Subject: ** Overpopulation and Deep Ecology ** ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Comments: The 'population problem' has been a recurring theme on Eco-Watch since I first started the network in January of 1990. More and more people are now realizing that at root most of our so-called environmental problems are really problems of too many people and/or too industrialized societies wanting too many consumer goods which require too many resources to make and resulting in too much waste that ultimately ends up in someone's back yard or in our air and water supplies. Bill Devall is one of the principals in the Deep Ecology movement. In his recent "Overpopulation and Deep Ecology" he explains the movement and its philosophical relationship to other organized movements. Devall also lays out 8 principles of the Deep Ecology platform. Finally, he ties it all to the "population problem," regionalizing the implications for us here in North America. Thought you might enjoy it for weekend reading. 4 pages. Dave. -------========X========------- Eco-Watch 5/14/93 OVERPOPULATION AND DEEP ECOLOGY* by Bill Devall Understanding deep ecology and its potential contribution to our future involves consideration of ecocentric philosophy, the movement to bring our population in line with our ecology, and the optimal human population for North America. The wellsprings of deep ecology lie in the appeal to our primal sense of our intimate relationship with Nature. What is ecocentric, deep ecology? Deep ecology, or transpersonal ecology as some call it, is based on the understanding that humans are one leaf on the tree of life. Each leaf is important, but leaves develop and they fall without the will of the leaf having any great importance to the whole tree of life. Each human life is part of the tree of life and has some consciousness of other individuated humans, but is not separate from the tree of life and not dominating any branch or twig of the tree of life. Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess articulated two "ultimate norms" for deep ecology, Ecocentrism and Self-realization. In his neutral statement of deep ecology principles, he chose one concept--"ultimate norms"--to provide a basis for dialogue. Different metaphysical positions are possible which lead to a deep ecology kind of position, but not necessarily by deductive logic. The basic insights or intuitions of deep ecology are found in many philosophical, religious and scientific traditions. The "perennial philosophy" of Buddhism, Taoism and Vedic hymns contain metaphysical statements concerning the interconnectedness of all being. The Tao, Atman, the ultimate are deep expressions of Nature within which human consciousness is a part, not apart from. In practice, deep ecology encourages articulation of ecosophy. Earth wisdom or the wisdom of the soil. Wisdom comes from intellectual theories but also from life practice. We all know the difference between a merely well-educated person and a wise person. While implicit in these remarks, given the unjustified assertions made by some people about the deep ecology kind of perspective, I want to make it clear that there is nothing in deep ecology which is misanthropic or racist or gender biased. Nor does the deep, long-range ecology movement demand that supporters be followers of any guru or any philosophical or religious position. While some ecofeminists, for example, demand that people take an ecofeminist position before becoming ecologists and some Christians demand that one believe in their doctrines concerning Jesus Christ before becoming an ecologist, the deep, long-range ecology movement is a kind of neutral movement on issues of faith or historical cultural changes. Historical and cultural analyses are important in assessing our current situation and making changes in culture and society, but such analyses are separate from the type of argumentation used. Naess has been interested primarily in types of argumentation and dialogue which encourage people to move to more mature ecosophical positions and not in social and historical analysis. The deep, long-range ecology movement, a cumbersome term, can have people with many different perspectives but who share the insights, intuitions and general principles of deep ecology and who work together recognizing, as some Buddhists say, that "no one is saved until we are all saved." "Platform" of Deep Ecology In 1984, Arne Naess and George Sessions articulated a "platform" consisting of general, neutral statements. The statements are neutral in that no specific religious or philosophical tradition is specified as basic to these statements. Theologians, philosophers, communities of people working within different religious and philosophical traditions such as Jewish, Christian, American Indian spiritual traditions, or Buddhist traditions are encouraged to develop arguments working toward the following "platform" from within their own traditions. The purpose of this platform was to stimulate dialogue over the interpretation of these statements and their practical implications in specific political and historical situations. 1. The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth have value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes. 2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves. 3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs. 4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease. 5. Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening. 6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present. 7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great. 