Red Emma Speaks

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Something from Arne Naess

I've never managed to read any Arne Naess (the Norwegian philosopher and founder of Deep Ecology). Until now, anyway. Some time ago, a local timber producers' association attempted to sue the Forest Service for taking ecological principles into account, saying that it was a violation of the separation of church and state, because Deep Ecology was a religion. (Hmmmph. So why are the same folks so insistent upon forcing their religious principles upon me when it comes to abortion, etc.? But whatever. Hypocrisy abounds, does it not?) They lost, because of course the Forest Service was responding to science (and the law), not religion. (And certainly not Deep Ecology. Not that I don't wish they did. But let's get real, huh? It's like Christians complaining they're being discriminated against. As if being in charge of fucking everything isn't enough.)

So just now, I've finally gotten around to finding out more about Deep Ecology. Here are some quotes from Naess that struck me:

(from "The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary"):

...the equal right to live and blossom is an intuitively clear and obvious value axiom. its restriction to humans is an anthropocentrism with detrimental effects upon the life quality of humans themselves.
"Live and let live" is a more powerful ecological principle than "Either you or me."
The exploiter lives differently from the exploited, but both are adversely affected in their potentialities of self-realization.
(And from "Identification as a Source of Deep Ecological Attitudes." My own outline, Naess' words):
Shallow Ecology says:
Natural diversity is valuable as a resource for us.

Deep Ecology says:
Natural diversity has its own (intrinsic) value.

Shallow Ecology says:
It is nonsense to talk about value except as value for mankind.

Deep Ecology says:
Equating value with value for humans reveals a racial prejudice.

Shallow Ecology says:
Plant species should be saved becuase of their value as genetic reserves for human agriculture and medicine.

Deep Ecology says:
Plant species should be saved because of their intrinsic value.

Shallow Ecology says:
Pollution should be decreased if it threatens economic growth.

Deep Ecology says:
Decrease of pollution has priority over economic growth.

Shallow Ecology says:
Third World population growth threatens ecological equilibrium.

Deep Ecology says:
World population at the present level threatens ecosystems but the population and behavior of industrial states more than that of any others. Human population is today excessive.

Shallow Ecology says:
"Resource" means resource for humans.

Deep Ecology says:
"Resource" means resource for living beings.

Shallow Ecology says:
People will not tolerate a broad decrease in their standard of living.

Deep Ecology says:
People should not tolerate a broad decrease in the quality of life but in the standard of living in overdeveloped countries.

Shallow Ecology says:
Nature is cruel and necessarily so.

Deep Ecology says:
Man is cruel but not necessarily so.

The conditions under which the self is widened are experienced as positive and are basically joyful. The constant exposure to life in the poorest countries through television and other media contributes to the spread of the voluntary simplicity movement. But people laugh: What does it help the hungry that you renounce the luxuries of your own country? But identification makes the efforts of simplicity joyful and there is not a feeling of moral compulsion. The widening of the self implies widening perspectives, deepening experiences, and reaching higher levels of activeness (in Spinoza's sense, not as just being busy). Joy and activeness make the appeal to Self-realization stronger than appeal to altruism. The state of alienation is not joyful, and is often connected with feelings of being threatened and narrowed. The "rights" of other living beings are felt to threaten our "own" interests.

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