Subject: ** Overpopulation and Deep Ecology **
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.

                                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

  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

  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