Deep Ecology and the Lessons from an Ecovillage

Author: Brindusa Birhala

Supervisor: Dr. Norbert Anwander (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)

Project Year 2008/2009 European College of Liberal Arts


Deep Ecology and the Lessons from an Ecovillage

“Standing up, majestic in his anger, Rainforest continues: Your greed and folly shortens your own life as a species. When you leave me wasted and smoldering, you foretell your own death. Don't you know that it is from me that you have come? Without my green world your spirit will shrivel, without the oxygen my plant life exhales, you'll have nothing to breathe. You need me as much as your own lungs. I am your lungs.” (fragment from a Council of All Beings ritual)

1. Introduction As I was sitting across the wooden table from her and discussed about ecology, Gabi Bott, one the persons in charge of leading several seminars in the village was telling me that there is no recipe, no sure path on which to lead others into becoming an environmentalist. Either you understand and feel it, or you don’t. It is not a matter of external compulsion, but rather a strong inner drive. I immediately realized that she had another understanding than the commonly shared impressions about ‘ecology’, one which in that moment appeared quasi religious, or for which one needs a speck of belief at least. I asked her if she had ever read Arne Naess, to which she said no; but she had heard of him as the originator of the philosophy called “deep ecology”, and she had taken part in a course of Johanna Macy, one of his American ‘disciples’. She then made a gesture to show me that I was close to squashing an ant in one of the table cracks. My heart skipped a beat and I blushed. “Why are you here, then?” I asked her. “Because this is the future!” Gabi retorted. Living in a small community grounded on environmental principles presupposes more than concern for the environment. Starting from a particular example, an eco- village in Germany, I want to examine the grounding reasons for which people chose to live in a community centered on ecological values and how deeply ingrained in their consciousness stand these values. I posit that this example goes beyond environmental ethics as observance of a moral code in regard to nature, and presupposes a personal transformation in the manner in which one conceives his or her relation with nature. For the purpose of the present investigation, one question dominates all: why did these people become the inhabitants of an eco-village? Inquiring into the philosophical and social characteristics of the environmental philosophical strain entitled deep ecology, I realized that they seem to fit almost perfectly the unwritten ideological background of such a community project. Certainly, they have arrived at such conclusions which to our eyes might appear radical. Is there only their personal inclination to understand existence in a new, different way, or is anybody able to achieve such a transformation? On closer scrutiny, there is nothing new in conceiving nature as intrinsically valuable, this being the outlook of many primitive societies, many of which nurtured animist beliefs, but the 'transformation' that deep ecology professes addresses the behavioral patterns of

The resounding question underneath my written exploration of both the philosophical current of deep ecology and the exemplary community in Sieben Linden will be: How close is the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the eco-village to the 'deeply ecological' ideal? I find it also relevant to the research that the concept of eco-village has spread internationally and is promoted by means of a Global Environmental Network. albeit only with a very small part of the over 100 inhabitants who live and work together. The underlying deep ecological assumption is that 'development' is wrongly understood and practiced. from the origins to the present. from housing to gardening and the education of children. and during the presentation most of the emphasis fell on practical and organizational aspects. There was no mentioning of deep ecology in the official presentation of the project. I am ready to pin down deep ecology as the conceptual background of everyday living in this village. I am offering further explanations regarding one of the leading ideas. leisure. To the big public. George Sessions. In spite of that. and to attend a seminar especially organized to present the eco-project to those who desire a closer look from within. centering only on the human individual whose constitutive ties with nature have been unlawfully cut. Joanna Macy as main spokespersons) Pursuant to lying out of the theoretical grounding. and not a village in which the inhabitants decided to change their lifestyle in observance of heightened environmental awareness. Nonetheless. Some critical standpoints will be visited before I give an actual account of the life in Sieben Linden.modern Western society. the principal focus of the inquiry will be on the development of what deep ecologists name “an environmental consciousness”. and it amounts to interpreting formal characteristics of the village organization in the light of deep ecological insights. The last part will present various answers to how do environmentalists of different deeply ecological veins conceive the emergence of an environmental consciousness.the transformation of consciousness and how it plays into the life of the environmental community.php?p=2000 3 .siebenlinden. ecology. into a subject-object relationship. The 17 participants (me included) have been hosted in one of the guests houses and shown around the principal parts of the village. Further on.2. 1. I will try to look at the role played by these in the social organization of the community. urban and rural culture can find a balance”1. by one of the initiators of the village-project. In order to resolve the conundrum of why eco-villages are being created. thus the task becomes more adventurous. I will hypothesize and then investigate how the four pillars could be described as holding together in a deep ecological substratum. We also interacted with the locals. leaving the two disparate. Social. and the role of technology. bears a significant importance. Warwick Fox. I had the chance to visit the village Sieben Linden in May 2008. Framing deep ecology 1 http://www. the fact that this is an 'artificially created' community. and have been given the whole story. They have drawn four pillars which support the organization of each village project: Ecology. the Sieben Lindeners describe their project as “an aim to provide a model for a future way of life in which The first part of my paper will be focused on an account of deep ecology as a branch of environmental philosophy (with theoreticians such as Arne Naess. containing issues of social organization. Under the intuition that the lifestyle of an eco-community is tightly linked with spiritual and metaphysical insights of this kind. economy. Economy and Worldview. The weekend requested a considerable fee from each participant.

