Shallow and deep ecologism 

News: India continues to face with the unrelenting heatwave. Although, heat waves are known to have been a reality for hundreds of years. But more extreme, frequent and prolonged heat waves in recent has exposed the long-term effects of climate change which have exacerbated them.  

Concept of Ecologism 

The concepts 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.  

In his study, he viewed nature and themselves as two competing entities, therefore, established a master-slave dynamic. There are two strands of environmental philosophy that reinvent the relationship between nature and humans 

Two styles of ecologism 

(1) Shallow ecologism: Also referred to as weak ecologism, refers to the philosophy wherein the present lifestyle is continued, but with specific tweaks to minimise the damage to the environment. He termed this powerful and fashionable fight against pollution and resource depletion as shallow ecologism or environmentalism.

For example, using vehicles that cause less pollution or air conditioners that do not release chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) 

(2) Deep ecologism: It refers to the philosophy wherein the exponents believe that humans should radically change their relationship with nature. It rejects shallow ecologism as it prioritises humans above nature. It aims to preserve nature subsequent to environmental destruction.

For instance, the wealthier countries are responsible for a majority of carbon emissions. For instance, the US constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, but consumes 17% of the world’s energy consumption. In addition, 

Objectives of deep ecologism 

It aspires to sustain nature by making large-scale changes to our lifestyle. For example, limiting the commercial farming, reducing the artificial fattening of animals, or the reshaping of transport systems.  

In addition, it shifts the attention from pollution and conservation narratives to robust policy formulation and implementation. The policies must include technical skills and inventions which are ecologically responsible

In addition, deep ecologism advocates for a re-evaluation of the ‘survival of the fittest’ doctrine. It advocates that doctrine should be understood through the perspective of cooperation and coexistence with nature, as opposed to competition, exploitation or domination 

The deep ecologists prioritise a principle called the ‘live and let live’ attitude over an ‘either you or me’ approach. 

What are the issues in Shallow ecologism?  

A narrow focus on pollution and conservation movements is counterproductive.

  • For example, projects implemented only to solve pollution generates evils of a different kind, like the installation of pollution control devices may increase the cost of living, leading to an increase in class difference.  

The environment becomes more vulnerable when decisions are strongly influenced by majority rule without taking local interests into consideration 

Way Forward 

We should adopt ethically responsible ecologism which operates in the interest of all economic classes.  

There should be decentralisation of the decision-making process. This can be done by strengthening local autonomy 

A holistic approach is needed to solve the environmental crisis. It demands avoiding adoptiob of a ‘vague, global’ approach. It should acknowledge regional differences and the disparities between under and over-developed nations 

The responsibility of solving the climate crisis falls on both policy-makers; and scientists and ecologists. Therefore, the political class or those who are in positions of power should be held accountable. 

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

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