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Deep Ecology

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Deep Ecology


“The essence of deep ecology is to ask deep questions.” – Arne Naess


Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher, coined the term “deep ecology” to describe a world-view in which humans are not central, and environmentalism is not focused on creating a healthy world for humans. “Naess was of the opinion that the environmental movement was also approaching its efforts to protect the Earth from a shallow standpoint, focusing mostly on human health and well-being rather than seeing the environment as a seamless whole with inherent value throughout.... Deep Ecology goes deeper by placing humans within ecosystems, different but not better or more valuable than other species or other "beings" such as rivers and rocks and clouds. This may seem self-evident, and to an ecologist it may seem fundamental to the entire science of ecology; but this removing of humans from the center actually challenges ways of thinking that have been taught so long they seem like ‘the way things are.’” Deep Ecology: Environmentalism as if all beings mattered, Great River Earth Institute, http://www.greatriv.org/de.htm#de


David Orton, in an essay titled “Taking a Look at Deep Ecology,” remarks:

“We are "Earthlings." The Earth owns us, we are its creatures. One species, humans, cannot "own" Nature, that is, the Earth and all its living creatures. Radical deep ecologists, then, do not believe in "private property," but see it as a human-derived social convention. They believe it is the height of human arrogance to talk about "owning" other species or the Land itself. I think there has to evolve new conceptions of so-called property rights, which must serve two ends: to protect Nature and all the non-human living creatures, and to protect social justice within a particular society.” http://www.elements.nb.ca/theme/ethics/deep/ecology.htm






“Clearly, if we are to make peace with nature, we desperately need a new story, a new mythos that allows us to revere the Earth again as a living, animate being.”

Quotation from Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia by Stephan Harding, Green Books, UK, 2006. See http://www.resurgence.org/bookshelf/osullivan0606.htm


Rather than viewing nature and land as inanimate objects (a stance which contemporary science has found is patently untrue (see Systems Thinking and Web of Life), animism is an approach that is consonant with Deep Ecology. Animism invites us to acknowledge that humans are only one kind of person among many. “Thus, the ‘community’ of ‘persons’ to which one owes responsibility extends into the non-human realm.” Aldo Leopold argues: “Land is a community, not a commodity.’” http://eee.uci.edu/clients/tcthorne/Socec15/animism.htm


A wikipedia article on Animism notes: “There is no need to talk of metaphysics or impute non-empirical ‘beliefs’ in discussing animism. What is required is an openness to consider that humans are neither separate from the world nor distinct from other kinds of being in most significant ways.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism


Council of All Beings


Deep ecology invites us to imagine new forms of Dialogue, such as that envisaged by Johanna Macy and John Seed in their work on “A Council of All Beings.”


Masks made in a Council of All Beings from http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/deep-eco/council.htm


“The Council of All Beings is a series of re-Earthing rituals created by John Seed and Joanna Macy to help end the sense of alienation from the living Earth that many of us feel. Many people INTELLECTUALLY realise that we are inseparable from Nature and that the sense of separation that we feel is illusory. These rituals enable us to deeply EXPERIENCE our connection with Nature, in our hearts and our bodies… We … allow other life forms to speak through us.”


"As Lichen, I turn rock into soil. I worked as the glaciers retreated, as other life-forms came and went. I thought nothing could stop my work; but now I'm being poisoned by acid rain."


"Humans! I am Mountain speaking. For millennia your ancestors venerated my holy places. Now you dig and gouge for the ore in my veins. Clearcutting my forests, you take away my capacity to hold water and release it slowly. See the silted rivers? See the floods? In destroying me, you will destroy yourselves."


"I, Condor, give you my keen, far-seeing eye. Use that power to look ahead beyond your daily distractions, to heed what you see and plan."



You can find a Resource page on running a Council for All Beings at http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/deep-eco/coab.htm


Johanna Macy writes, “According to theologian Thomas Berry in The Dream of the Earth, the "shamanic personality," which can understand and speak for other life-forms, is essential to our survival. It helps us to break free from our culture's anthropocentrism and dispel the trance of industrial civilization. The life-giving powers shaping creation from the beginning of time are still present within us, Berry writes. They exist as "deep spontaneities," accessible through the imagination.” http://www.joannamacy.net/html/deepecology/essay.html

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