20 4 . Its initiator. as it attracted the attention of environmental theorists. and permeated the curricula of environmental ethics university courses. He holds anthropocentric attitudes responsible for what amounts to a present ecological crisis and posits manners in which to rediscover in a genuine light the relation between humankind and nature. reason for which he endorses the existence of a movement inspired from basic principles of his environmental philosophy. starting from the individual. One might argue that a social project infused with deep ecological ideas subscribes to the movement. could seem like a quest for the 2 Michael Zimmerman. deep ecology does not align itself within regular environmental ethics. I will refer to the character of the community in view without pursuing an analysis of the movement or of the platform. Through the present case-study. as a practical manifestation of deep ecology philosophy.can join. because it presupposes a philosophical stance and it emphasizes that environmentalism cannot be anthropocentric if it is to aim at fundamental changes. However. Contesting Earth’s Future. it should pervade how environmental consciousness translates into the life of a community. Naess recognizes that one cannot remain in the realm of philosophical speculations when nature is urgently endangered. The present paper will not dwell on the 'movement' itself but only on the philosophical intuitions in deep ecology. Radical Ecology and Postmodernity. nevertheless an entire social philosophy which accompanies deep ecology as a result of arriving at the insights it puts forward. equality and wholeness of existence. Naess does not shy away from introducing metaphysical elements in his environmental philosophy to the extent to which he proposes a different ontology. “stated in terms sufficiently general that people from many different religions and philosophical traditions-such as Christianity. The DEP constitutes the programmatic arm of deep ecology and was devised by Arne Naess and George Sessions in 1984 to offer an articulation to the common position which deep ecological activism should practice. What I intend to conceive in the present paper is not another 'for' or another 'against' portrayal of deep ecology. He concentrated the philosophical insights around his interpretation of the human-nature relationship into eight poignant formulations called “the platform of the deep ecology movement”.”2 A hard to conceive formal element about deep ecology is the constant desire to separate between the movement (which deals with asking for rapid decisions to urgent environmental threats) and the philosophical construction which presupposes the understanding and individual development of certain particular features. Moreover. Spinozism. but rather an investigation of what I consider the central and most vital point of this philosophical endeavor. Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess had stressed the contrast between “shallow ecology” which aims solely at taking certain practical measures against specific environmental problems and his vision of 'deep' questioning about the real causes behind environmental problems and a need to reinterpret modernity and its damaging contribution. like identification with non-human beings.Often perceived 'in the field' as the odd one out. a lot of ink was spilled over deep ecology. pp. It is also to be recognized in practice. in numerous protest cases in which activists referred to the deep ecological movement. There is. Since its apparition in the 1970s. Buddhism. subsumed in the eight points of the Deep Ecological Platform. I consider that even if deciphering what stands behind an ecologically enlightened self.the transformation within the individual. which mingles issues of individuality. and arriving at the universal. University of California Press. Having been a scholar of Ghandi. Buddhism and Spinoza.

]. [. because it reaches beyond the immediate. but rather as an interesting response to the conundrum posed by the direction in which modernity should develop so as to maintain (or reach) a balance with its natural environment. but will display its admiration for the manner in which deep ecological conceptualization allows a non-anthropocentric ideal be intertwined with deep care for human society. Likewise.(i. pp.Holy Grail.” (C. At the time. Naess wants to devise a philosophy which describes and guides mankind’s current role in the ecosphere. He wishes to go from “ethics to ontology and back”. The high value placed on a particular metaphysics which tampers with the human-non-human divide and the focus on community living will be treated as the variables which both nurture and are determined by the deep ecological transformation of consciousness. Reflections) First and foremost. the case-study should not be regarded as compelling counter-cultural model. Memories. This attempt to shift the primary focus in environmental philosophical concern from ethics to ontology clearly constitutes a fundamental or revolutionary challenge to normal environmental philosophy.” 3 2. an interesting upshot of looking at the ecovillage of Sieben Linden is to find the practical consequences which would accompany an environmental consciousness. Dreams. it might become the most pertinent solution to constant environmental degradation severely felt today. Jung. It is not hard to notice that this represents a standpoint inspired by deep ecology. G. “Guiding Stars of Deep Ecology”. It is (and should be) deep ecology's guiding star. of course..e. which all environmentalists have to observe.on an unconscious identity with animals.. Warwick Fox. 173 5 . Transformation of the consciousness from self to 'Self' “My compassion for animals did not derive from the Buddhistic trimmings of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. and it represents the sole and most poignant manner in which the present paper will take sides in any environmental ethics debate. but rested on the deeper foundation of a primitive attitude of mind. I was wholly ignorant of this important psychological fact. The present inquiry does not aim at embracing the deep-versus-shallow outlook on environmentalism. My personal inclination might attract arguments to polarize around the need to investigate our individual relation to non-human beings before we start devise ethical paths in environmental thinking. meaning 3 Warwick Fox. one of the philosophers to follow and support deep ecology described it focusing on “changing the way in which we experience the world. to guide towards the necessary transformations in consciousness. changing our ontology) rather than upon what we might term the “conceptual fix” approach of “bigger and better” ethics. Therefore. and through it.

