Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism

When I was in grade 12 I wrote a paper that I thought was fantastic. I hate that I can say I still have it – and got to read over it again today, it’s pretty horrible. Actually, for it being the first a) philosophy paper and b) environmental paper I ever wrote, it didn’t turn out THAT horrific, just by my standards now, it was pretty bad. I ended up getting an A on it, but I see now that my teacher was being generous. He must have really liked me.

The only reason I bring it up is because the paper was combining two very different subjects that can either have really great outcomes, or really disasterous ones. I’m talking about ecology and philosophy and for this particular post I’ll be looking at two especially horrible outcomes of these two subjects merging. The first being deep ecology and the second being ecofeminism.

I’ll start with deep ecology. In my naïve year of being a very hardcore and new environmentalist who actually cried at the thought of a tree being cut down, I could probably be pinned as a deep ecologist. However, now I see the stupidity in this, and how deep ecology is really… almost like the cult of environmentalism. Deep ecology speaks to take the boundaries down between humans and nature making everything whole.

Basically there are two core values that guide the deep ecology praxis. The first is self-realization. The environmentally conscious person in this case extends their self to include the environment and the world as a whole. It’s basically releasing ones self from a narrow, individual view to a larger view as ones self as the environment. Once a person has placed their own self to include the environment, the purpose is that it is then harder to destroy, take advantage of, or reduce the productivity of the environment.

Ecocentrism is the second value; the ethical stance that everything in nature possesses inherent or intrinsic worth and/or value. A deep ecologist would argue that the opposing anthropocentric views are granting people a privileged status – much like the denial of a heliocentric universe.

Deep ecologists ask us to simply live in harmony with nature, to be aware of our consumeristic choices by living off simply what we need, not what we want. They ask for the undoable – and that is the nonsensical solution of a paradigm shift where our entire world a) stops reproducing until we have a much lower population, b) stops technological advancements that come into conflict with the environment and c) reduces our lifestyle to the most minimal standard of living possible… just to name a few things.

At first deep ecology sounds sort of pretty and idealistic, doesn’t it? It has a majestic feel to it, the idea of being one with ‘Mother Nature’ and living life in harmony with the trees. But then stop and think about what these deep ecologists are asking.

There are a lot of problems with deep ecology, Stentor made a post a while back outlining some of them very well… (Although I don’t think he ever got around to doing 5 – 8, but he has written a response to my later words on ecofeminism.) My biggest beef with deep ecology however lies in the position that it actually puts people. Deep ecologists suggest that humans are at the same level as trees. They argue that the rights that humans have – trees have also. They’ll argue that it is a completely westernized view of nature that it is here for our use and that we bastardize nature to its lowest form by viewing it as an externality. For in the east, unlike this westernized thought, religions like Buddhism, live in harmony with nature. However, I find this argument can simply be discredited by saying – Buddhists also believe we actually *are* nature, that we come back *as* nature…that we will be a tree. I just can’t fathom that I’ll be a living tree – I can imagine parts of me being in a tree – but I’ll be dead, so I won’t even know.

To a certain degree – nature does have some rights. We are living off what nature provides for us, and there are certain things that have intrinsic value. The world is, probably, not here just for humans to use until it’s withered away to nothing. But deep ecology is nutty, like religion, it’s more or less a belief that has been made up to gain a certain amount of control over the population’s actions (only it’s obviously much less successful than religion…). It is easy to live in a certain degree of harmony with nature – without getting mystical and kooky about it. Honestly, deep ecologists put a bad name on environmentalists – but then again not as bad a name as eco-feminists do.

Eco-feminism… (it’s one of those words you say, and then sigh to yourself that the term was ever actually created.) isn’t complicated. It’s actually quite simple (but I must give some credit to one of my prof’s for some of the following example).

A) Humans do, and plants/rocks do not have the capacity to think, make decisions or create a life for themselves

B) It is easy to believe that whatever has the ability to think, live, make decisions and change its community is superior to that which is unable to do these things.

C) Therefore humans must be morally superior to plants/rocks.

D) For any X and Y, if Y is morally superior to X then Y may take advantage or subordinate X.

E) Therefore humans are justified to take advantage of/subordinate plants/rocks.

Easy enough?… We’re able to use plants and rocks to our advantage, use them when we need to … etc. (Of course there lies some under lying complexities there that say, sure we can use the plants, but because of their intrinsic nature/value we must be respectful of their species and lives therefore not depleting what is not replaceable.)

Now, the next part is where the feminists come in. Ecofeminists claim that the following argument is a patriarchal conceptual framework for environmental destruction.

A) Women are identified with nature, ie Mother Earth, where as men are identified with being human

B) Whatever is identified with nature, as seen in our first argument is seen as being lesser than what is identified with being human.

C) Therefore women are inferior to men

D) Based on our first argument (D) men are justified in taking advantage of/subordinating women

Ecofems go on to claim that men are driven by domination, competitiveness, individualism and the need to control all that they can, so not only does the environment get destroyed through this established patriarchy – women do as well. In order to achieve a break in this they take someone of the same approach as deep ecologists in saying that in order to save the environment – men must view themselves in a holistic view.

Ecofeminism makes big mistakes in its dualism and in the statement that men are alienated from nature. In order to break any sort of patriarchy that is lurking over our societies the first schism happens in breaking gender roles, and placing women in those baskets that they’ve been so neatly sorted into in the past. …Such as being passive, being pretty yet bitchy like nature, and separating us from them.

The fact of the matter is – if we are to believe that men are the main destroyers of the environment – it is only because men are is the higher places of power in which they drive the capitalistic/consumerist nation… but they are not doing this as a way to oppress women, and they’re not even thinking deep enough into it to believe that what they do to the environment could bug an ecofeminist as much as it apparently does… what they’re doing is looking for money, not looking to place themselves above and beyond women.

As pretty as the words are, deep ecology and eco feminism are two very fine examples of kooks stretching reality… There are a million other criticisms that I could place out there for both environmental philosophies, but…for now, I’ll leave it at that.