a great deal of emphasis on the reduction of human population. Is there any way to drastically reduce our population without economic turmoil or, more importantly, in a way that would be ethically acceptable to the general public?

Fellenz's Critique of Deep Ecology

The main question that Fellenz address’ in the beginning of chapter nine in, The Moral Menagerie, focuses on whether or not there is the possibility of a deep ecological ethic, “the question to concern us here is whether recent ecophilosophy can provide a platform for the accommodation of the animal-one theoretically coherent enough to satisfy the demands of philosophy, and strong enough to produce practical protection of the animal” (159). If success is found in this matter, it will support the conclusion that an animals demand for moral attention must be accommodated and given far greater attention, while any ethical or political structures that cannot deem merit able for the task be reformed or removed (159)

Fellenz then moves towards Ethical Holism which he describes as focusing on examining each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient (161). In this way it is able to not only benefit humanity as a whole, but also focuses on protecting the rights of the animal. Unfortunately such positive environmental ethics are scarce and found rarely if ever. Fellenz moves onto focus on the relationship between Holistic and Humane ethics. Fellenz illuminates ecocentrist’s tendency to argue the role of species in “defending a form of life” within an ecosystem merits direct moral consideration, “Thus, for example, the ecocentrist can coherently argue that an endangered species-both its members and the species as a whole-has a direct claim to moral attention, and that the culling of an over abundant mammalian species in the same ecosystem may not only be morally justifiable, but obligatory to the extent that it would serve the biotic community” (163). The problem pertaining to this argument as Fellenz brings up following this example is that extentionist animal arguments can only gain direct moral status when they have the interest of a particular animal in mind therefore the extensionist would judge that an endangered plant species similar to the example above only has value as means to animal or human ends (163).

Fellenz conclusion in regards to the Holistic and Humane Ethics comparison of Paul Shepherds comments on humane ethics in the wild and that attempting to incorporate such ethics would only, “produce mischief..”(164). Fellenz belief that it may be wrong as well as impossible to incorporate humane ethics into the environment is only supported through the argument against the fact that humans should not be limited to their interests and responsibilities when it comes to the moral good of non-sentient beings, "The knowledge of our dependenence upon ecosystemic forces external to human society will inform a prudential, self interested concern for “the land,” and our demonstrable relatedness to all forms of life may provide a psychological incentive to extend care and empathy to them," nonetheless Fellenz explains, “humans being part of the larger natural world does not translate directly into the conclusion that inanimate beings, plants, entire species, and nature as a whole-entities that lack such morally relevant properties as sentience or interests-possess inherent worth with the power to support moral limitations on human behavior” (167).

Fellenz argues that although we may find some "psychological" connection to the nature world, this bond is not strong enough to place moral limitations on human behavior in the concerns of inanimate beings. Rolston proposes what he believes to be a more ecologically realistic account of how these values are born: "We start out valuing like land appraisers figuring out what it is worth to us, only to discover that we are apart and parcel of this nature we appraise…We do not simply bestow value upon nature; nature also conveys value to us" (169). Therefore, although objects may not contain relevant properties as sentience, nevertheless, we are able to discover a bond to these inanimate objects and beings, that some consider to worthy of moral concern, "Ecocentrism implies that there would be a normative value to nature even if humans or highly conscious life forms were unable to appreciate that value" (170). Although it may be morally correct psychologically and through the feelings and emotions of an individual to desire the protection of non-sentient beings, it is nearly impossible to conclude that our thoughts and emotions hold sufficient ground philosophically. Fellenz goes onto conclude that although it is still morally correct to look for a deep ecological, it will be nearly impossible to find a “philosophically acceptable holistic ethic” that grounds proper moral respect for all living beings unless we as a society change our thoughts towards the environment, and realize that “there is an inherent value to the direct experience of the nonhuman world for which the culture ought to make room” (173).

Third World Perspective on Deep Ecology

In his article entitled Radical Environmentalism and the Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique, Guha offers a non-Western – or Third World – perspective on the deep ecology movement. In his critique on deep ecology, Guha systematically attempts to break-down what he finds to be the leading tenets of deep ecology, while supplementing his critique with two guiding arguments of his own.

Four Major Tenets of Deep Ecology (according to Guha):
1. “deep ecology argues that the environmental movement must shift from and ‘anthropocentric’ to a ‘biocentric’ perspective;
2. “deep ecology focuses on the preservation of unspoilt wilderness and the restoration of degraded areas to a more pristine condition”;
3. within deep ecology, “there is a widespread invocation of the Eastern spiritual traditions”;
4. “deep ecologists, whatever their internal differences, share the belief that they are the ‘leading edge’ of the environmental movement” (Guha, 339-340).

In addition to identifying what he finds as the leading tenets of deep ecology, Guha posses two central criticisms about the deep ecology movement:

  1. “ deep ecology is uniquely American” and because so its “goals” differ from other countries (339).
  2. “that the social consequences of putting deep ecology into practice on a world-wide basis are very grave” (339).

The two main critiques I will dwell upon that best encompass Guha’s arguments are found in both the second and third tenets of deep ecology.

  • Guha’s critique to the second tenet of deep ecology is that “is positively harmful when applied to the Third World” (341). His reasoning for such an assertion is that often, when deciding where to preserve land, countries – particularly that of the Third World – enact policies at the expense of the indiginous peoples, typically displacing such individuals from their already established homes. This remains problematic as attempts to preserve land often come at the expense of impoverished people who take a lower priority in Third World countries. Hence these largely westernized notions of land preservation fail to apply to the cultural and social circumstances of the Third World.
  • Guha wishes to argue that deep ecology’s emphasis upon Eastern philosophy is “selective and does not bother to differentiate between alternate religious and cultural traditions” (342). Deep ecology’s selective understanding of Eastern traditions fails to acknowledge the actual the truth of the East’s traditional relationship with nature as “a more active one” (342). While deep ecology claims to find its “lineage” in Eastern philosophies, is does so only by using the “East…as a vehicle for Western projections” (342). This brings to mind a good point as more than often deep ecologists appeal to Eastern traditions as sources for environmental consideration, yet doing so only to forward their own agenda in the West.
Fellenz, Marc R. "Ecophilosophy: Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism." The Moral Menagerie: Philosophy and Animal Rights. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

Guha. “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third
World Critique.”

Naess, Arne. "The Deep Ecological Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects." Environmental Ethics. Ed. Andrew Light and Holmes Rolston III. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

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