self-less . but as long as particular norms do not become isolated from their philosophical base. One of the features of this understanding is the equal worth of human and non-human life and the interconnectedness of all living forms. is the fact that even if each individual develops his or her own 'ecophilosophy'. they like norms as general as possible and with no dogmatic aura around them.”5In this type of freedom lies the positive valuation of differences in personal ethical outputs and the maxim of “unity in diversity”. 77 5 6 7 6 . one accepted attitude would be: “as few norms with a purely instrumental character as possible. and the decisions in favor of non-human beings could be as easily taken as those serving human individuals. but rather the 'correct' decision would follow naturally from the understanding of the world. both conditions do not come easy. Naess describes his philosophy as a system meaning its postulates. Unfortunately. the multitude of such norms seen as necessarily unbending add up to environmental babelization or to unwarranted intrusions into private life. from political to religious. or the lack of knowledge thereof which reigns in a particular context. often heralded by deep ecologists.. the system cannot be extended down to all decisions. one could sense the pull away from dogmatism and the push towards total world-views as the grounding of personal 'ecosophies'. This consideration stems from a total rejection of doctrinaire thinking and the negative reaction towards specific environmental norms without a deeper justification.” At this point in the description of the concept. the intransigent enforcement of 4 idem. Having incorporated this special (deep) ontology. 73 idem idem. norms and goals “fit together” and great insistence falls on seeing the world as an interconnected whole. His intuition foresees that these fundamental backgrounds could not be so heterogeneous. as to justify unsolvable disputes at the level of practical measures. One would not act ethically-i. pp. 74 Naess.Point for point. In the same manner.e. What Naess is trying to make us aware of. pp.”4 This would be a novel movement in the domain of environmental ethics because it does away with sense of compulsion. Ecology. like “Always ride your bike to work instead of driving!” From a deep ecological point of view.that “our opinions about what ought to be done are highly dependent upon our hypotheses as to how the world is organized. communication of values is possible and will be fruitful: “For each participant in the debate. pp.the tendency to herald one system as the sole truth and eternal truth. we should acknowledge that the difficulty lies with making the putative opponent trace his opinions back to some “deeply seated values and norms”6 and that those will bear for him or her a non-anthropocentric interpretation. the starting point is twofold: our own system or world-view and that or those views we find to be meaningful in our surroundings.. Hence. thus non-anthropocentric. and then universalized. “But to encourage systematizing does not imply encouraging system dogmatism. there is an urgency to connect concrete environmental decisions with strong basic philosophic and religious positioning. Community and Lifestyle. as proposed by deep ecologists.”7 Unsurprisingly. Nonetheless. the competition regarding who holds the primacy of importance is annulled.against his or her own immediate interest in order to protect nature. which would inspire a coherent vision of all life aspects. Our actions take place in a social field and we must and will consider the evaluations and the interpretations of the facts.

pp. and long. and to the perfect state of human and non-human existence. therefore the entire nature as an integrated whole. because it’s meaning has been previously reversed to something which surpasses the subjectivity of the individual. 1989. and at the same time it engulfs everything. but also as an ultimate goal. thus the human individual is offered a cognitive basis for his feeling of belonging to the ecosphere as a unitary whole. in a rather special usage of ‘ultimate’. The term ‘realization’ was preferred to ‘preservation’.the connections within ecosystems denote the interdependence of life forms. Ecology. but is conceived also to refer to an unfolding reality as a totality. Competition with other ‘selves’ hinders the realization. The fundamental requirement for a transformation in consciousness should be the expansion of the ‘self’ to the ‘Self’. due to its active quality and indicates to the Spinozist ‘conatus’ as well as to Henri Bergson’s ‘elan vital’10. pp. Nor we need ignore or suppress the ego in order to broaden and deepen the self in contact with the Self. pp.”11 The transformation of consciousness becomes “the task to find a form of togetherness with nature which is to our own greatest benefit. Naess observes that “many nature magazines and associations should be kelp largely free of political and moral propaganda. but does not disregard it.Self-realization-which refers both to the process of in which the self transforms. How does the transformation come about? A starting point could be the philosophical implications of modern ecological empirical findings. According to Naess. because “we need not cultivate the ego and the notion of winning over others in order to realize our potentialities. 91 idem. having been devised out of Naess' fascination with Buddhism. It represents a development of the personal self (small ‘s’ because it stands to mean ‘ego’) to comprise all living creatures and their environments. 84 idem.”12 However. tedious meetings are required. . “our own benefit” does not open the dangerous possibility of a purely hedonist and anthropocentrist ethic. It is conceived as a process. but membership tends to fall unduly if a stern political line is enforced with pages of distressing news. The term includes personal and community self-realization. 86 idem. Nevertheless.”8 A top “norm”(Naess' terminology) is proposed. They foster and encourage nature-lovers.environmental measures and policies channeled through sheer green parties' propaganda turns people away from environmentalism as a cultural choice. in order to make human desire for happiness consistent with the preservation of nature as a desirable goal.”9 Ecosophy T is the name he devised for his personal eco-philosophy. Community and Lifestyle. pp. thus emphasizing the freedom of the individual to walk his or her own path while having a common objective in view: Self-realization. perceiving nature as a 8 Arne Naess. It is logically ultimate in a systemic exposition of Ecosophy T. This ‘Self’ appears as the epitome of individuality and subjectivity. 85 idem. It presumes the transition from inner-self to greater-Self. One could only hope that this mystical resounding concept could be achieved easier than is can be explained. CAU. pp. this phrasing. “‘Self-realization’ is used to indicate a kind of perfection. 168 9 10 11 12 7 .

