Deep Ecology (Deep Values, Extenionism) vs. Shallow Ecology (Policy Reform, Anthropocentrism) & Environmental Pragmatism: A Defense of Shallow Ecology

In Arne Naess’s articles, The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement and Self-Realization: An Ecological Approach to Being in the World, he identifies the differences between deep ecology and shallow ecology. According to Naess, every being has an equal right to live and to blossom. He advocated that a true understanding of nature would give rise to a point of view that appreciates the value of biological diversity and understandings of dependent of the interrelationships in nature. Naess’s ecological philosophy emphasizes on self-realization of man’s narrow selves, that people must realize themselves as part of an ecospheric Imagewhole. He explains that self-realization is if one does not know how the outcomes of one’s actions will affect other beings, one should not act. Naess identifies deep ecology as having respect for the global living as well as having the freedom to live and flourish. Deep Ecology differs from the concept of shallow ecology because it strives to change the mind of the person as a whole, rather than changing the mind of a consumer. Rather than evaluating how one’s actions might affect the future generations, Naess’s vision for Deep Ecology is to have the individual evaluate their individual self. Shallow Ecology relies on technological solutions but Deep Ecology is sees individual evaluation and changes as the solution. Naess believes that spiritual growth will enhance our interactions with other creatures. He states that, “deepening our identification with all life-forms, with the ecosystems, and with Gaia, this fabulous, old planet of ours” (272). We must recognize that we are all interrelated and all contain intrinsic value. Naess does not necessarily believe that humans have caused destruction of the earth but rather our culture’s lack of concern towards our impact.

            Anthony Weston holds similar views about society as Naess does. In Weston’s article, Enabling Environmental Practice, he that we must use a bottom-up technique, i.e. start from the bottom, in order to act upon the values represented in environmental ethics. He hopes to evolve environmental ethics and pragmatically include practices in our society. Weston sees environmental ethics values as in the originary states, meaning they are typically in the stages of incompatible outlines and social experiments yet still contributing to the development of new possibilities. Environmental pragmatism does not seek to be anti-anthropocentric as well systemizing views of deep ecology. What Weston hopes to achieve is a coevolution of practices and institutions. Thus, rather than having one universal principle, a “what works” attitude would be more effective. I personally agree more with Weston’s approach to environmental ethics than I do with Naess. Although Naess’s idea is beautiful, it is not realistic. People do not suddenly gain an undying love for nature. It takes a lifetime or a very significant event in one’s life in order to have such respect and adoration for the environment. I was raised to respect and love animals, as well as respecting and enjoying the environment around me. Without this particular upbringing, I may feel very different and for all I know I might not even be in this class if it wasn’t for the way I was raised and the morals I was taught. Weston’s view, however, is an easier and quick approach to encompassing environmental ethics into people’s lives. Practices such as recycling programs at universities or creating nature outings for urban areas, will create the most change. Exposing people to environmental practices will create greater concern and raise consciousness, rather than telling people they should value the environment on a spiritual level. If anything, Naess’s approach may turn people off from environmental ethics.

Question: Is Weston’s approach realistic in solving environmental problems?

About dripley91

Senior at Fordham University. Environmental Policy Major and Sustainable Business Minor
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