‘Deep Ecology’ versus Energy (McKibben’s virus understood)
The Sierra Club, as yesterday’s post described, has ditched its previous support for natural gas, the cleanest burning fossil fuel. And so goes the modern, Washington, DC-based environmental pressure group movement, rejecting not only oil, gas, and coal but also nuclear, hydro, and most biofuels. Translated into today’s energy usage, some 98 percent is bad and 2 percent good. 
Turning an industrial economy over to the two most costly, unreliable (intermittent) energy resources–solar and wind–is a lights out, engine stall strategy for a modern industrial economy.
Where does such anti-industrial, anti-human, coercionist thinking come from? The answer is the deep ecology movement.
As mentioned yesterday, a radical wing of the modern environmental movement rejects a human-centered anthropocentric view of the world in favor of a nature-first ecocentric view. In constrast to shallow ecology, concerned with pollution and resource depletion in the developed world, deep ecology defends “the equal right” of lower animals and plants “to live and blossom.” Deep ecology rejects what is seen as a master-slave relationship between human and nonhuman life.
Deep ecology stresses the interrelatedness of all life systems on Earth, demoting human-centeredness. Man must respect nature for its own sake rather than as a tool of man. The human ego and concern for family and other loved ones must be joined by a similar emotional attachment to animals, trees, plants, and the rest of the ecosphere.
To hurt the planet, then, is the same as inflicting bodily harm on oneself. “In the broadest sense,” state Bill Devall and George Sessions (1985: ix), “we need to accept the invitation to the dance—the dance of unity of humans, plants, animals, the Earth.” To get to this point, we need to “trick ourselves into reenchantment” (10) with nature.
Deep Ecology Platform
The “deep ecology platform” of the Deep Ecology Foundation, formulated by Arne Naess and George Sessions, states:
1) The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth; intrinsic value; inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
2) Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
3) Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
4) Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
5) The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
6) Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
7) The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
8) Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.
Gore to McKibben
As described yesterday, Bill McKibben, and thus his war on fossil fuels, is in the deep ecology tradition.
Al Gore’s complaint about a “dysfunctional [fossil fuel] civilization” crosses over into deep ecology metaphysics. As he states in Earth in the Balance (1992):
Our civilization is, in effect, addicted to the consumption of the earth itself. This addictive relationship distracts us from the pain of what we have lost: a direct experience of our connection to the vividness, vibrancy, and aliveness of the rest of the natural world. The froth and frenzy of industrial civilization mask our deep loneliness for that communion with the world that can lift our spirits and fill our senses with the richness and immediacy of life itself (220–21).
Eschewing incrementalism, Gore called for “bold and unequivocal” global action where “the rescue of the environment” is “the central organizing principle for civilization” (269).
One can debate how much the above statements qualify their authors as deep ecologists. Whatever the case, the above thinking reflects the stasis mentality, which Virginia Postrel has defined in The Future and Its Enemies as a belief that “a good future must be static: either the product of detailed, technocratic blueprints or the return to an idealized, stable past” (1998: xii).
This in-the-past mentality is quite different from dynamism, which in Postrel’s words embraces “a world of constant creation, discovery, and competition” (xiv). Think creative destruction, which is why coal, oil, and gas displaced the inferior renewable energies of the past.
To deep ecologists, energy as the enabler of man over nature is a root enemy. Economics, the human-centered science of plan coordination and material improvement, is also the enemy. As one ecologist explained:
Economics and ecology, as words, have the same root; but that is about all they have in common…. The world of ecologists is ‘unspoiled nature.” They tend to avoid cities, parks, fields, orchards. The real world of the economists is … money, labor, market, goods, capital (Bates, 250–51).
Needless to say, any member of the Sierra Club would complain mightily if the lights went off–or even on-and-off (which would happen if wind or solar was the energy source without conventional energy fill-in or battery storage). And virtually all DC environmentalists would fume if their transportation stalled. They are human, after all–or at least outside of their workday of professional obstructionism.
 In 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewables accounted for 9 percent of U.S. consumption, of which wind and solar accounted for 15 percent or approximately 1.4 percent of the total.
Bates, Marston. The Forest and the Sea. New York: Random House, 1960.
Devall, Bill, and George Sessions. Deep Ecology. Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1985.
Gore, Al. Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. New York: Plume, 1992.
McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. 1989. Reprint, New York: Anchor Books, 1990.
Naess, Arne. “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary.” 1973. Reprinted in Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics, edited by Peter List, 19–24. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993.
Postrel, Virginia. The Future and Its Enemies. New York: Free Press, 1998.