According to Naess. Because Self-realization contains the Spinozist desire to persist in one's being (conatus) deep ecology posits that it characterizes non-human beings as well. The force with which they penetrated present consciousness describes for deep ecologists the damaging measure of contemporary world views. It offers a framework for a total view. in which man represents the pinnacle of the development of life on Earth might have even originated in various interpretations of evolutionist theory. pp. This feature is most impressive to the average urban dweller that comes in direct contact with nature rather rarely. and since the unity is of a gestalt character. I will start presenting aspects of the environmental village I consider tightly connected to the basic deep ecological insights . It also impedes the objective evaluation of their peripheral needs in comparison to the vital needs of other species. if we would not presuppose an existing tendency to identify with it and aim at realizing the full potential of the self in this manner.“Self Realization: An Ecological Approach to Being in the World” in John Seed. this tension resolves itself when “from the identification process stems unity. but also on the basis of my own observations during the weekend seminar. Thinking Like a Mountain. 173 14 15 Arne Naess. one undertakes beautiful actions in a Kantian sense. play and understanding. Deep ecology also looks at limit situations to which there is no denying that human existence and those of other human individuals are nearer to us. Does living in contact with nature change people’s attitudes irrespective of their economic necessities to transform it? Deep ecology presumes that “a deep and enduring identification can develop though work.”13 Evidently. the only difference would be that humans “consciously perceive the urge other living beings have for self-realization. 170 idem. Some of these prevalent vantage points. thus we have greater obligation towards them. not out of duty (morally or immoraly). and that we must therefore assume a kind of responsibility for conduct towards others. pp. In this insight lies the difference between deep ecology and environmental ethics: from perceiving nature as indistinct from the self. like traditional agriculture and in promoting appreciation for the spiritual serenity it brings. and justifies egotistic behavior on the part of human beings. pp. the sense of responsibility in human individuals would not follow this perception about nature with necessity. the wholeness is attained.coherent self-sustaining living sphere does not prevent humans from imagining hierarchies which place them above what is exterior to them. The program for activities to which outsiders can participate and become acquainted with the lifestyle 13 idem.15 Further on. 176 8 . I can renounce my concerns about deep ecology being extremely place-specific and limited to those who have the material means to approach nature otherwise than a source of nourishment and resources for survival. or better. Treating mankind as superior to non-humans annuls the effect of identification with nature. Joanna Macy et al. pp 21 16 idem. but as organic and reflex as breathing. a central perspective.”16 Sieben Linden exhibits a model of community which has surmounted its cohesiveness challenge through its members working and resting together in nature.contained in pieces of information available to the public. I hope that by doing so. The village-project plays an important role in encouraging a different perception of physical labor in the outdoors.”14 which should guide with necessity towards the right choice in what for others would be genuine ethical dilemmas.

