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Could Deep Ecology be the Solution?

Deep ecology is an environmental philosophy introduced by Arne Naess in 1984 which recognizes the inherent value of all living beings and promotes the idea that they have moral and legal rights to live and flourish as humans do.

This philosophy looks deeper into our relationship with the natural world for a more holistic approach to environmentalism. Instead of promoting the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity for human purposes such as resource extraction, deep ecology recognizes the intrinsic value these systems hold, regardless of utility to humans.

The deep ecology framework is not anthropocentric, meaning that all living beings are viewed as our equals and that we are part of a whole.

As a whole, we cannot all thrive to our full potential until all parts of the whole are free to do so. Deep ecology encourages the shift from egocentric living to ecocentric living.

Fundamental principles of Deep Ecology

  1. The well-being and of human and non-human life on earth have intrinsic value separate from usefulness to humans
  2. Biodiversity is an important factor in the realization of these values and also holds intrinsic value in itself
  3. As humans, we have no right to reduce this richness or exploit non-human life apart from our requirements to satisfy vital needs
  4. We currently interact with our surroundings in an exploitative manner, and this situation is only worsening.
  5. In order for human life and non-human life to continue to flourish, a decrease in human population is necessary.
  6. Significant policy change affecting economic, technological and ideological structures is required to address these issues.
  7. We must change our ideologies to appreciate quality of life over an increasingly higher standard of living.
  8. Anyone who believes in the above points has an obligation to participate in the attempt to enact and implement change.

From capitalism to conscious living

A key principle of deep ecology is the restructuring of society according to this framework. This would require a change in our current exploitation-driven capitalist system.

Deep ecology asks us to choose every day to live consciously within Earth’s ecosystems and take only what we need from the natural world, promoting a culture of simplicity and appreciation.

It also asks that we advocate for equal rights of all living things.  Until all people, animals, plants and the ecosystems made up of them are considered equal, we cannot maximize any individual well-being. 

The legal protection of animals

Deep ecology in practice would mean legal protection of the fundamental rights of animals to live and thrive freely in their natural environment and would afford them all additional rights and freedoms currently held by humans.

Courts in India, Argentina and Germany have made significant progress toward legally recognizing and protecting animal rights.

In addition to equal rights for animals, deep ecology also calls for equal rights of plants and nature. This would mean no longer designating nature as property by law, and instead, recognizing the legal obligation we have to enforce the rights of ecosystems to exist and maintain their vital cycles. 

Deep ecology and your frame of mind

In a society where value is measured by economic progress and productivity, understanding and appreciating our natural world for its true value as opposed to a resource that can be exploited or profited from can require a significant shift in frame of mind.

By consciously trying to appreciate the intrinsic worth of our natural world, we are able to better understand the need for preservation, create more effective environmental policies and change, and lead a more personally fulfilling life.

By focusing on improving our quality of life by interacting with our surroundings in this mindset, we can live more simply, presently and gratefully.

How you can take action:

  1. Appreciate your ecosystem: take time to reflect on everything your environment and the living beings around you have offered you, and how they continue to play an important role in your everyday life.
  2. Consume conscientiously: be aware of how your choices contribute to your overall carbon footprint. Buy only what you need, shop locally when possible, and try using lower emission forms of transportation.
  3. Practice gratitude: instead of continuing to strive for higher and higher standards of living which drive excessive consumption, it is important to focus on expressing gratitude for all that we already have in our lives.
  4. Never stop learning! Take time to read about environmental or animal rights activism taking place in your community and around the world, and offer your support where you can. Sign petitions, write to your local representatives and encourage others to do the same!
  5. Let your beliefs guide your daily actions. If Deep Ecology resonates with you and aligns with your values, find ways to act on those beliefs every day. If we don't take action to live out our values we live with a sense of disconnect and it can wear away our faith in our ability to affect positive change.

Here are some resources on deep ecology you might enjoy:

What is deep ecology?

Deep Ecology Platform

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