A Collection of Essays by Arne Naess

The Deep Ecology Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects

By Arne Naess

Here, Naess tries to make the case why even the more modest aims of what he calls “shallow environmentalism” have a need for deep ecology. The Eight Basic Principles of Deep Ecology are presented and carefully elaborated in this text from 1986. On basis of a number of key terms and slogans that figured in the environmental debate at the time, Naess further aims to clarify the contrast between the shallow and the deep.

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Self-Realization in Mixed Communities of Human Beings, Bears, Sheep, and Wolves

By Arne Naess

In this article from 1979, Naess carefully dissects how the different interests of species can still be met in a concrete case where they are clearly antagonistic. With that he throws himself in the often heated debate in many Nordic countries, about how much space humans, in their self-chosen role of managers of nature, should allow to predators in wilderness and rural areas.

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The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary

By Arne Naess

In the early 1970s, Naess identified an important new development. To him, the emergence of ecologists from their former relative obscurity marked a turning point in our scientific communities. He saw that their message got twisted and misused. A shallow, but rather powerful movement and a deep, but less influential movement seemed to be competing for the public’s attention. Here, in this text from 1973, Naess presents what he sees as the main differences between the two.

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The Heart of the Forest

By Arne Naess

When developers make a road through a forest, the amount of square meters that is taken for this might be small. Naess, however, would argue that such a road may well go through the heart of this forest. When one gets deeper and deeper into a forest, he suggests in this short text from 1997, one may get the spontaneous experience of being deep in the forest. If you then hit the road, feeling completely disappears.

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Beautiful Action: Its Function in the Ecological Crisis

By Arne Naess

In efforts to counteract the current ecological crisis, Naess looks for actions that may be politically more effective than those depending on a sense of ethical obligation to act in ecologically responsible ways. One could also encourage – perhaps with more chance of having a lasting impact – the performance of what Immanuel Kant called “beautiful actions.” Such actions stem from people’s inclination and inner satisfaction to behave in such ways. An article from 1993.

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An Example of a Place: Tvergastein

By Arne Naess

In this article from 1992, Naess describes how Tvergastein, the mountain hut at which he wrote many of his books and articles, came to be his “home,” a place where he developed a strong bond and internal relation to the environment. Here he learned deep lessons which encouraged him to articulate his own Ecosophy T, whereby the T is shorthand for Tvergastein.

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A Note on the Prehistory and History of the Deep Ecology Movement

By Arne Naess

The deep ecology movement did not appear like a bolt out of the blue. In this article from 1991, Arne Naess traces its history, mentioning the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1963 as a defining moment. Forerunners can also be found much earlier, for example in Romanticism from the time of Goethe. More recent developments within cultural anthropology also had a key influence.

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Metaphysics of the Treeline

By Arne Naess

Throughout his life, Naess felt a mythopoetic connection with the space that opens up, when one moves beyond the treeline. Naess contrasts subordinate gestalts, that is, lesser forms of what is real, with higher-order gestalts such as the contrast between high and low, and dark and light. Movement towards treeline – from low and dark, to high and light – strengthens the contrast. Being at treeline becomes an experience of reaching supreme freedom. A text from 1989.

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Intrinsic Value: Will the Defenders of Nature Please Rise

By Arne Naess

By attributing intrinsic value to nonhuman beings, supporters of the deep ecology movement accept the maxim that no living being should be treated merely as a means. For them, it is the ecosphere, the whole planet, Gaia, that is the basic unit. In this text from 1985, Arne Naess argues that every being has intrinsic value.

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Arne Naess

Arne Naess (1912-2009)
Photo: Doug Tompkins