Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899–1990) is widely regarded as “Norway’s earliest eco-philosopher.” He was the first Norwegian thinker to develop a philosophical critique of man’s relationship with the environment. Zapffe was not only a philosopher, but also a writer, literary critic, humorist, environmentalist and alpine climber. He grew up in a rather bourgeois environment in Tromsø in northern Norway. His father, Fritz Zapffe, was known for being a close friend of polar explorer Roald Amundsen; he helped the latter with rations and other kinds of materials for his expeditions up to the polar areas. Peter Wessel Zapffe’s childhood was characterized by tough discipline. From early on this awoke in him a strong aversion against any type of authority.

Arne Naess

Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899–1990)
Photo: From Archive of Peter Wessel Zapffe, National Library of Norway