ranging from visiting the Sunday cafe for two hours to spending a week-long family vacation. and styles of postmodern discourse”18. as “reflecting the assumptions. and thus they do not emphasize it as the foundational value of the project. Undoubtedly. It becomes problematic on theoretical grounds given the paramount role of natural and social sciences in contemporary society. a transformation of consciousness in the manner professed by deep ecology remains a matter for the grassroots movements and inspirational philosophies to materialize. but the caveat which this philosophical idea might be encounter could target its very core. many environmentalists do not find it easy to accept deep ecology as the obvious contemporary expression of 'green thinking'.the emphasis on spirituality and the quasi-religious aspect. and is adamant about distinguishing itself from anthropocentric “shallow ecology”.165 18 Jerry A. the intuitions which have inspired the concept must be present in the minds of all people committed to living in an eco-community.a successful experimental project on display for the environmental education of mainstream society. analytical forms. Puzzled by the affirmation according to which nature has intrinsic value. many of the features of a fullfledged ecovillage are conquests of modern technology (e. not only as an embodiment of the philosophy because it displays a militant voice. Postmodern Environmentalism: A Critique of Deep Ecology” in Ecological Resistence Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism. 268 9 . From this perspective Sieben Linden could be classified as belonging to the deep ecology movement. This stems from the main theoreticians' insistence on intuitional knowledge which comes contrary to scientific inquiry and the primacy of objectivity. which deep ecology appears to disregard. Stark. Practically. pp. deep ecologists posit value-laden statements without offering a reasoned account thereof. 2. the abyss of atomic individualism”17 Perhaps self-realization through identifying with the whole of nature would be too difficult to promote straightforwardly through such a project like Sieben Linden. deep ecology sets its predominant spiritual character to the forefront. Many of the ground premises of its philosophical 'system' lend themselves to considerable controversy.1 Criticism around deep ecology Deep ecology has been deemed ‘postmodern environmentalism’ and Sieben Linden is quite vast. to the right. Jerry A. “Here is the difficult ridge to walk: to the left we have the ocean of organic and mystic views.g. However. On ethical grounds. pp. State University of New York Press. However. similar to the reactions postmodernism triggered in its initial moments. Starks straightforwardly asks How do we know? He affirms in response that 17 idem. solar energy) and the present thrust in scientific research aimed at diminishing the damage brought by human industrial activity and resource depletion cannot be disregarded.

In the section which deals with the social 19 idem.”20 The critique gets tougher. but as a worldview or ontology in which ethics becomes redundant. and political wellbeing. cutting to the possibility of having a communal organization grounded on deep ecological principles. poses the problem of group cohesion. environmentalism does not reach its target because of the necessity of making a moral effort each time we value the interest of a non-human element of nature. but which does not take place in a vacuum. It is dependent on outside society's functions for its economic. Lastly. or we do not. I acknowledge the force of the first two levels of critique which target the philosophical fundamentals of deep ecology. I find no other possibility of attaining an ecocentric perception. Therefore there is no need for founding members to 'reinvent the wheel' and come up with a particular ethic or new a form of political organization in order to keep the problems of the community at bay. Both cases attract a high level of mistrust. Stark takes issues further by questioning the alleged universal egalitarianism between species and even equality within the community: “even if a group of people did share a common spiritual vision. with such implications as the inability to protect the rights and values of individuals and nature due to a lack of legal and constitutional guarantees. If can only reformulate it as a condition of belief.”19 As previously mentioned. the label “nature mysticism” befits both the movement and the deep ecology philosophy. The tension between having a common intuition of human-non-human relationship and allowing each individual to develop his or her own ecosophy based on it. pp.“intuitionism cannot reasonably address this question. Deep ecology is not up against technology per se.either we believe in the platform of deep ecology. are spiritual and unlikely to offer universalizing ethical parameters they would neither be able to derive a form of political organization. While it is not difficult to find reasonable anthropocentric justifications in some cases. there is little in the history of politics or religion to assure one that a community united around a spiritual vision would necessarily be a community based upon egalitarianism. Because they involve a high level of decentralization and autonomy. The village of Sieben Linden has been established according with the requirements of German legislation and its life is far from being isolated from society. I would like to defuse the four points of critique through a display of elements on which the village continues to function since its establishment in 1997. like resource depletion. To begin with. but draws attention to the danger of perceiving reason (or mind) as opposed and superior to matter. but consider them to exaggerate in interpreting deep ecology as fully spiritual and not at all rational. 272 20 10 . such as defending a species on the verge of extinction. I consider the task of community building a Herculean act of social entrepreneurship. 269 ibidem. thus from the perspective of environmental ethicists. By narrowing down the focus to the life of an eco-community in Germany. In respect to appealing to intuition and spirituality to nurture a different ontology which re-binds the human and the non-human. deep ecology is not interested in establishing itself as an ethic. legal. By remaining locked in the shell of our own anthropocentric subjectivity. arguing for its worth becomes increasingly harder under the compulsion to ensure human welfare primarily. in other environmental issues.

