Professor Bron Taylor, Florida University 2000
Deep ecology is a semi-religious movement that believes Western Civilization’s anthropocentric (human-centered) religion and philosophy is the root cause of a currently unfolding ecological catastrophe. Deep ecologists believe that for humans to halt this apocalypse and live harmoniously with nature they must reject anthropocentric worldviews and resacralize their perceptions of nature, recognizing that nature has intrinsic value (value apart from its usefulness to humans). Contemporary pagans accurately view deep ecology as a kindred form of nature religion
has greatly influenced grassroots environmentalism, especially in Europe,
North America, and
Arne Naess, a
Norwegian philosopher and mountain climber, coined the term deep ecology
during a 1972 conference in
that there are plural paths to a deep ecological perspective.
Indeed, a wide range of religious perspectives, especially Native
American and other indigenous religions, Buddhism, Taoism, and
Neo-Paganism have influenced those drawn to deep ecology (Taylor 1991,
1995). It is, however,
personal experiences of a spiritual connection with nature, and related
perceptions of nature’s sacrality, that ground deep ecological
commitments; a secular rationale is almost wholly absent.
path to deep ecology began with mountain-oriented nature mysticism that
convinced him of the sacred interrelatedness of all life.
He subsequently found in Baruch Spinoza’s pantheism and Mahatma
Gandhi’s notion of self-realization the key ideas upon which he would
build his environmental philosophy.
coined the umbrella term now used for most non-anthropocentric
environmental ethics, many other individuals were contemporaneously
criticizing anthropocentrism and developing the new movement’s ideas.
One crucial event early in deep ecology’s evolution was the 1974
“Rights of Non-Human Nature” conference held at a college in
By the early
1970s, these and the thinkers they drew upon had put in place the central
ideas of the deep ecological worldview.
Soon additional works, some penned by early participants in Earth
First!, such as the movement’s co-founder Dave Foreman (1987, 1990),
professor Bill Devall (1988), and Christopher Manes (1990) were added to
mix. Other works expanded and
reinforced the cultural critiques and spirituality of deep ecology.
Especially influential were those by Dolores LaChapelle (1978,
1988), John Seed, Joanna Macy, Arne Naess and others (1988), Arne Naess
(1989), Joanna Macy (1991), Warwick Fox (1991), George Sessions (1995),
David Abram (1996), and Freeman House (1999).
Since the mid
1980s, deep ecology increasingly shared ideas, myths, rituals and
personnel with neo-pagan and bioregional groups.
(Bioregionalism shares a spiritual affinity with paganism and deep
ecology, but its emphasis on developing sustainable lifestyles, and
redrawing political boundaries to reflect the contours of differing
ecosystem types, gives it a distinctive name and identity.)
The connections among these groups deepened the pagan and
countercultural character of the deep ecology movement.
Despite its apocalypticism (the world as we know it is imperiled)
deep ecology has entered a period of institutionalization, establishing a
variety of institutes and organizations to promote its objectives.
Indeed, it is its expectation of a biological meltdown that gives
the movement its urgent passion to promote earthen spirituality,
sustainable living, and environmental activism.
D. 1996. Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a
J. 1991. World As Lover, World As Self.
Source: www.religionandnature.com accessed 9/9/05.