Arne Naess(1912~2009)/ Philosopher, Environmentalist


Nature is not just out there, we are nature too. Natal, nativity, native and nature all comes from the same root. The word nature means: whatever is born and die. Since we, humans, are also born and will die we are nature too. Thus nature and humans are one. We are all related; we live in an interdependent world.

With this sense of the unity of humans and nature we come to a new way of appreciating and valuing all life. The Norweigian philosopher, Arne Naess, called it “deep ecology.” When we value nature in terms of her usefulness to humans, even though we conserve her and protect her for our benefit, it is “shallow ecology.” But when we recognize the intrinsic value of all life, small or large, then it is deep ecology.

Naess also coined the term “ecological self” with “deep ecology.” He explains that we change the way we experience ourselves through an ever-widening process of identification.  He calls this process self-realization: a progression “where the self to be realized extends further and further beyond the separate ego and includes more and more of the phenomenal world.” And he says:

“In this process, notions such as altruism and moral duty are left behind. It is tacitly based on the Latino term “ego” which has its opposite the “alter.” Altruism implies that the ego sacrifices its interests in favor of the other, the alter. The motivation is primarily that of duty. It is said we ought to love others as strongly as we love ourselves. There are, however, very limited numbers among humanity capable of loving from mere duty or from mere moral exhortation. Unfortunately, the extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public the false impression that they are being asked to make a sacrifice-to show more responsibility, more concern, and a nicer moral standard. But all of that would flow naturally and easily if the self were widened and deepened so that the protection of nature was felt and perceived as protection of our very selves.”


In April 1984, during the advent of spring and Jonh Muir’s birthday, George Sessions and Arne Naess summarized 15 years of thinking on the principles of the deep ecology movement while camping in Death Valley, California. In this great and special place, they articulated these principles in a literal, somewhat neutral way, hoping that they would be understood and accepted by persons coming from different philosophical and religious positions.

1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman Life on Earth have value in themselves(synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.
2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and also values in themselves.
3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
5.Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality(dwelling in situation of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasing higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or implement the necessary changes.

Lifestyle of the Deep Ecology Movement
1. using simple means
2. anti-consumerism
3. appreciation of ethnic and cultural differences
4. efforts to satisfy vital needs rather than desires
5. going for depth and richness of experiences rather than intensity
6. attempt to live in nature and promote community rather than society
7. appreciating all life forms
8. efforts to protect local ecosystems
9. protecting wild species in conflicts with domestic animals
10. acting nonviolently – a tendency toward vegetarianism
11. concern about the situation of the third and fourth world and the attempt to avoid a standard of living too much different from and higher than the needy
12. appreciation of lifestyles which are universalizable, which are not blatantly impossible to sustain without injustice towards fellow humans or other species