Ecology movements can be broadly defined as falling into two camps, 'shallow' and 'deep'. This viewpoint was first outlined by the Nowegian philosopher Arne Naess1 The 'shallow' ecology movements are regarded as viewing the global ecology as something to be protected from pollution and the unsustainable depletion of it's resources. Deep ecologists state that this does not go far enough, feeling that one must also accommodate the the interconnectedness of all aspects of the environment into our very sense of awareness and therefore into the thought processes that determine our actions and sense of identity; a 'relational, total field image'2. Shallow Ecology therefore is viewed as a concern that operates within the frameworks of existing (primarily capitalist) world views. Deep Ecology contrasts with Shallow Ecology by existing as an all embracing paradigm that provides meaning, explanation and purpose to it's adherents without a real need for external philosophical or religious reference.

The 'Platform Principles', the guiding values of the Deep Ecology Movement as described by Naess provide a touchstone for the movement and are the basis for most, if not all the later thinking that follows under this banner. As such it deserves repetition here and a detailed consideration in order to understand what is implied by the term Deep Ecology.

    1) The flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth has intrinsic value. The value of non-human life forms is independent of the usefulness these may have for narrow human purposes.
    2) Richness and diversity of life forms are values in themselves and contribute to the flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth.
    3) Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
    4) Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
    5) The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.
    6) Significant change of life conditions for the better requires change in policies. These affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures.
    7) The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of intrinsic value) rather than adhering to high standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
    8) Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes. 3

This statement reveals a multifaceted attempt to move awareness from the self (ie. the ego) into the macroscopic (shown through it's focus on the need to be mindful of the global effects of one's actions) and simultaneously to microscopic (demonstrated in it's focus on the individual and the importance of her/his actions and relationships) notably in Principle 8 which clearly shows that all must be involved; there can be no such thing as a passive or non-practicing Deep Ecologist. Principle 8's call to action is crucial to the character of the philosophy; it is a philosophy of movement and questioning. The movement does not have specific goals that must be achieved, there is no Manifesto; there is instead a broad definition of what is wrong in the current milieu and an outline of the values that need to be brought to the fore.

Many people have taken the challenge raised by Principle 8 and have attempted to form a workable system with which to bring about real change. One of the largest of these is the Institute for Deep Ecology. This institute has outlined it's statement of values which I repeat below:

  • Interdependence: We humbly acknowledge our place in the web of life that sustains us. We recognize the interconnectedness of all human activity and seek always to better understand our own unique and interdependent role in it.

  • Ethics and Action: We ground our lives and work in an ecological ethic that evolves as we learn. We continually seek to deepen our understanding of the world and its interconnectedness at every level from the local to the global. We test and refine our ideas and our values through our actions.

  • Relationship: We honor relationship as a fundamental expression of interconnectedness. We foster respectful relationship with all beings and put mindful, caring human relationship at the heart of everything we do. We invite and support each person to come into the full power of his or her connection to all life and to discover and express her or his unique gifts.

  • Diversity: We nurture diversity because it is fundamental to life itself. We believe that diversity is necessary for learning, development and evolution. Honoring diversity in those with whom we work mutually enhances our capacity and creativity.

  • Learning: We believe learning encompasses both personal and collective dimensions that deeply interpenetrate and inform one another. We continually seek to identify, challenge and explore our deeper assumptions, values and ideas. We are always "learning how to learn."

  • Sustainability & Restoration: We commit ourselves to living more lightly and less violently on Earth in the energy and natural resources we consume. We intend to seek the highest possible level of sustainability in IDE activities, programs and relationships.

Certain crucial phrases and themes are revealed through this statement that reflect the general tone of the movement as a whole:

  • 'We recognize the interconnectedness of all human activity' 4 The Deep Ecology movement recognizes a system whereby all human activity has effects and is affected by other human activity. This system represents a relational and holistic model clearly redolent of the generalized (as opposed to the purely capitalist) 'globalization' movement of modern philosophy. Such a stance places the relationships of the individual within the very definition of that individual, you are how you relate.

  • 'We continually seek to identify, challenge and explore our deeper assumptions, values and ideas. We are always "learning how to learn." ' 5 Rather than restricting itself wholly to a prespecified all-encompassing set of restrictions and proscribed actions, the Deep Ecology movement endorses a system of learning, consideration and relevant action, one that allows growth and encourages increased and constant relevance to ever changing circumstances.

  • 'We test and refine our ideas and our values through our actions ' 6 This statement shows a commitment to action. The Deep Ecology movement is not merely an academic viewpoint but is one that is committed to action based upon their 'ideas and values' 7 and those ideas and values are to be refined through the results of those actions.

  • 'We nurture diversity because it is fundamental to life itself.' 8 This commitment to diversity seems to be of central importance to the Deep Ecology movement's identity. Many movements seek self definition through exclusion, defining themselves as 'those who are not other', based on some selected racial or cultural criteria. Such closed groups are prone to suffer from a fatal inward spiral. An inclusive group that welcomes diversity is able to grow at it's fullest rate and gains the strength and insight of the maximum range of people while being acceptable within many social frameworks.

  • 'We commit ourselves to living more lightly and less violently on Earth in the energy and natural resources we consume.' 9 Here lies the crux of the Deep Ecology movement's ideals. The forerunning statements encircle this ideal as methods and paths to the goal of a sustainable and less invasive existence for humankind on Earth.

Sources used

1Naess, A, 'The shallow and the deep, long-range ecology movements' Inquiry no. 7, 95-100

2Ibid (author's emphasis)

3Naess, A Ecology, Community and Lifestyle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989), p29 (author's emphasis).

4The Institute for Deep Ecology, IDE Values online . Available from Last accessed 2 Jan 2003






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