Extending the Bounds of Self | Thoughts on Deep Ecology & Anthropocentrism

in ecotrain •  8 months ago

In college I often spent countless hours in the stacks (upper regions of the limestone block library that my grandfather had a part in building). You would find me studying mainly religion/spirituality, philosophy, the natural world and the intersection of these themes. Out of my curiosity I searched and not because I was told to read these books for my classes.

Eventually I stumbled on the interplay of ecology and philosophy = enter the recently developed field of "ecosophy" branching into Deep Ecology, coined by Arne Næss, which is the inspiration for this article.

Let’s dig in!!

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yellow gladiolus

A basic framework is this:

Deep Ecology is an ecological and environmental philosophy promoting the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, plus a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas.

Deep ecology argues that the natural world is a subtle balance of complex inter-relationships in which the existence of organisms is dependent on the existence of others within ecosystems. Human interference with or destruction of the natural world poses a threat therefore not only to humans but to all organisms constituting the natural order.

Deep ecology's core principle is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and regarded as having certain inalienable legal rights to live and flourish, independent of its utilitarian instrumental benefits for human use.

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Arne Naess takes us further into understanding how this can happen,

Every living being is connected intimately, and from this intimacy follows the capacity of identification and as its natural consequences, practice of non-violence .. Now is the time to share with all life on our maltreated earth through the deepening identification with life forms and the greater units, the ecosystems, and Gaia, the fabulous, old planet of ours.

It was not new to me to feel connected with the natural world. From this connection, a naturally arising desire to care for it came forth. This is a natural consequence of feeling connected with something, we want to care for it. As I started to get deeper into Permaculture and earth care movements, I realized the human-centered extent of our cultures, systems, institutions, corporations, etc.

This is known as anthropocentrism, which is defined as

considering human beings as the most significant entity of the universe.

Many may say, "but of course, we are humans after all and it is natural to center ourselves and our life here." However, after traveling and continuing on my life journey, I've come to realize that not all human cultures see life this way. It is a decidedly modern and Western (at least I can speak for that) approach to continue to exploit our home, the earth, even to the point of taking too much, creating too much pollution, overharvesting, disregarding, habitat devastation, exterpating, etc. The Western way doesn't take into consideration that we're literally destroying our home in the process and only relies on the bare minimum standards from the EPA or other regulatory bodies, let alone take into consideration the next 7 generations as the wisdom of the Hodeneshone (so named Iroquois by french colonialists) would have us see (the idea that decisions should be considered for their impact on the seventh generation to come.)

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Thornless blackberry, Chester variety

Joanna Macy says it well,

I consider that this shift [to an emphasis on our “capacity to identify with the larger collective of all beings” ] is essential to our survival at this point in history precisely because it can serve in lieu of morality and because moralising is ineffective. Sermons seldom hinder us from pursuing our self-interest, so we need to be a little more enlightened about what our self-interest is. It would not occur to me, for example, to exhort you to refrain from cutting off your leg. That wouldn’t occur to me or to you, because your leg is part of you. Well, so are the trees in the Amazon Basin; they are our external lungs. We are just beginning to wake up to that.

We are gradually discovering that we are our world.

With this foundational perspective of Deep Ecological framework, we can see that we actually are the earth, our body. I would highly recommend reading more into Joanna Macy, John Seed and many others (a quick google search will yield you many authors), as well as studying traditional indigenous models of living which, by and large, are non-exploitive and incredibly connective ("deep ecology" is just the tip of the iceberg here, indigenous communities have been doing this for a LONG TIME and their voices are usually silenced/ not as centered as white folks or "scholars", but they have the deepest wisdom we need here now- I should write a whole post on this.)

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Corn silk in evening light

These thoughts are on my mind today because I was feeling some sadness/weight around our collective inability it seems to shift our cultures to integrate these truths.

As Naess says so well, "Through identification, they may come to see their own interest served by conservation, through genuine self-love, love of a deepened and widened self."

This widened self of which he speaks, I believe it is our responsibility to come to. Nature connection does this, love of sunsets, places we've traveled or lived by that our hearts and very cells reached out to and we became one with that moment and with that place. This is the step that I wish for humans. For through this connection, we are not being TOLD to "be better, more connected humans," but we are BECOMING the earth itself and realizing ourselves as such which naturally leads to loving action.

