The first principle of deep ecology has a couple of basic points which it aims to get across. The most important part, however, is that every living being, human and nonhuman, has its own inherent value, and thus has its own right to live and flourish. Essentially, everything has an “own” to it, and therefore has its own irreducible right to live, to blossom, to reach its own fullness in existing and reproducing. In its own right, each living thing is independent and separate of its “usefulness” to any other thing, specifically of humans. Lastly, these all mean that deep ecology is really about ecocentrism, and not anthropocentrism, in that it is against seeing everything in terms of its beneficial usefulness (or lack thereof) to humans. It is important to note that not just the actual living and breathing beings are the ones that should be considered. The “non-living”, as Naess put it, which include watersheds, landscapes, and ecosystems as their own wholes, should never be overlooked, in that they too have an unbelievable amount of importance in their own right (Ambrosius, 2005).
The second principle addresses the issue of why everything should be seen as having its own value, through the explanation of interconnectedness. This point reinforces the importance of biodiversity in the world–that everything is connected to everything else. There is no hierarchy that exists of living things, simply because without everything, everything else would not exist. There is a reliance of everything upon everything, and therefore nothing can be less or more than anything else in the web of life. Deep ecology really calls for humans to view everything as in the relationship Naess describes between object A and object B: “An intrinsic relation between two things A and B is such that the relation belongs to the definitions or basic constitutions of A and B, so that without the relation, A and B are no longer the same thing (Sessions, 151).” In their infinite relationships, all things help to contribute to the richness and diversity in life, and the web is moreover not about the complication with the inclusion of all things, but the beautiful complexity that is brought about by all things. We need to value the richness and diversity of life forms in and of themselves, because we as humans also rely on them. It furthermore explains that ecosystems are self-regulating and self-maintaining because of this biodiversity and interdependence (Ambrosius, 2005).
Ecosystems require every member to function, but as long as they have that, there is no other need for human interference.
It is next explained in the third principle to what extent a living being’s inherent value can be ignored. Essentially, this inherent value, or intrinsic worth, is only reducible by vital needs of the individual. This is somewhat of a vague area, and it was meant to be left this way for the individual’s interpretation of what they define as vital needs. Vital needs are opposite of “other” needs, meaning that while it is the individuals job to determine the difference between the two, all of these should be categorized as such. While some would say that vital needs are just food, clothing, and shelter, many others may say that all of the daily activities and ways of life are vital needs. It is also important to look into the intention of reducing a living things inherent worth. While some individuals go hunting for food to eat, others go for the sport. While some accidentally step on a bug, others do it on purpose. Basically, it is being stressed that no human has the right to reduce any other living things right to live and flourish, except in the case of its own vital needs, and every living thing needs to be taken into consideration. If an individual does so happen to violate another beings’ right when it is not a vital need, it should never be done with intention or awareness of doing so (Ambrosius, 2005).
The fourth principle is perhaps one of the most controversial parts of deep ecology, and thus is where much of the criticism of deep ecology is rooted as well. Because of excessive human interference in the environment, deep ecology calls for a decrease in human population, and this will then lead to a higher quality of life. Increasing population is simply not the best for quality of life, nor is it good for the environment, and therefore needs to be significantly cut back. By doing so, this will bring about stabilization of the ecosystems. If this is not done, Naess says that “substantial decreases in richness and diversity are liable to occur (Sessions, 69).” While this is ideally supposed to be recognized and started upon as quickly as possible, it is also important to realize that this will take many years to become a reality (Ambrosius, 2005).
The fifth principle identifies where environmental problems are stemming from, and that is human interference. This goes back to the second principle, in humans being able to identify that ecosystems are self-regulating, and there is no need for human involvement. Essentially, humans are a part of nature, and are expected to interfere in their environment to a certain extent. Naess explains that every animal interferes on their surroundings, such as a beaver building his dam, or a bird building her nest. However, human interference has been going on excessively, and must be put to a stop. Without exception, it seems, human interference has continually done more harm than good, because ecosystems are developed to maintain themselves (Ambrosius, 2005).
In the sixth principle, there is a call for new policies and radical social changes to be made. To make changes, new ideals and mindsets need to come about, and thus, new policies will emerge on how humans treat the environment. This is nothing that can be done overnight, but needs to be done over decades. It is not something that can suddenly be made into a law, and it is essentially thought to have a purpose of completely transforming every single part of human life (Ambrosius, 2005).
The seventh principle supports a simplified lifestyle. It addresses the fact that quality of life should take precedent over quantity of things, to reach a higher level of happiness instead of a higher standard of living. It calls for voluntary simplicity, meaning that not only is it that the human reduction of needs must happen, but that it must be wanted to happen, and through this, a greater happiness will emerge (Ambrosius, 2005).
Lastly, the aforementioned seven principles, after being read and understood, call for an “obligation” of direct or indirect action. It is not necessarily about obligation, however, but what the understanding of these principles should bring about in its awareness and intention of a better living, and in theory, a better environment. Deep ecology does not call for just the Earth to be fought for in itself, but for these values to be fought for, and for a new change in the world to develop and take over. By addressing just the environment, there are many things that are overlooked, and essentially, what this philosophy is trying to get across is a coming about of a better world as a whole, spawned by the better individual. It is something that can and should be adopted by all humans, and through living these principles, it is theorized that not just the environmental problems will disappear, but social, political, economical, and human relational problems will dissolve as well. Basing thought on the environment is a start, but it is not solely about that and in its hopes, a better place will be attained (Ambrosius, 2005).
Deep ecology is also criticized by being non-systematic, ambiguous and vague. Deep ecology founded on unjustified anthropomorphism: imbuing animals, plants, ecosystems, the earth, with human-like feelings and interests, and it also romanticizes nature as wise, harmonious, beautiful, good. Where does inherent value come from? For something to have intrinsic rights or to deserve protection, it must have interests. How can plants or ecosystems have interests? How could we, as humans, possibly understand the interests of other animals, plants, ecosystems, etc. Moreover, there are no individuals, humans are merely a part of the whole, yet humans are uniquely responsible for environmental destruction (Grey, 1998).
“Deep” vs. “shallow” a criticized characterization of divergent views. Naess settles down all sorts of things as typical of “shallow” ecology, including short-sightedness, unfairness to developing countries, reliance on quick technological fixes, alienation of ordinary citizens from the problem-solving process, utilitarianism, anthropocentrism, etc. “What’s wrong with shallow views is not their concern about the well-being of humans, but that they do not really consider enough in what that well-being consists. We need to develop an enriched, fortified anthropocentric notion of human interest to replace the dominant short-term, sectional and self-regarding conception.” (Grey, 1998)
The other reaction defends that it is not possible to get rid of anthropocentrism because it is human beings and human’s thoughts are just products of what humans think as being humans. Deep ecology is the movement that we take part in an active way. But in general, deep ecology has been accused of everything from being too unrealistic, making of too large of claims, narrow-minded, and even anti-human.
Beside that ambiguity, the concept deep ecology can be apply by seeing human as a part of the whole and freeing minds and emotions from the deep-rooted understandings about man’s hierarchical superiority over other beings. We are part of the whole system, rather than separate from it, and we have a role in protecting this system, and protecting the whole is an attempt to protect the self. And because we are a part of the whole, what we do affects the whole system and makes changes on it either positively or negatively based on the goodness or badness of what we do (Ambrosius, 2005).