Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Arne Naess, Father of "Deep Ecology", Dies at 96
Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher whose ideas about promoting an intimate and all-embracing relationship between the earth and the human species inspired environmentalists and Green political activists around the world, died Monday. He was 96.
Deep ecology, which called for population reduction, soft technology and non-interference in the natural world, was eagerly taken up by environmentalists impatient with shallow ecology — another of Mr. Naess’s coinages — which did not confront technology and economic growth.
His ideas on ecology and ecosophy were developed in numerous books and articles, notably “Freedom, Emotion and Self-Subsistence” (1975), “Ecology, Community and Lifestyle” (1989) and “Life’s Philosophy: Reason and Feeling in a Deeper World” (2002).
Surveying the continuing destruction of the environment, Mr. Naess was pessimistic about the 21st century but optimistic about the 22rd. By then, he predicted, population control would show results, technology would be noninvasive and children would grow up in a natural environment. At that point, he said, “we are back in the direction of paradise.”
Many naturalists, ecologists, and other thinkers embraced this philosophy of interconnectedness, but one of the best takes on it is from none other than Albert Einstein:
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe ... We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.