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Ganges River Delta (NASA)

Deep Ecology

Excerpt from the Worldview Dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in Design for Sustainability

The philosopher Arne Naess suggests: “We may be in, of and for nature from our very beginning.” He argues: “Society and human relations are important, but our self is richer in its constituent relations. These relations are not only relations we have with humans and the human community, but with the larger community of all living beings” (Naess, 1988, p.20).

Along with John Seed, Joanna Macy and Pat Fleming, Arne Naess is regarded as the originator of the deep ecology movement. The conceptual and perceptual expansion of the self beyond the skin boundary and to experience and understand ourselves as a relational self, or “ecological self” is a central theme in deep ecology.

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A voice for wild nature, the Foundation for Deep Ecology supports efforts to protect wilderness and wildlife, promote ecological agriculture, and oppose destructive mega-technologies that are accelerating the extinction crisis.(logo; image left; image middle, image right)

As early as the 1970s Arne Naess saw two different forms of environmentalism, that were not necessarily incompatible with each other, but very distinct in the solutions they proposed. One he called the “long-range deep ecology movement” and the other, the “shallow ecology movement.” The word “deep” in part referred to the level of questioning of our purposes and values with regard to environmental issues.

The Deep Ecology movement engages in deep questioning, right down to fundamental root causes. Whereas the more shallow and short-term approaches to the environmental crisis stop before affecting fundamental change, often promoting technological fixes that are based on the same consumption-oriented values and methods of the industrial economy.

The Deep Ecology approach calls for a redesign of all human made systems based on values and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of natural systems. Satish Kumar explains in this video the difference between shallow ecology and deep ecology.

Satish Kumar speaking of Shallow Ecology, Deep Ecology, Reverential Ecology and Gaia
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Arne Næss was a Norwegian philosopher who inspired the Deep Ecology movement; other key people who have promoted deep ecology work around the world include Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, and Stephan Harding (image left, image middle, image right)

Together with George Session, Arne Naess proposed a set of basic assumptions or attitudes shared by people in the deep ecology movement and call this list the Deep Ecology Platform. More than just a platform for a movement, it is also a call to ethically congruent action.

Note: This is an excerpt from the Worldview Dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in Design for Sustainability. In 2012 I was asked to rewrite this dimension as part of a collaboration between Gaia Education and the Open University of Catalunya (UOC) and in 2016 I revised it again into this current version. The next opportunity to join the course is with the start of the Worldview Dimension on May 21st, 2018.

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Daniel Christian Wahl

Written by

Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Daniel Christian Wahl

Written by

Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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