Deep Ecology in 21st Century
December 2020 I was delighted my submission to haus-a-rest was accepted for publication in their online zine.
Image: Mock up sample of gallery exhibition of Project Unseen by Veronica M Worrall
My article drew upon my research into early philosophy around ecology, particularly the thinking of Arne Naess (1912-2009). This philosophy accepts our inter connection with the natural world and our inter dependance on natural systems and processes. Once this is fully understood much of the current ravaging for short term gains might cease. This ‘short term cause and long time effect’ is something more and more people are beginning to recognise as climate change and reduced biodiversity threatens our daily lives and the future of our children.
Deep Ecology recognises the solution is not a case of conservation of particular species or landscapes but a deep recognition of our place on the planet earth.
My essay below :
Deep Ecology Philosophy for the 21st Century
by Veronica M Worrall, Art Photographer
We stand now where two roads diverge…The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. Rachel Carsons Silent Spring 1962
With 21st century media awash with images of devastation caused by climate change and heart rendering pictures of threatened species it is not surprising many feel the environmental problems are just too big. I argue it is time to pay attention close to home. So much of nature’s essential processes are unseen and appear unconnected to our own human life. Walls and waste, sprays and clearance continue without thought to what is being destroyed.
Research has led me to surmise a root cause of the anthropocentric tide is a lack of understanding of the symbiotic relationships across nature and most pertinently human with non human. The sea ebbs and floods, storms come and go, as humans try to take control. If a seawall is built the intertidal zone at the sea edge is lost, as the sea levels rise an important carbon sequestrating, fish nursery and bird feeding ecology disappears. Whilst inland, insects, birds and wild fauna work continuously to nurture systems which give us a sustainable food source and yet fields and gardens are sprayed with pesticides. Thereby the natural pollinators on which our food depends are eradicated. These changes to the interconnectivity of nature’s systems happen over time – not immediate and not observable. The unseen and undervalued ecological systems and the dependancy of humanity on these natural processes has been disregarded for short term gains. This was understood in the 1960’s
Over fifty years ago, Aldo Leopold, recognised the interconnectivity of humans, non humans and land (Leopold,1968:204), but it was not until 1963, the cruciality of this interrelationship was first debated at UK government policy-making level, after Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring 1962 had highlighted the long term effect of DDT. The natural world was beginning to be valued but early conservation agendas were to be questioned by a Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, in 1972, who introduced a philosophy of ‘Deep Ecology’ (Drengson, 1995:1). Naess’s philosophy examined the root cause of world environmental problems and sought fundamentally to transform socio-cultural systems and lifestyles. In this way Naess radically challenged the industrial culture of private ownership of resources and profit-making orientation (Drengson,1995:6). More recently this opinion is elaborated by environmentalist, Rob Nixon, who discusses how the out-of-sight delayed effects of Neoliberalism have contributed not only to climate change but to the poverty of indigenous people, for example by the ‘export of rich nation garbage and toxicity to Africa’ (Nixon, 2013:17). It is this consequential interconnectivity between specific types of human activity and its accelerating threat to the earth’s systems, which needs to be understood. Therefore I promulgate it is these connections and consequences which need to be the core message within discussions of the Anthropocene.
Now in 2020, we are near the end of that prophetic road described by Rachel Carson but much continues to be destroyed and much needs to change quickly. Recently I took time to reflect on my own local world. Close to home I became immersed in the natural flux and slower rhythms of a coastal biosphere. I was concerned for our dependency on human technology. So I buried my photographs back where they had been taken as an antidote to the acceleration of human power over nature. I learnt to slow my image making from 1/80th second to 80 days. Time, water, weather and creatures painted over my digital images leaving traces of elemental activity. My photographs became my dialogue with nature – no longer representing a particular moment more an evolving enquiry. What is our relationship with ecosystems? How do we replace our anthropocentric ways of thinking, of valuing and of acting? I chose nature to become my partner in art…adopting the person/planetary inter connective philosophy of Deep Ecology.
The problem is big but not too big. Individuals working together can alter the direction of both business and personal priorities. Individuals can look locally and question what is happening around them. They may wish to contemplate the past, present and future rhythms of local areas under threat. Myself, I try to make art to evoke questioning and deeper thought about the natural process within my immediate landscape. I endeavour to bring the anthropocentric crisis to individual doorsteps by sharing my contemplation of nature’s temporality, fragility and beauty. I try to subsume ‘the fast and furious’ and the ‘huge and horrendous’ by working in partnership with real time and natural elemental activity. With a deep consciousness and a creative sharing of what is happening unseen and undervalued, we can all help in different ways to turn the tide against long term detrimental practices for short term gains.
by Veronica M Worrall Dec 2020
Carson, R. (1962) Silent Spring. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications.
Demos, T. J. (2017) Against the Anthropocene Visual Culture and Environment Today. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
Drengson, A. (1995) ‘The Deep Ecology Movement.’ In: Trumpeter [online] At: http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar_url?url=http://trumpeter.athabascau.ca/index.php/trumpet/article/download/313/475/&hl=en&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm0g-8jAyyg0jNDvYcZTpjIXuKO19w&nossl=1&oi=scholarr (Accessed on 1 December 2020)
Leopold, A. (1968) A Sand County Almanac. (Paperback edn) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nixon, R. (2013) Slow violence and environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge USA: Harvard University Press.