Arne Naess’s Deep Ecology

Arne Naess (1912–2009) was a Norwegian philosopher concerned with the world and humanity’s place within it. Although he has articles and essays that sharpen his ideas to a fine point, it was sometimes useful for him to speak generally about how an ecologically minded person might live. The following list contains tendencies, not absolutes. You’ll see that we draw on these ideas for many things at the institute.

  1. Use of simple means. Avoidance of unnecessary complicated means to reach a goal or end.

  2. Propensity to prefer activities most directly serving values in themselves and having intrinsic value. Avoidance of activities which are merely auxiliary, having no intrinsic value, or being many stages away from fundamental goals.

  3. Anticonsumerism and minimization of personal property. This negative attitude follows from points 1 and 2.

  4. Endeavor to maintain and increase the sensitivity and appreciation of goods of which there is enough for all to enjoy.

  5. Absence or low degree of “novophilia” – the love of what is new merely because it is new. Cherishing old and well-worn things.

  6. Efforts to dwell in situations of intrinsic value and to act rather than merely being busy.

  7. Appreciation of ethnic and cultural differences among people, not feeling them as threats.

  8. Concern about the situation of the Third and Fourth Worlds and the attempt to avoid a material standard of living too much different from and higher than the needy (global solidarity of lifestyle).

  9. Appreciation of lifestyles which are universalizable, which are not blatantly impossible to sustain without injustice toward fellow humans or other species.

  10. To go for depth and richness of experience rather than intensity.

  11. To appreciate and choose, whenever possible, meaningful work rather than junst making a living.

  12. To lead a complex (not a complicated) life; trying to realize as many aspects of positive experiences as possible within each time-interval.

  13. Cultivating life in community (Gemeinschaft) rather than in society (Gesellschaft).

  14. Appreciation of, or participation in, primary production – small-scale agriculture, forestry, fishing.

  15. Efforts to satisfy vital needs rather than desires. Resisting the urge to “go shopping” as a diversion or therapy. Reducing the sheer number of possessions, favoring the old, much-worn, but essentially well-kept things.

  16. Attempts to live in nature rather than just visiting beautiful places, and avoidance of tourism (but occasionally making use of tourist facilities).

  17. When in vulnerable nature, living “light and traceless.”

  18. Tendency to appreciate all life-forms rather than merely those considered beautiful, remarkable, or narrowly useful.

  19. Never use life-forms merely as means. Remain conscious of their intrinsic value and dignity even when using them as resources.

  20. When there is a conflict between the interests of dogs and cats (and other pet animals) and wild species, a tendency to protect the latter.

  21. Effort to protect local ecosystems, not only individual life-forms, feeling one’s own community as a part of ecosystems.

  22. Not only deplore excessive interference in nature as unnecessary, unreasonable, and disrespectful, but do condemn it as insolent, atrocious, outrageous, and criminal – without condemning the people responsible for the interference.

  23. Try to act resolutely and without cowardice in conflicts, but to remain non-violent in word and deeds.

  24. Participate in or support of non-violent direct action when other ways of action fail.

  25. Vegetarianism, total or partial.

From: Næss, Arne. 1995. “Deep ecology and lifestyle I.” In Deep Ecology for the 21st Century: Readings on the philosophy and practice of the new environmentalism , edited by George Sessions, 259–61. Boston: Shambhala Books.

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