The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Arne Naess, “Deep Ecology”

  1. When was this essay written, and what is the nationality of its author? What was his occupation? (1973; Norwegian philosopher) How may the latter have influenced his assumptions and presentation?

    2. What does Naess mean by “deep” (as opposed to “shallow”) ecology? In his view, why is the latter not sufficient? (120)

    3. What are the principles Naess associates with a form of “deep ecological” thought? What is meant by the “relational, total field image”? (120-21) “Biospherical egualitarianism”? To whom should a concern for overcrowding apply? (121)

    4. According to Naess, what would be some social and political implications of a respect for the “principles of diversity and symbiosis”? (121)

    5. What does he mean by an “anticlass posture”? Why does he value the search for “complexity, not complication,” and how would a respect for complexity affect human labor practices? What intellectual traditions seem to influence him here?

    6. Why would a respect for complexity require more sensitivity toward “our state of ignorance”? (122)

    7. Do some of his ideas imply each other? Which of his ideas seem familiar from other contexts? (e. g., appeal to classlessness, local control)

    8. Why is local autonomy and decentralization an ecological value, in Naess’s view? (122-23) Does this view seem convincing?

    9. What does it mean to say that the principles of Deep Ecology are normative?

    10. Do you know of activist groups which espouse a “deep ecological” perspective?

    11. Which authors we have read would have agreed with some of Naess’s views, and on what grounds?

    12. Are there any ideas now associated with ecological movements which you believe he leaves out?

    13. Are there other possible intermediary positions which he fails to discuss?

    14. Do any of Naess’s ideas seem unclear to you? Which, if any, could be further developed? (e. g. the relation between a global approach and regional autonomy, p. 124)

    15. What does Naess mean by the terms ecophilosophy and ecosophy?

    16. Why do you think this essay evoked such resistance?

    Bill Devall, “The Deep Ecology Movement”

    1. What is Bill Devall’s nationality and when was this essay written?

    2. Does Devall agree with Naess on every point, or are there differences? What new explanations and concerns does Devall add to the discussion?

    3. How does Devall define the “dominant paradigm”? (126) What historical movements does he cite as exemplars of “reformist environmentalism”? (127-28)

    4. What intellectual trends does he see as reinforcing “deep ecology”? (129) Did some of these surprise you?

    5. What does Devall see as possible pitfalls for ecology? (131)

    6. What does Devall believe are the basic themes of deep ecology? What would it mean, in practical terms, to begin to “think like a mountain”? (132)

    7. What are some changes which a “deep ecological” stance would bring about--for example, in psychology? (133) In population control? In economic organization? (134) In political organization? (135)

    8. What role do the arts play in his notion of an ecological consciousness? (134) Of a utopia? (135) Have there been ecotopias?

    9. What is the relation between an “ecological consciousness” and action? (135)

    10. Are there critics we have read who would have supported Devall’s views? What do you think would have been the reactions of Lyotard, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, and Haraway, for example?

    11. Do you think any of the concepts ennciated by Naess and Devall apply to poets or other authors you have read (e. g. Wordsworth, Marianne Moore, Gary Snyder)? What are some places you would locate a literary ecological tradition?

    12. Do you find these essays valuable, and if so, in what ways? Which of their ideas do you think might have been/might still be controversial?

    Carolyn Merchant, introduction to Ecology (1994)

    1. What does Merchant view as the intellectual antecedent for critical ecology? (1-2) What critique of enlightenment science by Horkheimer and Adorno does she find applicable to a discussion of humans’ relationship with nature? (2-4)

    2. What have been some recent extentions of their critiques to the realm of ecology? (5)

    3. What are some practical goals of environmentalism as applied to improving the conditions in non-“developed” countries? (7) What does Merchant see as a green platform for change? (8)

    4. As she describes them, what are the tenets of “social ecology” as promoted by Murray Bookchin and others? (8-9) How does it differ from James O’Connor’s “socialist ecology? (9)

    5. What ideas were added by ecofeminism, for example, in the ideas of Francoise d’Eaubonne? (9-10) How is her ecofeminism related to other points of view we have considered? What issues have later ecofeminists taken up (11-12)? What does Merchant see as their contributions to critical ecology? (13)

    6. What ideas were added by theories of environmental and racial justice, and which groups does she cite as active in promoting these? (14-15)

    7. Who are the “spiritual ecologists”? (15-17) What trends in recent science, especially biology and physics, does Merchant find compatible with an ecological viewpoint? (17-20)
    8. With which of these strands do you think Merchant is most allied, as indicated by her concluding paragraphs? (20-21)
    9. Which of these groups or points of view do you think has most influenced contemporary U. S. thought on environmental issues?

    Page numbers for all three essays are from Ecology, ed. Carolyn Merchant, 1994.

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