In Depth on Deep Ecology

A new primer could bring fresh energy to the deep ecology movement

| September-October 1999

The basic premise of deep ecology is simple: Unless we reject our human-centered view of life, the earth's environment is doomed. Shallow reforms like recycling may help, but the only real hope is a deeper, emotional, even spiritual relationship with nature.

Since Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess first defined it in the early 1970s, deep ecology has been called too conservative for the left on issues like population control, too extreme for the right, too emotional for science, and too pagan for Judeo-Christian religion. It may be that the movement's essentially subversive agenda has kept it from a larger following.

That could change, however, thanks in part to New Dimensions Radio Broadcasting Network's 13-part audiotape series Deep Ecology for the 21st Century. Moderated by Michael Toms, the series features interviews with more than 40 scientists, philosophers, activists, and theorists ranging from activist tree guardian Julia "Butterfly" Hill to Pulitzer Prize–winning sociobiologist E.O. Wilson and environmentalist David Suzuki. Other highlights include biologist Paul Ehrlich applying deep ecology to the population crisis, Theodore Roszak describing ecopsychology, and writer Trudy Frisk comparing deep ecology with ecofeminism.

The result is an impressively well rounded view of deep ecology that vividly illustrates both the philosophical differences among its proponents and a crucial common bond: All share a deep, life-transforming connectedness with nature.

Co-founded by Michael and Justine Toms in 1973, New Dimensions Radio provides a forum for alternative voices through weekly radio broadcasts carried by more than 300 public stations around the country. The current series was inspired by a book of the same name published by Shambhala in 1995 and edited by George Sessions, chairman of the philosophy department at Sierra College in Rocklin, California. Response to the series has been so positive that development has begun on a sequel, which should air in the fall of 2000.

As deep ecologists try to reach a wider audience, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century—a great teaching tool—offers an engaging, balanced, and persuasive introduction to their message.

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