Fox Road, Rosebank, 1992
Image: © Jules Harper
we must question is the view of anthropocentrism, which sees humans
as the pinnacle of creation, the top of the hierarchy. It is similar
to sexism but replaces ‘man’ with ‘human’. Deep
ecology invites us to know ourselves rather as a plain member of the
biotic community. That, rather than a hierarchy, reality is more like
a circle of interconnected creation. This implies that other life forms,
both animal and vegetable, have a fundamental right to exist, independent
of their usefulness or potential usefulness to humans. One could also
question whether at this point we have the knowledge to judge whether
they are useful or not to us.
Deep ecology also challenges us to remember our true place in evolution.
As Joanna Macy says: “We have been but recently in human form.
If Earth’s whole history were compressed into 24 hours beginning
at midnight, organic life would begin only at 5 pm...mammals emerge
at 11 :30...and from amongst them only at seconds to midnight our species.”
To expand our experience of time is not just to be aware of our long
evolutionary past, but also to acknowledge a continuity with the future.
We could encompass the future in such a way as to feel accountable to
those who will be born after our death, the beings of the future. It
is in this spirit that the Native Americans used to base their decision
making on taking into account how a particular action or decision could
affect the seventh generation to come after them. It is a question worth
When we awaken to the artificial separation that would have us see the
environment as out there, rather than a part of us...then it is so much
easier to know that when we poison the water, air or soil we poison
ourselves. We are so imbedded in the cycles of molecules and gasses.
We don’t escape that just because our minds don’t acknowledge
we are truly a part of the earth.
Shields, author of In the Tiger's Mouth, Millennium Books, 1991