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The deep ecology movement

This article takes a closer look at the deep ecology movement.
© Adam Smith Center, Singapore

In this article, we unpack the argument of the deep ecology movement through three sections: (1) the problem with shallow ecology; (2) the solution of deep ecology; (3) an example of an organization which embodies deep ecology.

1. The problem with shallow ecology

The problem with shallow ecology is that while proponents of shallow ecology acknowledge that climate change is a problem, they posit that only minimal reforms and advanced technology is required to the issue. The status quo of the economy is still prioritized over the needs of the environment. This means that values such as economic growth and increased consumption are still key tenets of society. Without fundamental changes in society’s values and practices, the shallow movement does not touch upon deeper principles such as egalitarianism, diversity, and symbiosis. Hence, climate change cannot be adequately addressed.

2. The solution of deep ecology

Deep ecology is not an environmental movement with short term goals such as halting nuclear power. Rather, deep ecology challenges current conventional modes of thought and seeks an overhaul of societal values. Hence, deep ecology challenges the dominant paradigm of economic growth. Economic growth is seen to be anthropocentric as it views the primary goal of society to be the increase of production and consumption to maximize human welfare. Nature and the environment is then subjugated under humans and seen as merely a tool to satisfy humans and their endless demands.

Therefore, deep ecology rejects anthropocentrism. Instead, supporters of deep ecology fervently believe in the intrinsic value of all living things. Significantly, deep ecology believes that humans are not above or outside of nature. Rather, human beings are part of nature, and we should flow with it rather than forcefully controlling it. Hence, man’s role is not to perfect nature or improve it. This is because humans are ingrained in nature’s ecological web.

Take for example Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, which was first published in 1962. Her book explicitly demonstrated how humans depend on nature and the environment. Her book was influential in illustrating how all living beings are intertwined within ecosystems. She explained how since humans are at the apex of food chains, the chemicals which we use on, for example, plants and crops, becomes increasingly concentrated as they make their way up the food chain. As humans begin to accumulate these chemicals in our tissues, our health becomes adversely affected.

3. Example: The Foundation for Deep Ecology

The Foundation for Deep Ecology was founded in 1990 and – as explicitly mentioned in its name – is a proponent of deep ecology. This organization urges humans to rethink our existing societal values. Instead of viewing nature as material to be exploited, the Foundation of Deep Ecology advocate viewing nature as a partner in human activity. As such, the Foundation for Deep Ecology promotes education on wild nature through its publications and support of environmentally driven campaigns.

© Adam Smith Center, Singapore
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