Shallow and deep ecologism

What is the News?

As India continues to grapple with the unrelenting heat waves, it becomes relevant to unpack two strands of environmental philosophy that reinvent the relationship between nature and humans — Shallow and Deep Ecologism.


The concepts of Shallow and Deep Ecologism emerged in the 1970s when Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss sought to look beyond the popular pollution and conservation movements of his milieu to address environmental degradation.

By placing humans at the heart of the environmental crisis, Næss outlines the difference between the two styles of ecologism.

What is Shallow Ecologism?

Shallow Ecologism is also called as weak ecologism. It refers to the philosophical or political position that environmental preservation should only be practiced to the extent that it meets human interests.

It is more like a powerful and fashionable fight against pollution and resource depletion rather than a radical change.

Exponents of this philosophy believe in continuing the present lifestyle but with specific tweaks aimed at minimizing the damage to the environment.

For instance, it may include the use of vehicles that cause less pollution or air conditioners that do not release chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs).

What is Deep Ecologism?

Deep ecologism believes that humans should radically change their relationship with nature.

It aspires to sustain nature by making large-scale changes to our lifestyle.

These may include limiting the commercial farming of meat to preserve forest areas and reduce the artificial fattening of animals or the reshaping of transport systems which involve the use of internal combustion engines.

What does Deep Ecologism advocate?

It shifts the attention from pollution and conservation narratives to robust policy formulation and implementation.

It also calls for a re-evaluation of the ‘survival of the fittest’ doctrine. Survival of the fittest should be understood through the human ability to cooperate and coexist with nature, as opposed to exploiting or dominating it.

Thus, Deep ecologism prioritizes a ‘live and let live’ attitude over an ‘either you or me’ approach.

What are the issues with Shallow Ecologism that Deep Ecologism proponents highlight?

Deep Ecologism proponents reject shallow ecologism for prioritizing humans above other forms of life and subsequently preserving the environmentally destructive way of life in modern societies.

Deep ecologism maintains that by sustaining this lifestyle, shallow ecologism further widens the inequalities between countries.

For instance, despite constituting only five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 17% of the world’s energy consumption and is the second-largest consumer of electricity after China.

Source:  The post is based on the article “Shallow and deep ecologism” published in The Hindu on 12th May 2022.

Print Friendly and PDF