Deep v. Shallow Ecology (Blog 24)

There were two sets of readings for this class but I was responsible for a presentation on shallow ecology so I will maintain my focus on that for the purpose of this blog. Shallow ecology or environmental pragmatism is the idea, as Weston describes it, that we c20120710-185526an’t start an environmental movement as deep ecology proposes with a top down approach; This would mean focusing on the theories and fundamental beliefs first. Weston says that we are at the originary stage of the process of creating an environmental ethic and this stage calls for a bottom up approach. For Weston, this approach means compromising and co-evolving over time, while at the same time calling for immediate action to implement sustainable policies and technologies now. Weston also recognizes that his theory of environmental pragmatism could be construed as anthropocentric but he says, “If environmental ethics is indeed at an originary stage, we can have only the barest sense of what ethics for a culture truly beyond anthropocentrism would actually look like.”[1] He continues by saying, “when anthropocentrism is finally cut down to size, for example, there is no reason to think that what we will have or need in its place is something call ‘non-anthropocentrism’ at all.”[2] Weston is all about getting the conversation started and leaving the door open for experimentation and theory, while at the same time making sure that we do the practical things such as creating environmental sustainable policies and communities, recycling and being energy efficient. He wants to create space; space for an environmental ethic to grow out of its originary stage and space for interaction to occur amongst humans and nature.

I think Weston is very much like Leopold in that he believes in the power of the connection that people have or can have with nature. But he also knows this sort of deep ecology is disabled by trying to change deeply entrenched beliefs. As I mentioned before, he also confronts the anthropocentrism within his argument claiming that we really can’t conceive of a world or culture beyond anthropocentrism. By no means does he rule out the possibility of one developing but he also isn’t so quick to rule out an environmental ethic that is anthropocentric. I think this something that we’ve encountered in our class discussions. It always seemed hard to discuss the non-anthropocentric theories and their real-world implications and green-technology-header-2practicality and after reading Weston and his argument it has become apparent to me that the difficulty comes from the fact that we really don’t know what a non-anthropocentric ethic would really look like and trying to conceive of one seems rather silly. In addition, when talking about the concept of rights and its possible extension to include animals or trees Weston says, “the force of these arguments lies in the way they open up the possibility of new connections, not in the way they settle or “close” any question. Their work is more creative than summative.”[3] I found this practice of open-endedness to be extremely frustrating in one of our class discussions earlier in the semester. But I think that Weston’s argument has convinced me of the idea that while we may have this instinct to try and jump to conclusions and come up with immediate solutions to the problems that we have deconstructed, there really is no way to conceive the idea of the ethic that will actually come about. Therefore, you cannot argue definitively in favor or against any of the ethics or answers created. When placed in opposition of each other, deep ecology against shallow ecology, I find myself leaning heavily in favor of shallow ecology and I think there are a few reasons for this. First, when faced with a task I often find myself overwhelmed if I look at it in its entirety but when broken down it to smaller more manageable tasks I’m no thCADCRF0Wlonger overwhelmed. I find deep ecology to be an overwhelming task. It is asking for a fundamental change in ideology, when for most people (myself included) what that change should be is inconceivable. A second reason that I favor shallow ecology is because I’m very interested in the political side of the environment and the creation of sustainable policies. However, a lot of times the inaction on the part of congress or some other law making body is that we don’t know the whole truth yet so we can’t act until all of the science is conclusive. This idea of needing every last piece of reassurance before acting has never sat well with me. The more time we sit around waiting for science to evolve further or for a fundamental ethical change to occur within society the more damage we are doing. We know enough to take practical measures to slow down the damage that we’re doing and I like that shallow ecology leaves room and even encourages us to do these things in the short term, while an environmental ethic builds in the long term.

Question: Would Leopold be considered a proponent of deep or shallow ecology?

[1] Weston, “Enabling Environmental Practice,” 465.

[2] Weston, 465.

[3] Weston, 465.


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