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Deep Ecology

Author: Tatjana van Bormann ~ Londolozi Communications

( Article Type: Explanation )

Rediscovering abundant living
The Deep Ecology worldview asks that we do some deep thinking about who we are and what our role is on the planet. The term was coined by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess in 1972 and defines an ecocentric environmental worldview. As it has its roots in philosophical traditions, the Deep Ecology view challenges us to explore further, not to accept the current status quo but to dig deep into essential questions of life, to extend our thinking beyond our own egos and recognise that we are part of the great interdependent community of life on the planet. Once we have deeply questioned our own beliefs, Deep Ecology then asks that we align our actions to those beliefs.

Celebrated author Fritjof Capra, who articulated the Web of Life concept in his book of the same name, has said that Deep Ecology is the place where ‘science, philosophy, and spirituality meet’.

Basic beliefs
In 1984, the concept of Deep Ecology was further developed with the drawing up of a list of eight beliefs, which now underpin a major philosophical and ethical movement. Briefly, the tenets, as written by Arne Naess and George Sessions, are as follows:

  1. The wellbeing and flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth have value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.
  2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realisation of these values and are also values in themselves.
  3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity, except to satisfy vital needs.
  4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.
  5. Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
  6. Policies must thus be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from what it is at present.
  7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating 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.
  8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation, directly or indirectly, to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

Lifestyle guidelines
Arne Naess went a step further and defined some lifestyle adjustments for those who ascribe to deep ecology principles. These include:

  1. Appreciating all forms of life
  2. Protecting or restoring local ecosystems
  3. Using simple means
  4. Consuming less
  5. Satisfying vital needs rather than desires
  6. Attempting to live in nature and promoting community
  7. Appreciating ethnic and cultural differences
  8. Working to improve the standard of living for the world’s poor
  9. Working to eliminate injustice to humans or other species
  10. Acting non-violently.

(Source: G Tyler Miller Jnr, Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections and Solutions (10th Ed.), Wadsworth Publishing Co.)

Deep Ecology is synonymous with the concept of ‘think like a mountain,’ which means thinking beyond the self so that the wellbeing of the Earth becomes inherent in every action. It is also essentially a view that believes that ‘simple in means is rich in ends’. This thinking is, on first reading, immediately attractive, questioning our mode of existence, voluntarily reducing material comforts in order to rediscover abundant living through an existence that is in harmony with the planet. Deep Ecology is a radical concept, requiring adherents to embrace a complete shift in their approach to living. It is nevertheless a profoundly hopeful philosophy. In a time when the media put out a steady stream of planetary doom and gloom, Deep Ecology promotes solutions and a means of addressing current environmental crises.