Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher, introduced deep ecology in the 1970s. Contrary to what Arne Naess believed, we tend not to include humans in the ecosystem when talking about ecology.

He explained that human life is just one of the many components of the global ecosystem. This philosophy is called deep ecology. The central idea of deep ecology is to explain that we are a part of the earth.

It is a concept to contrast the individualism of our culture, which makes us not care about what’s happening on our planet. The principles of deep ecology are:

Table of Contents

1. Inherent value

Deep ecology’s main principle is the claim that, like humanity, every living being in the environment has the equal right to live and flourish.

Society has been thriving since the inception of this world but at what cost. At the cost of the environment, humanity still survives.

Desultory use of the sources around us creates havoc in the background, leading to various extinct species and worldwide pollution.

As explained by Arne Naess, the living environment is not getting the equal right to live and flourish. Nonhuman life is exploited because of the needs and greed of human life.

As the nonhuman life cannot speak or stand up for themselves, humans will continue to influence the ecosystem, which is very inappropriate, as per the writer.

2. Diversity

Framework - deep ecology
Deep Ecology Framework (source)

Every human and nonhuman life has value in themselves. It means that every ecosystem component- be it man, flower, or animal – has its value.

And the value is independent of its usefulness to any other parts. Let me illustrate this with an example. Let us suppose there is a bush that doesn’t provide oxygen or food to humans.

So, what is the use of that bush? Is it not a part of ecology? Although it does not serve humans’ purpose, the shrub is an integral part of the environment.

Serving purposes to humans should not be a yardstick to measure the value of any life in the ecosystem. 

3. Vital Needs

The following principle is that humans have no right to reduce the richness and diversity to satisfy their personal needs. We have been conducting such malicious activities for a while now.

We take out any species we need and disrupt the whole ecology with our imbecile actions. Arne Naess believed that we have no right to cause any harm or use up all the species to satisfy the needs of humans.

About six hundred species have been extinct in the last hundred years. Some other species were profusely used to satisfy the needs of humans and others due to evolutionary problems.

It brought the species their doom. Thus, humans should not interfere with the richness and diversity of species. 

4. Human interference

The human life interference in the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening. Humans build houses from the wood, chopping down the long-lived trees in the wildlife.

Humans fish out aquatic life and disbalances the system. Every aspect of human civilization is only causing harm to the ecology. Due to various causes, humans have been more involved in human life.

Human participation in the ecosystem is unstoppable as it serves human needs. Restraining such human involvement can help flourish the environment.

5. Quality of life

comparison - deep ecology
Comparison between wrong way (human-centered) and a fitting way (environment-centered) of sustainability (source)

Appreciate the quality of living in the prime principle of deep ecology. Humans must learn to dwell in the inherent value of living rather than attempting to achieve a higher standard of living.

Doing so will help live a happy and prosperous life and contribute to deep ecology. If humans are content with how they live and appreciate their livelihood, they will not yearn for more environmentally degrading activities.

For a long time, humans’ deep desire to get more and more has led us into this condition and would be hard to stop if we don’t appreciate and enjoy our quality of life.

Understandably, human nature wants more and more; nature could bring doom to this planet if we don’t stop now.

6. Policy change

The most we can do is change the policy at this current stage. The guidelines should change to affect economic, technological, and ideological structures.

If policies are reformed, the state of affairs will be different from the present. It is a practical way to bring a change.

Improving policies and rules will translate people with information and awareness. Thus, changing policies will be the cornerstone to bring a change.

7. Population

The flourishing of human life and cultures is only possible with a decrease in the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman and human life requires such a decrease.

Humans and nonhumans can only thrive with fewer humans around. Fewer humans mean fewer resources needed for subsistence living; thus, no one can exploit the resources.  

8. Obligation of action

Those who agree to the mentioned points are obliged to implement them. Small steps from individuals can also significantly impact anyone who can contribute to deep ecology.

If we consider ourselves a child of mother earth and want to practice conserving the planet, we must realize and take action. Even after some activities condone malicious acts, it will be a waste if we nip it in the bud.

It is our solemn duty to take action to prevent mischief. Many groups are already standing up for the ecosystem worldwide.

Suppose we know how intricate the concept of deep ecology is and how it is beneficial to us. In that case, we must not hesitate to step forward and do something for the environment that will have a ripple outcome on the lives of every individual in this ecosystem.


Toon - deep ecology
Cartoon interpretation of humans exploiting environment (source)

The deep ecology philosophy is criticized by many. Anne Barbeau Gardiner wrote that deep ecology is “a movement that places more value on the ecological system than human beings.”

It is implied that deep ecology focuses on ecology more than the humans involved in it. The intrinsic value is a philosophy that some people don’t accept.

For instance, a piece of art is praised and holds value only if humans perceive it to be worth it. It is claimed that deep ecology fails to link environmental crises with authoritarianism and hierarchy.

Social ecologists believe that even an ecological sustained society could be socially exploitative, while deep ecologists refute that theory saying ecological behavior is rooted in the social paradigm. 


While social ecologists and deep ecologists are in discord, they both believe that humans should play a more significant role in conserving the ecosystem.

Humans must use sources around them in a sustainable way. If used up in a desultory way, anything should bring a tumult in a whole ecosystem.

It is up to humans to control the fate of this planet. If humans consider the points mentioned above and start taking action, then some improvements are possible; otherwise, the living conditions on this planet can deteriorate. 

(Last Updated on November 10, 2021 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Saurav Khadka, with his A levels in computer science from Saipal Academy, owns a keen desire to know more about the environment. He wants to preach his knowledge to others by learning through his hobbies; reading, writing, traveling, and watching movies. He believes sharing his insight regarding a sustainable environment will undoubtedly generate positive perceptions in the people.