Sociology Index


Deep ecology is a recent branch of ecological philosophy that considers humankind as an integral part of its environment. Deep Ecology philosophy emphasizes the interdependent value of human and non-human life and the importance of the ecosystem. Deep ecology raises many more questions than it answers. Deep ecology is a set of ideas within the environmental movement which stress the belief that modern societies have become anthropocentric putting the human species and its interests at the top of the agenda. Supporters of deep ecology argue that society must become biocentric seeing all biological organism, including human beings, as having value in and of themselves.

Arne Naess invented the term deep ecology in his 1973 article, "The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary." The insights of deep ecology reflect a long tradition of thought within Norwegian culture. By "ecology movement" Naess means a cosmology or worldview. Naess faults European and North American civilization for the arrogance of its human-centered instrumentalization of nonhuman nature. He contrasts his new "deep ecology" or "radical ecologicy" worldview with the dominant "shallow" paradigm. In 'Silent Spring' Rachel Carson portrays the forces that modern society has brought into being which assault nature and human life itself.

Deep ecology suggests that human relationship with the natural environment should not be based on its value for the human species and should be valued for themselves and we should return the environment to its natural state. From the point of view of deep ecology, our culture offers us an incorrect view of our place within nature. Our culture causes us to act in competition with the natural world. Deep ecology is grounded in science’s new cosmology and in the story of evolution. Cornell University provides an overview of Sociology of Environment and hyperlinks to resources on the Web.

Deep Ecology and Shallow Ecology

Deep Ecology is a secular position that claims to be supported by both science and philosophy. Shallow Ecology has a focus on pure policy and technology as well as the actions taken by humanity in order to become less anthropocentric. Both Deep Ecology and Shallow Ecology examine the anthropogenic problems with the environment.

Arne Næss does not think highly of the Shallow Ecology movement. He outlines seven principles for Deep Ecology and only one for Shallow Ecology and highlights the idea that Deep Ecology is, in fact, an ecosophy, while Shallow Ecology is most certainly not. Shallow Ecology, as supported by Anthony Weston is pragmatic but less spiritual than the Deep Ecology advocated by Næss. He explained the Shallow Ecology in “Enabling Environmental Practice.”


“The Long-Range Deep Ecology movement emerged more or less spontaneously and informally as a philosophical and scientific social/political movement during the so-called Ecological Revolution of the 1960s. Its main concern has been to bring about a major paradigm shift- a shift in perception, values and lifestyles- as a basis for redirecting the ecologically destructive path of modern industrial growth societies.

Since the 1960s, the long-range Deep Ecology movement has been characterized philosophically by a move from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism, and by environmental activism.” - George Sessions in the preface to the book he edited, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century.

Humanism = Speciesism
Ted Benton. Although I have treated the perspective of ‘deep ecology’ as an extension of moral concern about the well-being of (other) animals, the two positions are sometimes argued from different, and conflicting premisses. There is an implicit anthropocentrism in those advocacies of ‘animal rights’, for example, which argue for the status of animals as moral subjects on the basis of, and to the extent that they share, certain ‘human’ attributes. A ‘deep ecological’ perspective attributes intrinsic value independently of any such likeness to humans.

Dialectical Materialism and Nature, An Alternative to Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology Brett Clark, Richard York. Views about the nature of Nature lead to a systematic mismeasurment of natural processes. The "economistic" view conceives of the natural environment as a repository of resources for human exploitation. The economistic perspective leads to a failure to properly recognize the distinctions between ecological and economic processes. The deep ecology view conceives of nature in an idealized manner as a harmonious system in eternal balance if not disturbed by humans.

Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, Devall and Sessions on Defending the Earth - Timothy W. Luke. 
The theory of deep ecology has had a profound effect on many environmental political movements. Deep ecology found its broadest and most influential popularization in the work of Bill Devall and George Sessions. Their 1985 work, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, outlines their vision of deep ecology. The book is an important for anyone interested in the ethics and politics of deep ecology.

Gandhi, Deep Ecology, Peace Research And Buddhist Economics 
Thomas Weber, School of Sociology, Politics and Anthropology, La Trobe University 
The new environmentalism in the form of deep ecology, the discipline of peace research known as 'Buddhist economics' very closely mirror Gandhi's philosophy. This article argues that those who want to make an informed study of deep ecology, peace research or Buddhist economics should go back to Gandhi for a fuller picture.

Expropriating Nature: The Decoding of Deep Ecology, Lauer, Dean
Abstract: I suggest that Nina Witoszek's semiotic dismantling of Arne Nss' philosophy of deep ecology is an effort to situate Nss within the tradition of his native culture. Because the "decoding" of deep ecology takes place in the context of a sign-functional nexus, deep ecology's most valuable asset, the possibility for intimate experience becomes expropriated within the system of signs.

Deep Ecology and Language: The Curtailed Journey of the Atlantic Salmon - Stibbe, Arran.
Abstract: The analysis utilizes an ecological framework based on "deep ecology" (Naess, 1990), examining how the discourse of the MA asserts or denies the intrinsic worth of fish.

The Solitary Walker in the Political World - The Paradoxes of Rousseau and Deep Ecology - Joseph H. Lane, Jr., Rebecca R. Clark - Rousseau argued forcefully for the superiority of a life lived in accordance with "the simplest impulses of nature," but his complex understanding of the relationship between humans and "nature" is rarely cited as a source of inspiration. The complexities of Rousseau's political thought illuminate connections between his works and the programs put forth by deep ecology. Suggestions for a reconsideration of Rousseau's work that illuminate the paradoxical political requirements of deep ecology's recommendations for a ecological human life.

Wisdom in the Open Air: The Norwegian Roots of Deep Ecology. 
Reed, Peter, Ed.; Rothenberg, David, Ed. 
Abstract: The book traces the Norwegian roots of "deep ecology" and the search for solutions to environmental problems by examining fundamental tenets of culture. Deep ecology contributes to the philosophical foundations of environmental education. Deep ecology is a "questioning" ecology that recognizes the intrinsic value of nature. Arne Naess shaped Norwegian higher education, which stresses a basic grounding in philosophy and a concern for linking academics with real-world problems. This concern also forms the backbone of deep ecology.

Summer School in Deep Ecology, Macmillan, Catherine Hume 
Abstract: Describes one teacher's experiences at the Institute for Deep Ecology Education Summer School in Applied Deep Ecology.

Theses on Social Ecology and Deep Ecology, Janet Biehl and Murray Bookchin 
The debate between social ecology and deep ecology broke out in the summer of 1987, and attempts to reconcile the two approaches and produce what they feel is a higher synthesis. Social ecology and deep ecology are incommensurable. Deep ecologists differ among themselves as to the content of their approach, which renders deep ecology itself self-contradictory.