What is Deep Ecology?
I think it is a spiritual perspective on our relationship with Nature. As long as we consider Nature to be a ‘resource’ for human use, however meticulously we may plan to conserve and optimise the things it provides, we are within the realm of ‘Shallow Ecology’, and we are doomed.
Nature is greater than we are. We are a product of Nature and the aspiration to rise above it and to subdue it, which has been a powerful motivating idea in the development of Eurpopean civilisation, is – I am prepared to use the term – blasphemous.
What does that mean? It means that we who are, and cannot be otherwise than, a part of the whole, have fallen victim to the absurd belief that we are greater than the whole which contains us. If Homo Sapiens (‘Wise Man’) is truly wise, then Nature must be at least as wise.
If our intelligence is so fantastic and wonderful, then what about the intelligence of that which created us? We don’t have to call it God – but SOMETHING created us! We did not create ourselves. And in truth we lack the power to do so – though some imagine that our feeble and primitive understanding of the workings of our own brain has brought us close to that ability.
A very great physicist, Richard Feynman, astutely stated that science is ‘an expanding frontier of ignorance’. Every question that we ask in science gives rise to a whole host of new questions as soon as it is answered. The idea, held to by so many, that our vast knowledge has brought us to the point where we are ALMOST able to understand and predict the natural world in its entirety, is a vast and dangerous illusion (see Left Brain / Right Brain).
When we begin to appreciate the truly staggering depth, beauty and mystery of the natural world, and adopt an appropriate attitude of humility towards it, we are beginning to enter the territory of Deep Ecology. When we see that animals, plants and even microbes are NOT machines, and can never be fully understood by the type of thinking that can understand a machine – when we realise that their uncountable interactions and total interdependence make them a single, seamless system which acts with a form of intelligence that we cannot hope to grasp in its entirety – we shall understand that we must make our peace with Nature, let go of our desparate and unrealiseable need to control it, and begin to trust the Universe that made us.