Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Values of Deep Ecology

When I peeked out from the avalanche of library books I’ve been reading, I noticed that a class was apparently told to blog their thoughts about deep ecology...something I’d been planning myself since it expresses many of my core values. I’d been formed by the 60s and Thoreau but it was deep ecology, probably first encountered through Earth First!, which really led me to my deepest and most important beliefs.

Here is the platform first formulated by Arne Naess:

1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent worth). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization 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 nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between bigness and greatness.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.

There’s not anything there I disagree with, and to me it can largely be summed up with the words respect and humility. It’s about catchphrases such as quality vs. quantity, wants vs. needs, small is beautiful, and being a part of nature instead of apart from nature.

I believe the majority of people who first advanced these ideas thought of them primarily in terms of species rather than individuals. I find that adding respect for the individual increases the platform’s relevance to daily life. The platform as is justifies my opposition to all new human destruction of natural space for homes, businesses, highways, etc. It’s empathizing with the individual life which leads me to not eating animals, spending some of my sidewalk time avoiding stepping on ants, and feeling as much wonder and delight when watching a common rock dove as when watching the rarer peregrine falcon.

I own five books with “Deep Ecology” in the title; a quick check shows four of them unfortunately out of print, although I do think more people are now aware of the ideas above. Despite the mainstream awareness of global warming at the moment, I find far fewer new nature titles of interest to me being published. Time to do some rereading when I get all these library books off me.

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