jobless needing work. as if to stress the importance of individuality bonded in harmonious communal living. Hampshire. and which can be successfully continued into the indefinite future. 47 23 11 . This harmony in the pairing between the individual and the community echoes the successful coexistence of different ecosophies starting from the same ontological trunk-i. old hippies. A story”. The level of tolerance to differences of opinions could be prevalently seen in the social organization of the village.” Subsequently. pp. pp. Remembering the process of building his community. supporting healthy human development. as the community progresses. 3. Robert and Diane Gilman. defined 'ecovillages' as “Human-scale. UK. students in search of a suitable subject for their thesis. Introducing Sieben Linden In their 1991 book Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities. “The Community Seeker. age or necessities of the members. singles in search of a partner.e. Rules on communication. personal 21 Dieter Halbach. 42 22 idem. fullfeatured settlements in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world. single mothers.). This also means that there will be fewer rules. the manner of conceptualizing man as a part of nature. vegans or young parents share the same house or vicinity. but will not unrelentingly contradict. retired people trying to find a fulfilling way to live the rest of their lives. decisionmaking structures and the necessary steps toward realising the project should be laid out at the beginning. it becomes much easier for interested people to decide whether or not to join. Permanent Publications. in Kosha Anja Joubert and Robin Alfred (ed. Beyond You and Me. Several “neighbourhoods” have gradually been formed inside the village. I will present a few examples which address the egalitarianism in the village's social structure. the founders of the Global Ecovillage Network.”23 Connecting these individual requirements with a special dedication to life in nature.”22 These consideration seem grafted on the core principle of deep ecology: the vision and intuitions are common. and less debate on how to implement them. He also mentions that “internal peace work and personal growth are the essence of community formation. to whose initial suggestion of setting up a new community responded “a fine selection of human beings: half-enlightened. Gilman added the phrase “with multiple centres of initiative”. but the ecosophies which each of us develops from them might differ. 2007. for instance. pp. sociologist Dieter Halbach. If the project’s fundamental goals and focal points are defined clearly enough. activists in need of a revolution …”21 Further along the path to coagulating into a community. Halbach writes: “the group should proceed to develop a basic concept which formulates all essential common goals but which also allows for sufficient individual freedom. Sieben Linden was founded by a man in search of a community. Eco-villages as communities.organization of the village. according to common living preferences. 47 idem. he realized that it takes a fine balance act between finding a common goal and paying due reverence to all differences among the members.

with most members employed either in jobs that do not require commuting to work ( e. translator) 12 . In fact. We were told that the community itself is made out a different “clubs”. book illustrator. it is an association of equal members who own the land property together (77 hectares) and the houses built on it.g. not individualism. is the cornerstone of community. an organic foodstuffs store. albeit the clubs have different manners of managing income and costs. either because they have young children. “Junge Leute”. I descended the bus in the closest village (Poppau) and then walked for a kilometer and a half following small wooden indicators by the side of the road. from cafeteria schedule to the request not to use cell phones on the village premises. or because they are all vegans. They were all German.growth could translate into a resonance between the self. and a space for cultural events and relaxation. in the area provided for them. as upon arrival you are given a small plan of the entire settlement with basic indications for the visitors. curiosity and anxiousness made the distance seem like a breeze. The village acts as an independent-income community. an amphitheater. “Globolo”. grass and bushes. living in the full potential of his or her purpose” ( Malidoma Somé. In time. and very diverse. a small lake and many other places I would quickly get acquainted to. three families with 2 to 5 children. this has become more fitted to receive the many visitors through the establishment of other important areas: the administrative office. a community can flourish and survive only when each member flourishes. the community and its non-human counterparts. Finding one's way around is not difficult. middle-aged single men and women. befitting the expression “from all walks of life”. “Strohpolis”. The plan shows smaller circles inside the village.groups of 15 to 30 people who live together in the same house or neighborhood for different reasons: they have about the same age. after which I became overwhelmed by the first impressions of the place: vast and organized behind a hippie appearance and the predominance of trees. At the center point stands a twostory big wooden house which includes the information center. I met the other participants to the Project Information Days seminar. Expectations. Each with its reason for having accepted the high seminar fee and with various expectations and levels of trust: a few unemployed ladies. shaman and elder of the West African Dagara tribe ) In order to reach Sieben Linden. The community loves to see all of its members flourish and function at optimum potential. Individuality is synonymous with uniqueness. a handmade jewelry shop. “Experiment Club99”.1 Social organization and spirituality “Individuality. Children of visitors benefitted from special looking after and experienced the joy of joining the loud Sieben Linden children who mostly played around the main village square. In terms of legal status. writer. meeting space and also kitchen and cafeteria. each with its strange name: “Windrose”. This means that a person and his or her unique gifts are irreplaceable. 3.

