Deep Ecology and its Relation to the Third World
This paper will begin with an exposition of the article, “Radical Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique” written by Ramachendra Guha, a sociologist and historian involved in ecological conflict in the East and the West. In this article, he refers to American environmentalism as “deep ecology”, a modern theory founded by Arne Naess. Guha’s argues that based on a comparison of the concepts of deep ecology and other cultural environmentalisms, deep ecology is strictly rooted in American culture and thus, leads to negative social consequences when it is applied to the Third World. This argument will be achieved by first defining deep ecology and its principles. Next I will offer Guha’s critique of deep ecology which consists of four points and then, I will identify the factors that differentiate it from other social and political goals belonging to other cultural environmental ethics. After this, I refer to David M. John’s “The Relevance of Deep Ecology to the Third World: Some Preliminary Comments,” to object to Guha’s critique as an accurate description of deep ecology. Finally, I will respond to this objection using Guha’s “Deep Ecology Revisited,” arguing that Guha’s critique concerning that deep ecology leads to negative social consequences on the Third World is accurate.
First, according to Naess, deep ecology is the second of two ecological movements, the first being “shallow ecology”. This concerns a fight against pollution and resource depletion in order to protect the health and wealth of society. In view of this, shallow ecology only values the environment in so far as its destruction has an effect on human welfare. Hence, humans are extrinsic and superior to nature and nature is only of instrumental value to us. However, this ecology exclusively concerns developed countries. In contrast, deep ecology is a branch of ecological philosophy that questions how anthropocentric attitudes such as our need for consumerism and materialism negatively impact the environment. Accordingly, it preaches that the environment should be intrinsically valued. This notion originates from biocentrism; the belief that the non human world is of equal importance because of its intrinsic relation to humans. In other words, since humans are not extrinsic to the non human world and thus, since we are a part of this intrinsic relation which defines the beings within this relationship, to eliminate it would lead to a change in the beings as such. This is because by not acknowledging our existence as part of this intrinsic relationship we are alienating ourselves. And so, to encourage such a relationship deep ecology integrates Eastern religious traditions with the goal of communicating human’s mystical connection with nature. Having established this, I next provide Guha’s analysis of deep ecology. In order to present a fair argument of deep ecology Guha critiques it as a partisan of the environmental ethic of India due to its similar ecological diversity. Guha’s criticism is founded on the current American ecological and social issues which he states are preventing deep ecology to succeed. His critique consists of four points: the first states that the two fundamental ecological problems are not related to the distinction between anthropomorphism and biocentrism, deep ecology’s fundamental point. Guha states that deep ecology’s misguided motivation to preserve biotic integrity over the preservation of human life does not address first, the overconsumption by industrialized world, including the small wealth population in the Third World and second, the growing militarization. The second states that the emphasis on wilderness encouraged by deep ecology causes negative effects on the Third world. Guha states that because the majority of the population in India is involved in agriculture and thus, find it necessary to have a balanced relationship with nature, the...
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