There is So Much I could write now and I feel myself becoming very impassioned, but it all boils down to this Identification. We identify with our homes (houses, yards, even communities), our families (chosen and/or birth), the people we love and more things as we extend the bounds of ourselves, and I make the statement that through whatever means possible, we need humans who have come to see themselves not as separate or above or better than the earth, but as a living breathing part of the earth.

We are the universe experiencing itself through human consciousness.

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What are some of the ways that you have found the bounds of your personal self identification widen and stretch to connect to your larger body? In future articles, we'll share some of the ways we have been broken open, stretched, and have fallen in love with the larger aspects of our being.

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Nature connection does this, love of sunsets, places we've traveled or lived by that our hearts and very cells reached out to and we became one with that moment and with that place.

This is something that many of us who feel deep connections to Place would relate to. At home on our coast many of us old school coast folk are crying about the development going on there because this landscape is so deeply part of our hearts. The relationship between people and place is so strong.

I love these articles Wren - I've never really studied deep ecology but as you know I have a deeply philosophical bent when it comes to the natural world, and i love the term ecosophy so much!! What an interesting wealth of thought you'd studied!!! And you write about it so well.

The identification of us with the natural world is integral to saving it. If we see others as ourselves and act compassionately due to this, then it's the same with the Earth herself. I've been thinking alot about that as the volcano erupts - i feel such a connection to this raw aliveness of the earth here, perhaps because it's in technicolour, in my face!!! But I watch the folk here with their fishing boats, the spear fisherman - there's no rape and pillage of the seas, just taking enough to survive, and a deep love of the natural environment and a reverence too.

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you're comment is fairly badass dear, thanks :) that's why i supported it with my 100% upvote, which in the downturn isn't worth as much as it once was, but it's symbolic. thank you for this. it's something that, as i started digging in yesterday to write this article, i realized has informed, supplanted, inspired and radicalized my vision and how i see life. specific moments (especially while i was first getting into this) literally did "tear down the walls" of my human ego in ways i can only be incredibly thankful for!!! it's like taking that veil off the eyes .... i know you know.

yes i love your tale of the volcano and fishermen....... these are the types of relationships i'm talking about. i'm due for a contest, maybe i'll incentivize people to tell these stories of connection and living with/and not living over that they've witnessed. your contest was a huge success and really brought some juice out- yay! i think that's the glory of incentivizing reflection via steemit..... we can create little portals and glimmers of hope where we collectively re-member together. now that's good stuff!! i know i already said it, but thanks <3

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Aw thanks babe. Ithink that contest is an AWESOME idea, I'll be up for that for sure *sharpens pens

I have found that visiting certain places gives me a feeling like seeing a good old friend or coming home to family. There are certain valleys in Colorado that I have visited repeated over several years. Seeing the familiar unchanging mountain scape and the ever changing streams, it is a warm feeling. I get a similar feeling walking my parents farm. Seeing the ponds and fields noticing the changes but feeling the familiar.

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yes, this feeling exactly. that familiarity gets in your bones and is way beyond and more intimate than any "moralising" or thinking.... thanks for sharing.

I hear you. a lot to think about. Intense times we are in. Thank you for you thoughts.

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<3 certainly intense times.... thanks for witnessing and being a part~

yes yes speak this truth, this is so important and we are nature there is no separation, I really could write so much about the damage this dominate worldview over nature ,over our natural state of being is doing , this disconnection that has occurred. We need to keep this awareness happening thank you @mountainjewel xxxx

We are the earth but sometimes I think that earth can survive just fine without us humans. I like that term ecosophy, another new word learned. We really should be more aware of what is going on around us and the impact of our actions.

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I love the language of being broken open-- a favorite poet of mine, Coleman Barks, uses that language a lot, to really powerful effect. Are you familiar with his work?

Your piece and your prompt remind me of a time I was hiking a really big and beautiful and powerful and famous mountain. I grew up in the mountains, and have always been moved by their power, so I was super excited to get to know this mountain, and was damn near sprinting up the thing. I hadn't been able to move or to play in that way in a while, and it felt so good to be using my body in such a mystical location. Long story short, the journey up the mountain mirrored a journey through myself, in which I realized I wasn't racing up a mountain or overcoming its physical challenges as much as I was pushing myself, a larger self like the one I believe you were referring to-- larger through time and emotion and relationship than just my body or my awareness. Ahh, what a wonderful revelation! And believe it or not that was only one gem that surfaced on that day-- there were more!!! I was very much broken open and stretched to a new understanding-- it's hard not to love peak experiences like that!