we were shown the houses. in Kosha Anja Joubert and Robin Alfred (ed. aiming at a good balance between the economic. hopes and fears and receive the moral support of their peers.g. However. some work outside the village as well. While guided around the village. Sieben Lindeners have no hierarchy. Kosha Anja Joubert recognizes that social sustainability is a prerequisite for ecological sustainability. villagers share their feelings. Beyond You and Me. gardening ). there is no common “village church”. conducting workshops. to which all members are invited. and also financial security in communal living allows for the freedom to be concerned with matters of spirituality. the social and the spiritual. In an excellent essay which refers to the collective intelligence of communal living in Sieben Linden. My overall impression in terms of organization was that the village has taken all aspects into consideration. a journey or a conversation might have spurred. “Tapping Into Collective Intelligence. Permanent Publications. one more evidence that the village fulfills the deep ecological ideal in practice. which are passive-solar. UK. the pond. but in the surrounding area: in local government. three types of meetings are taking place. or various flags. They hope to be able to gradually develop an economy with more opportunities for freelancers. In the first two. but here and there you can catch a glimpse of small Buddhas in the grass. social events and the community offices. In contrast to the rural areas I grew up in. To facilitate the connection between the community members. in the school system or as a doctor nearby. yet very comfortable. or small shrines. artists. and they take decisions and govern themselves in committees and all-group meetings. but attendance is not mandatory: feeling meetings. therapists and trainers. We were also taken to places of meditation and rituals whose significance was not stressed upon with each left to imagine and ponder upon the importance of these in the life of the community. in “idea meetings”.or are performed inside the community (e. straw-bale and wood. and small businesses. “idea meetings” and business meetings. Both Individual and community enjoy enough space to significantly support each other. they exchange world views or points of polemic which a book. and the aim is to maintain a steady balance by constantly asking “How can we allow for more individual potential to unfold within the group setting?”24 One of the critiques targeted at the social philosophy of deep ecology is fact that hierarchy in social organization cannot be overcome. They need to reach consensus when voting in committee meetings and have no-one opposing an idea in the course of all-group gatherings. the huge community garden irrigated with recycled water. pp. Joubert writes that the organizational (or business) meetings loose impetus and trust if they are not intertwined with the other two: 24 Kosha Anja Joubert.). they are in the process of investing in another building destined to host seminars. A Sieben Lindener herself. the spot for communal gatherings. The Growing Edge in the Ecovillage of Sieben Linden”. irrespective of the importance individual opinions bears in decision making. Hampshire. 115 13 . Currently. 2007.

pp. 3. Technology and society. They become the most important fields of research. As our community grew. our community seems to smile back at us. 131 ibid. bio agriculture. humans and communities are all wholes that are holographically nestled into larger wholes and can be seen as bundles of potential rather than inert matter: nothing exists independently from how it is looked on by others.”26 When you walk around the village you encounter a reoccurring symbol. 133 26 27 Wolfram Nolte. Ideally. based on the belief that each person holds a piece of the truth and that decisions become durable when supported by all. They practise looking for. with the sole request that the others outside be receptive and understand the compulsion behind this lifestyle choice. countries and cultures are surmountable in the light of this 'bigger picture' which indicates our common identity. Sociologist Wolfram Nolte stresses the fact that people learn and understand best from examples and what is so special about ecovillages and communities is that not only are theoretical concepts of ecological social and human lifestyles being developed but their viability is being tested and developed in real life. answers to the most serious challenge of our time. namely.”27 Through the manner of thinking and living they do not represent the solution per se. even straw bale house are the order of the day and constitute “environmental villages by default” due to many causes. Beyond You and Me. The community (and the world) we experience is a mirror of our inner experience at any given moment. “From Local Communities to the World Community” in Kosha Anja Joubert and Robin Alfred (ed. which acts as a reminder that all differences between individuals. 290 14 . villages with low level of energy consumption.” 25 Joubert makes referrence to Arthur Koestler's “holon” concept in trying to identify the sociological structure of their community. and finding. it often snarls. only more pertinent matters that concern us all now show up in our general meetings. pp. in which each unit (individual) is simultaneously part and whole. people need more than financial investments. how to develop an attitude of all embracing love of the Earth and all her creatures and to express this in the world. we redesigned our organizational structures so as to delegate as much decision-making power as trust allowed to subgroups (these work with consensus).a flag with the image of the Earth seen from outer space. as if communities in Western capitalist society 25 idem. If we are in a state of distrust. but perhaps an appropriate word for their type of community would be “holarchy”. UK. Lessons from Sieben Linden To establish an eco-village. the most visible being the lack of financial thrust in the community and the reduced penetration of technology. but carry the paradigm for it. In the less developed world. Our decision-making procedures are based on consensus. “We are coming to realize that elementary particles.2.).“We have all taken a step and are willing to change our lifestyles in order to find an expression for our compassion for life on earth. 2007. Permanent Publications. We are finding that we have power in evoking certain qualities within each other and within the world. An outward comparison of lifestyle between these settlements and eco-villages would not reveal great differences. If we are in a state of trust and joy with life. Hampshire. She writes that Sieben Linden cannot be considered a hierarchy. pp. schools of life which society badly needs if it wants to survive.

