Friday, July 08, 2005

Deep Ecology

I am currently reading this book by Patrick Beach. The novel chronicles a young man's short life as an anti-forestry activist, and how the fight for the Redwoods ended his life. It explores the history of environmental activism versus the interests of business, and I am enjoying it. (Interesting to note that the only comment on the book is from the young man's mother)

In the same vein, a BC court ruled that an alleged arsonist and environmental activist (or terrorist?) should be deported back to the US to face charges of setting fire to forestry equipment. Among other things the activist has done are dressing up like a bunny, living on a building ledge for 10 days, and arguing against tree ownership.

Most people think activists like this are crazy: who would drill a spike into a tree so that the tree, when run through lumber machinery, will destroy the milling tools? Who would eat only raw fruits and vegetables to save on energy resources? Who would climb up a 300 foot tall smoke stack just to hang a "stop pollution" sign?

The essence of most "extreme" environmental activism today is rooted in a philosophy of Deep Ecology, as described below:

Deep ecology is founded on two basic principles: one is a scientific insight into the interrelatedness of all systems of life on Earth, together with the idea that anthropocentrism - human-centeredness - is a misguided way of seeing things. Deep ecologists say that an ecocentric attitude is more consistent with the truth about the nature of life on Earth. Instead of regarding humans as something completely unique or chosen by God, they see us as integral threads in the fabric of life. They believe we need to develop a less dominating and aggressive posture towards the Earth if we and the planet are to survive.

The second component of deep ecology is what Arnie Naess calls the need for human self-realization. Instead of identifying with our egos or our immediate families, we would learn to identify with trees and animals and plants, indeed the whole ecosphere. This would involve a pretty radical change of consciousness, but it would make our behavior more consistent with what science tells us is necessary for the well-being of life on Earth. We just wouldn't do certain things that damage the planet, just as you wouldn't cut off your own finger.

Do you find Naess' philosophy radical or ridiculous? Or does it, in some way, make sense? Given that you've read at least two paragraphs about Deep Ecology, do you have a slightly better understanding of why these activists do what they do?

Are these people still crazy? Or does the world need people like the arson-activist who eats only fruit and vegetables - does the world needs him to make its citizens think about a new perspective?

That's a lot of questions to ask. Perhaps the most pressing question is - if, even to a small degree, Deep Ecology makes sense, what are you doing to live by its tenets? How do each and all of us do our part?

For more on Deep Ecology: (the source of the above quote)


Blogger Mark said...

Right now I just got home from work, so I'm a practioner of, "deep intoxication". That being said, let's see where I go with this comment.

Some say, radicalism has it's place. Not only does it have a place, but it was the instigator of most of the change in our culture.

I don't buy that.

More good has been done through diplomatic means, than any other form of dissent. To change for the better, we need better leaders, teachers, lobbyists, politicians, etc... Radicalism, is an easy way to make a show of your belief. The trick is, to sway other people to believe it. The best way to accomplish that is through charm and intelligence. Bunny rabbit costumes, and big signs don't cut it.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

And who changes the minds, shifts the ideologies, of these teachers, lobbyists, politicians? The radicals.

Off the top of my head...

Reigiously: Christianity was born when Paul preached, fasted, escaped from angy mobs, and pleaded with people to believe in Jesus - all radical things to do at the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was a radical step, don't you think? But it did a pretty good job of stamping out heresy.

The modern protestant sect was born when Luther stuck his protest note on the door of the church. What a radical.

More recently, gay rights: every year for the past 10 or 15 years, gay people in toronto parade around with no clothes on. You better believe this was radical when it started - it still is to many people today. Now, young people go to their proms with their gay partners, and the gay community (through demonstrations like gay pride parade) has acheived the radical step of being allowed to marry.

How's this one for you: a black woman by the name of Rosie Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus. In one radical action, the civil rights movement was born.

Just sitting around and saying "I don't think we should cut down Redwoods" doesn't gain any attention and doesn't deliver the message with any passion. Any teacher will tell you that the most powerful learning moments come when the students are shocked, unbalanced, thrown into a state of disequilibrium, actively listening, evaluating the message, and participating in shaping the message.

For the most part, a government's job is to try to stay in power. If 98% of Canadians wanted to develop a saturn-landing space program for the next election, you can bet that all candidates would be talking saturn-landing; governments follow the will of the people. It takes a few radicals to gradually change the thoughts and ideology of the masses, who then sway the government. Seldom is it that governments actually lead on an issue.

How much would Paul Martin be pushing for gay marriage if it weren't for gay pride parades and demonstrations in support of gay unions?

Better question: if Greenpeace, 30 years ago, didn't sail out into the
Pacific and anchor their boat within radius of a nuclear test site in protest, how much do you think we'd be thinking about nuclear waste disposal or GMO or pesticides or climate change?

An even better question: how much would we care that in only 150 years we've destroyed 96% of all Redwoods on earth? If it weren't for these radicals bringing it to our attention, you would have never thought of the the Redwoods, and neither would I.

I think I disagree with your statement. Or rather, I agree that diplomacy is a key ingredient to fundamental and revolutionary change, but that before diplomacy and negotiation must come some form of radicalism.

Every ideological shift is new to the people - and thefore it is radical.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Then, our disagreement is in language, not issues. I don't consider sitting on a bus to be a radical move, nor do I consider most of your examples radical.

What Rosie Parks did was not an example of extreme behavior. She protested a law that she thought was unjust, but many people in the country felt the same way already. I don't think her act of defiance swayed that many more people, and I certainly don't believe that the cival rights movement started with that action.

Examples of radicalism (in my, less-than-humble opinion):

- the aggressive protestere who crash police lines and vandalize a city where any G8 or WTO conferenceis.

- maniacs who murder doctors who perform abortions

- anyone who flies a plane into a building

Civil disobedience is one thing, radicalism, in my opinion can hold a movement back.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Radicalism - noun: the political orientation of those who favor revolutionary change in government and society.

Your examples included violence or destruction of property. Based upon the above definition, I'd say your examples were of *violent* radicalism.

But it doesn't make any difference to me either way. It's mainstream media who characterize people who work for environmental activist groups as radicals - not me. I was just playing along.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Andrew J. said...

Sorry I'm late. Lets start with Rosa Parks. She is a hero because she did what others didn't. Thank you Rosa. The act was orchestrated to place a case in front of a court that the leaders of the civil rights movement felt could be argued all the way to the supreme court and win a political/legal change. The civil rights movement was around long before it. That being said, thank you Rosa. She still did what others would not. Yes this is an example of radicalism. It was radical at the time. It is a perfect example of why the word radical should not have a wholely negative connotation. There are good radicals and there are bad radicals.

As to the importance of radicalism, well it is very important. With out it we would not be aware of so many issues. Past that it accomplishes little with out inteligent people to analyze the act and learn something from it. The key is when you witness or read about a radical act you must look deeper into the issue and discover what it is all about. Then you must discuss with your children, family and friends the importance of it and what can be learned from it. The problem with violent and/or distructive radicalism is that people want to turn their head. It makes it hard to teach our children that such acts are bad while the cause may be good.

1:04 PM  

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