Deep ecology is a recent branch of ecological philosophy (ecosophy), developed by philosopher Arne Naess (1912-2004). Deep ecology is a vision that considers humankind as an integral part of its environment. This philosophy emphasizes the interdependent value of human and non-human life as well as the importance of the ecosystem and natural processes. It provides a foundation for the environmental and green movements and has led to a new system of environmental ethics.
Deep ecology’s core principle is the claim that, like humanity, the living environment as a whole has the same right to live and flourish. Deep ecology describes itself as “deep” because it does not put humans at the center of nature, and it persists in asking fundamental philosophical questions about the impacts of human life as one part of the ecosphere, rather than with a narrow view of ecology as a branch of biological science. It aims to avoid merely anthropocentric environmentalism, which is concerned with the conservation of the environment only for exploitation by and for humans purposes. Deep ecology seeks a more holistic view of the world we live in and seeks to apply to life the understanding that separate parts of the ecosystem (including humans) function as a whole. One outcome of deep ecology is the realization that the human self is greater and more integrally interconnected within its ecosystems and the Earth than we realize; realizing this awakens us to a richer and greater sense of aliveness and vitality than what we habitually experience. We consider the latter “normal” but from a deep ecology understanding it is a greatly reduced and impoverished experience.
Known as the father of the deep ecology movement, Naess’ work inspired Douglas Tompkins who later founded the Foundation For Deep Ecology. The mission of the Foundation is to support education and advocacy on behalf of wild Nature, carrying out this mission primarily through publications, grantmaking, and support of campaigns on particular issues affecting the future of nature and people.