Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Deep clean the ecosystem

Today is January 27, the birth date in 1919 of Arne Naess, the Norweigen philosopher and activist who founded the Deep Ecology movement, sometimes called ecosophy. He died almost one year ago. Naess's name is not immediately familiar, even to many environmentalists, but his philosophy should be familiar to anyone who has heard reference to "mother nature" in the last 40 years. Naess argued for a union of science and metaphysics, and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all things, akin to ideas in ancient mythology, Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. (Although these eastern philosophies are oversimplified and misunderstood in most popular writing by western authors, who, in an effort to circumnavigate the influence of Cartesian body-mind dualism, want show that the mysterious East possesses secrets of the universe that we do not. Which is not to say that there is not a LOT to say about the relationship of humans and nature in these philosophies and religions, including native spiritual beliefs, worldwide.)

Anyways, let the man speak for himself:
Self-realization cannot develop far without sharing joys and sorrows with others, or more fundamentally, without the development of the narrow ego of the small child into the comprehensive structure of a Self that comprises all human beings. The deep ecology movement takes this a step further and asks for a development such that there is a deep identification of individuals with all life.
… the Self in question is a symbol of identification with an absolutely maximum range of beings.
The ecosophical outlook is developed through an identification so deep that one’s own self is no longer adequately delimited by the personal ego or the organism. One experiences oneself to be a genuine part of all life.
We are not outside the rest of nature and therefore cannot do with it as we please without changing ourselves … we are a part of the ecosphere just as intimately as we are a part of our own society … Paleontology reveals that the development of life on earth is an integrated process, despite the steadily increasing diversity and complexity. “Life is fundamentally one.”
Here's a link to the Foundation for Deep Ecology. It's interesting that they cite David Brower's Sierra Club books as their model for publishing large, glossy coffee table books covering various environmental issues. Brower was very adept at bringing issues like mining and dam-building directly to the 1960s-70s American public by taking out hyperbolic ads in newspapers and magazines, and publishing the popular photographic book series. But perhaps in an internet-linked global culture like our own, we need different tactics. Do people still have coffee tables?

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