Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | March 17, 2010

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Becky FengerDeep, deep down

The term "deep ecology" was coined in 1973 by Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher. It is described in one encyclopedia as a recent branch of ecological philosophy that provides a foundation for the environmental and green movements, leading to a new system of environmental ethics. Its core principle, we are told, is the claim that, like humanity, a mouse or a thistle has the same right to live and flourish as does Aristotle or Michelle Obama. No human being has more of a right to live and reach self realization than any other species.

This is an intriguing movement, which describes itself as "deep" because it insists on asking "why" and "how" and focuses on deep experience, deep questioning and deep commitment. That's really deep. Such a description has irritated the heck out of the "shallow environmentalists" that Naess criticized for their consumer-oriented, man-centered outlook and utilitarian slant. Gee, I never see that side of most environmentalists.

The burning desire of deep ecologists is to save the world from the mortal sins of humans or other sinister forces. Along with concern over the lack of biodiversity, the seeds of fear over climate change were planted. Funny thing, though: In the 70s the fear was all about global cooling and a frozen planet. But, let's stick with the philosophical underpinnings.

Deep ecologists view modern civilization as causing mass extinction and hope to "influence social and political change through their beliefs." I can buy the concept that everything is connected to everything else, like the mobile of life. Lord knows I couldn't be more connected to my six dogs than I am or even my eco crush on my hibiscus. Some of the deep ecologists go even further than a scientific view to a "political" consciousness, and, yes, all the way to a "spiritual" consciousness. Rachel Carson (who gave birth to the devastating move to ban DDT) and Paul R. Ehrlich are included in this group of worshipers.

Linked to deep ecology are other movements like Earth First!, ecofeminism (don't get me started) and the peace movement. "No compromise in defense of Mother Earth" is a slogan of Earth First!, and they aren't kidding. These fanatics will take the life of a logger to forward their cause. Not surprisingly, ecofeminists are more concerned with the sin of being male than of merely fouling the Earth.

Most of these movements are strongly anti-capitalistic. However, we make the most progress with conservationism and environmentalism when societies become more prosperous.

Deep ecologists support the creation of ecoregions (think paths for Bambi to walk from Canada to Mexico), the breakdown of industrialism in its current form (think Cap and Trade), and giving rights to animals to sue in our court system. Whoa!

Here's where the wheels come off the wagon. Some folks come to believe that plants and animals are superior to human beings, and should get dibs on the land. If you want your hair to stand on end, just read about the "Rewilding" movement, a cute idea brought to us courtesy of the U.N. (that wonderful organization that the U.S. supports almost single-handedly in order to have countries hate us). Rewilding calls for approximately 50 percent of the entire United States to be set aside as "wildlands" where humans are not allowed to enter. In this way, we can return the planet to its original state before humans came along and screwed everything up. The thinking is that animals, as reported by the New York Times, "need help in looking for mates or new habitats." Swell. Now mankind has to operate a Match.com for our furry and feathered friends! The more devoted believers run into a problem here. In order for nonhuman life to flourish, human life must decrease their numbers. Beware of the social engineering that comes along with all this.

Reconnecting with the earth is the goal of anti-civilization groups, and part of that involves returning to the days of the hunter/gatherer. (This could be difficult for publisher Don Sorchych, who has struck out on his last five hunting trips.) Rewilding supporters tell us that we softies will have to relearn how to "feed, shelter and heal ourselves with the plants, animals and materials occurring naturally in our bioregion." And I thought learning how to use a computer was the last big thing I had to conquer.