8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes. On Population The implications of deep ecology for the size of human populations follow from Naess' ultimate norms of ecocentrism and self-realization. Sustainability is currently a term on many people's agendas. For supporters of deep ecology, sustainability means sustainable for viable populations of non-human species indigenous to each bioregion. Carrying capacity for humans is considered within the historical situation of the bioregion due to human changes in the system. For example, when a bioregion that was forested with ancient forests has been clearcut and big mammals have been systematically exterminated, fewer humans would be able to dwell in the region for many years while the populations of big mammals and other threatened creatures begin to increase. A few humans may help the healing process with reforestation projects in the region. All people are called upon to reduce their rate of reproduction while other species have a chance to reproduce without pollution from humans or killing by humans who are dwelling in the region which is in the process of recovery. In 1987, Naess defended the proposition that "the flourishing of human life and cultures requires that human population is substantially smaller than at the present time." Richness and flourishing of human life and culture means richness in compassion, richness in human relationships, richness in art, music, literature, science, and richness in experiencing natural landscapes. When sociologists and anthropologists review human life in small communities in contrast to human life within constraints of hierarchial, large scale bureaucracies, they almost universally conclude that vital human needs--for individuation, intimate human relationships, developing a sense of moral responsibility, and attaining psychological maturity--are most achievable and fulfilling in the freer context. Achieving a sense of happiness, pleasure, meaningful work, and spiritual growth does not require a large population. Conservation biology provides us with some tools for making estimates of populations of various species and their interactions in complex ecosystems. I suggest that this emerging field of study should be the basis for establishing some parameters for human population based on the needs of populations of non-human species. As an example, I cite the work of the Greater North Cascades Ecosystem Alliance which is currently engaged in transboundary studies focusing on long-term goals and interagency cooperation. Aldo Leopold said a thing is right when it maintains the integrity, beauty, and stability of a system. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. Condition of the Landscape of North America Richness of life includes richness in diversity of species, richness in possibilities for novel species to emerge through processes of evolution over long time periods, and richness in types of landscape--forests, deserts, mountains, prairies, arctic tundra. Richness and diversity of landscapes in North America are naturally occurring, that is, human intervention did not create greater richness over the long time period since the end of the last ice age. During the last two hundred years, the "internal development" strategies of the U.S. government and, after 1867, of the Canadian government, have contributed to a massive increase in monoculture; construction of dams on large river systems has led to a massive decrease in richness and numbers of fish in those systems; and the rapid increase in human numbers has caused the systematic extermination of some species over much of their range, as well as the systematic pollution of vast areas of the continent with radioactivity and toxic wastes. While by conventional measuring techniques average living standards for humans living in North America have increased over the last hundred years, increasing evidence indicates that the quality of life, which rose during the first half century, is decreasing, especially in densely inhabited cities and in over-exploited rural areas. The long-term policy advocated from a standpoint of deep ecology is to stabilize and than reduce human population in North America while engaging in century long efforts to restore damaged ecosystems. Smaller human populations, organized in bioregional communities, will make a commitment to care for the land whereon they dwell. An associate of mine suggests the optimal human population in the long run in North America is the number of people who can comfortably use the hot springs in North America. The carrying capacity of a hot spring is the number of people who can sit together in a hot spring during cold winter nights. An empirical estimate of the optimal human population based on this criteria would involve fieldwork. My associate suggests that we form several teams of volunteers to explore hot springs in various bioregions of the continent. This "research" would certainly be an imaginative way to solve the problem of identifying the number constituting the optimal population of North America. Clearly, deep ecology encompasses a variety of paths to optimal population. Together, we must choose to act now. ------------------------------------ * "Overpopulation and Deep Ecology, by Bill DeVall (co-author of the book Deep Ecology, Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City, UT, 1985). Published in Clearing House Bulletin 3(1), Jan.- Feb. 1993. Clearing House Bulletin is available from: Carrying Capacity Network 1325 G. Street, N.W., Suite 1003 Washington, D.C. 20005-3104 $20/yr.