Posts Tagged ‘deep ecology’

The Call of the Mountain

November 3, 2013

1500 metres above sea level, on the slope of the mountain Hallingskarvet, on the Hardangervidda plateau, stands “Tvergastein’, the cabin of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. The highest mountain hut in Scandinavia. The only structures higher, meteorological stations.

During his life he has spent nearly 12 years in this hut, where he wrote several books and essays on philosophy and ecology. In this film, Naess tells about the concept of ‘deep ecology’, which was first introduced by him in 1973. One of the basic tenets of deep ecology is that nature has a value in itself, apart from its possible use value to humans. Next to being a famous mountaineer, Naess has been a longtime activist in the environmental movement.

Arne Naess participated in blockade to prevent the Alta river in northern Norway (the area of the Sami, an indigenous people) from being dammed. Deep ecology is involvement, direct action. We are part of nature, not apart from nature.

Camped out in Death Valley, California, during 1984, George Sessions and Arne Naess draw up eight basic principles that describe deep ecology.

Contributions from Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, Bill Devall, George Sessions and Harold Glasser.

Gods live in the mountains. Climb a mountain, and you will understand why.

Henry David Thoreau sat beside a pond, Arne Naess sat atop a mountain.

Arne Naess (1912-2009), Norwegian philosopher founder of deep ecology. He was greatly influenced, as were many at the time, by Silent Spring. He contrasted shallow with deep ecological thinking.

Deep ecology is the foundation of a branch of philosophy known as ecophilosophy, Arne Naess prefers the term ecosophy, that deals with the ethics of Gaia. Deep ecology describes deep ecological awareness. Deep ecology is a network concept.

Child of the Universe

June 8, 2012
John Seed

John Seed

After our great experiential deep ecology workshop at Mooncourt, Glenys wanted to record “Child of the Universe” which I had sung to accompany the Cosmic Walk. Taffy did so with his camera. – John Seed

In the stillness of the mighty woods, man is made aware of the divine. — Richard St Barbe Baker

There is no better way to please the Buddha than to please all sentient beings. — Ladakhi saying

Ecology and spirituality are fundamentally connected, because deep ecological awareness, ultimately, is spiritual awareness. — Fritjof Capra

Early hours of the morning I stumbled upon John Seed singing Child of the Universe. At first I did not like as I know the original by Seize the Day, but then I decided I did like.

What is more intriguing is the story behind and my own connections with the players.

A rainforest activist based in Australia, John Seed is one of the world’s leading deep ecologists, a fully paid up member of the School of Deep Ecology.

The Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the phrase deep ecology to describe deep ecological awareness. Deep ecology is the foundation of a branch of philosophy known as ecophilosophy, Arne Naess prefers the term ecosophy, that deals with the ethics of Gaia.

Fritjof Capra defined deep ecology by contrasting it with shallow ecology and showing that it is a network concept:

Shallow ecology in anthropocentric, or human-centred. It views humans as above or outside of nature, as the source of all value, and ascribes only instrumental, or ‘use’, value to nature. Deep ecology does not separate humans – or anything else – from the natural environment. It does see the world not as a collection of isolated objects but as a network of phenomena that are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent. Deep ecology recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and views human beings as just one particular strand in the web of life.

Deep ecology is to shallow ecology, as slow food to fast food, slow fashion to fast fashion, slow music to fast music.

A shallow ecologist jumps in the car to take bottles to be recycled at the bottle bank!

A deep ecologist has a holistic approach to life, not only a concern for Nature, but a concern for Man, a love of art, literature, philosophy, poetry, music, all things spiritual. There is often seen a strong link with Zen Buddhism.

As Arne Naess says ‘The essence of deep ecology is to ask deeper questions.’ It is only by asking deep questions of today’s industrialised, growth-oriented, greedy, materialistic society that we will force a paradigm shift. To concentrate not on simple Cartesian solutions to the causes of pollution, but to probe ever deeper to obtain a holistic view.

To probe deeper is to strip away the outer reality. It has close parallels with subatomic physics and the inner world of deep meditation. As with Buddhism, the inner reality is to achieve oneness with all reality.

In Thailand, Buddhists monks and nuns ordain old growth trees as monks to protect them.

Not surprisingly the early proponents of deep ecology and what may be loosely grouped as the ‘Deep Ecology School’ are nearly all either environmentalists, philosophers, poets, or Buddhists: Arne Naess (mountaineer, philosopher, sociologist and environmental activist), George Sessions (philosopher), Bill Devall (sociologist, philosopher, environmental activist and practitioner of aikido), Alan Drengson (philosopher and practitioner of aikido), Michael Zimmerman (Buddhist leanings), Dolores LaChapelle (mountaineer, teacher of T’ai Chi), Robert Aitken (poet and Zen Buddhist), Gary Snyder (mountaineer, poet and Zen Buddhist), Michael Soule (conservationist, biologist and Buddhist), John Seed (ecological activist with Buddhist leanings), Joanna Macy (environmental and social activist, Buddhist), Jeremy Haywood (Buddhist), Paul Ehrlich (ecologist), Fritjof Capra (polymath and practitioner of T’ai Chi), Edward Goldsmith (polymath and ecophilosopher).

I would describe Paulo Coelho (author, mountain walker, devout Catholic) as a deep ecologist as he understands how to communicate with the Soul of the World, as does Wendell Berry (farmer, essayist, poet, philosopher).

John Seed is singing Child of the Universe in the Mooncourt in the Blue Mountains of Australia. Inset in the floor a brass spiral representing the Unfolding Cosmos for the telling of the Universe Story. John had been facilitating an Earth, Spirit, Action workshop during which that story – our Story – was told, in a Cosmic Walk ceremony.

Music underlies the Universe. [see The Eight]

Theo Simon

Theo Simon


Child of the Universe was written by my friend Theo Simon of Seize the Day. John Seed met Theo at Glastonbury and asked that Theo write two extra verses otherwise there would be a gap in the candles. This Theo agreed to do. That sung by John Seed thus has two extra verses.

Theo is an excellent example of someone who decided to follow his dream. He gave up a well-paid day job to play music, lives a low impact lifestyle so he can afford to follow his dream.

I have not seen Theo or Shannon Smy for a while. The last time was a couple of years ago at a climate conference in London where on the side I met and chatted with the Bolivian Ambassador. Sadly many of the speakers were talking nonsense but the guy talking about plant-based fuel oils, rainforests and destructive palm oil plantations did talk a lot of sense. [see Zero Carbon by 2030]

The conference coincided with the released by Seize the Day of their very latest album. I got a signed copy of one of their very first copies.

Sadly Seize the Day are not on bandcamp where they will reach a much wider audience. Something I hope they will rectify in the near future, though you can listen and download from the Seize the Day website.

Gaia’s Prayer

October 25, 2010

Because we don’t think about future generations they will never forget us. — Henrik Tikkanen

Music Gaia’s Lament by Isabella Rajotte.

Also see

Christian Theology and Gaia


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