A Buddhist monk at prayer. Deep Ecology, argues Skolimowski, lacks any theory as to 'ultimate ends'. It cannot therefore answer the supreme question: "What is our Destiny?"
Eco-Philosophy and Deep Ecology
by Henryk Skolimowski
The Deep Ecology Movement has made a brave stab at articulating a new 'ecological1 worldview to replace that of modernism. But, admirable as its intentions undoubtedly are, the philosophical foundations of Deep Ecology are too shallow to provide an enduring and satisfactory cosmology for our times. Deep Ecology, argues the author, uclaims too much and delivers too little1.
Philosophy is an unending process of articulating the world around us. Deep Ecology is an attempt to articulate the structure of the world as we have inherited it in the second part of the 20th century. The Ecologist has done service to us by publishing three pieces on Deep Ecology ( Vol. 14, Nos. 5/6, 1984). However the process of articulation awaiting us is of such a magnitude that it wil l take dozens of minds to determine "What is going on?", "Where we are?" and "Where should we be going?" We are only beginning to articulate the new post-industrial worldview, which is much inspired by ecology.
Since I am partial to this newly emerging world view, having published a book on the subject, Eco-Philosophy, Designing New Tactics for Living,1 let me address the issues. It has struck me that the ideas of many scholars have been too hurriedly subsumed under the umbrella of Deep Ecology. This umbrella is too vast, and it is leaking. I f we wish to move forward, we had better create a smaller but a more enduring umbrella, for Deep Ecology claims too much and delivers too little. Henryk Skolimowski is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.
Any movement which attempts to replace today's vast scientific-empiricist worldview is obliged to propose and articulate its own cosmology, its own ethics, and its own eschatology. In addition it must demonstrate that the three fit coherently into one structure, as they do in traditional worldviews where cosmology and ethics remain in a feedback relationship (see Figure 1).
Ethics follows from the general conception about how things 'are' out there: in heaven and on earth. Ethics, in turn, supports the order presupposed by cosmology. Furthermore, eschatology (or the doctrine concerning the ultimate ends) is related to both ethics and cosmology and often defined by them, i f only indirectly. The relationship is thus triangular (see Figure 2).
Now i f we examine carefully the tenets of Deep Ecology, particularly as propounded by its most vocal exponents, Devall and Sessions in their book Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered,2
then we find that the cosmology of Deep Ecology is not sufficiently articulated to be a real challenge to today's mechanistic cosmology. Neither are the ethics of Deep Ecology sufficiently developed to be a guide in our daily life. As for an eschatol
ogy, it hardly exists within Deep Ecology.
Let me start with eschatology. One of the underlying principles of Deep Ecology is to live in harmony with the biotic community. This is wonderful. But i t does not go far enough, deep enough. It does not answer the supreme questions: What is our destiny? What are our ultimate ends? What we are here for? Without answering these questions, our quest for meaning is going to be frustrated. And i f there is no foundation to the meaning of our life, we are adrift. One of the agonizing dilemmas of our times is the dearth of meaning. The relentless march of the empiricist worldview has denuded us of meaning. We all know the causes and the consequences. The tremendous push for material progress has made our psyche numb and our heart cold. Alienation is one consequence. The value-vacuum is another.
Any large scale movement which attempts to replace empiricism must find an antidote to the gospel of material progress, must be capable of creating a new foundation for meaning. When we look deeper
The Ecologist, Vol.18, Nos 4/5, 1988