to more and more intricate means. and will attempt to use up all that surrounding nature has to offer. sometimes aimless. They justify their scorn for increasing use of technology by pointing out the over-reliance on technology and blind trust in the innovative and rescue power of scientific research. There is no attention granted to voices shouting “means to what?”. but if abstaining from living the life of modern urbanized areas comes out of criticism for its consumption patterns and values. the penetration of technology occurs also at the level of world-view. but only deeper preoccupation with advancements in technology to solve small-scale problems sometimes connected to the persistence of human existence. but a different interpretation of the necessities which modernity demands. because theirs is not an attempt to go back into tribal times. In the industrial societies. implicitly culture bears important transformation: “improvement of technique implies improvement within the framework of a cultural pattern. 'eco' and 'less developed' villages are so much unlike each other.have come full circle and retuned to a previous stage of development through other means and swimming against the tide. This comparison leads us further into a closer investigation into technology's role in modern lifestyle and then to view the manner in which technology is employed or avoided by an eco-community. A great amount of disapproval from deep ecology side targets the manner in which the development of new technology impacts on the lifestyle of individuals and societies. and be more personally fulfilled. unwillingly ecological. from defining and pursuing commonly recognized aims. these social consequences are not given enough consideration. However. and for which reasons. while positing. The inhabitants of an eco-village will tend towards the development of their community's social functioning. This shifts and diminishes the focal area of modern societies at large. The poor village. and on devising more manners in which they can use less of nature as a resourceprovider. as fasting is from starving. To take only the most obvious example of our times: who took the time to inquire about how the experiments inside the Large Hadron Collider will improve life on Earth? and more importantly from a decisional point of view. The role and future of this simplicity depends on what rationalization sustains it. That which threatens this framework should not be interpreted as improvement. A lack of critical evaluation of technique is the harbinger of a society's 15 . who asked for permission to conduct an experiment with unknown consequences for the entire life on Earth? Deep ecology mainly contests these manifestation of culture's submission in the face of technology. and should thus be rejected. With the prevalence of technological devices over human capacity for adaptation and self-sufficiency. I wish to stress here that in spite of the counter-cultural or radical tendencies one might imagine to exist at the core of an eco-community. If it rests on the sheer lack of material means. the simplicity in means will be regarded as a good in itself and cherished as a meaningful lifestyle which is to be perpetuated in that particular community. I still perceive it as part and parcel of 'modern society'. albeit in both cases a simple living is symptomatic. it will vanish when the opportunity for development comes. that technological development brings along modifications into the patterns of social interaction. will always tend to become as close to urban comfort as possible.

and diverse theories and investigations are still thrown in. empowered by the asymmetry of information with 'the masses'.”29 Therefore. one has to appeal to deeper reservoirs in human consciousness. monopolizes the levers of decision regarding technological development. 95. thus it occupied a critical stance to widespread modern technological practices which they sought to replace with what deep ecologists would call “soft technology”. Inevitably. Ecology. a closed 28 Naess. soft technology and the need to have it replace the big. 98 29 30 16 . then this 'public opinion' should be assailed into making a fundamental shift in its current ideology. and mainly for our own sake as humans. this process boils down to grassroots' action inspiring a wave of criticism towards the current state of affairs and the theories or attitudes which support it. this is not a question one can claim the ability to answer. Consequently. Deep ecology does not advocate in this instance a cessation of scientific searches and the stop of technological development.dissolution. pp. What they found so far as suitable to their soft technology ideas are “straw-bale buildings with compost toilets. but have an impact on the health of its habitat. pp. I consider Sieben Linden to embody such a critical statement and act as a laboratory of applied ideas and practices of a different lifestyle. Sieben Linden was designed as a settlement in the light of principles such as “Treading softly on the earth” and “luxurious simplicity” which it seeks to promote on an international level. and particularly religious. society become increasingly helpless. This evolves out of a permanent preoccupation with the question “Which technologies satisfy maximally both the requirements of reduced interference with nature and satisfaction of human vital needs?”30 Evidently. 94 idem. Community and Lifestyle. The project emerged with a strong emphasis on the material and ecological perspectives on sustainability. A technique has to be culturally tested”28. to be able to successfully resist the assault of over-flowing technological novelties which do not serve an essential purpose in human life. pp. idem. which would in fact be contrary to human inquisitiveness. Another consequence of technological domination which deep ecologists abhor is the formation is an elite which. and damaging one will become standards. centralized. but draws attentions to the need to assure that technological innovation does not significantly perturb the social and cultural fabric. which means existing only in the present. A manner to ameliorate this phenomenon would be to “ submit technology to evaluation in normative systems. attitudes influence the direction taken by the technical change. because once devised. Social anthropology and related areas of study supply instructive examples of how ideological. This quest is not without significance. informed by something broader than the modern-times' perspective. If the deeper beliefs and world-views of the other people rest on an ontology which pays no tribute to the connections between the human and the non-human elements of nature and to the intrinsic value of its integrity.

but in order to comply with standards of sustainability trade will be restricted to the nearby vicinity.”32 Statistics show that he the unemployment rate in Sieben Linden is consistently inferior to the average one in its 'Land'. yet natural material. 115 32 Arne Naess. year 2009 in Sieben Linden has as a common resolution a strive towards conserving energy. with “soft technology” or traditional practices like working the land with draft horses-a more efficient practice in the light of the set goal-to use as little carbon dioxide releasing energy as possible. in Kosha Anja Joubert and Robin Alfred (ed. saving 90% of the energy usage of a 'regular' building. they are also giving workshops on how to employ this unconventional. 31 Kosha Anja Joubert. The Growing Edge in the Ecovillage of Sieben Linden”. One other feature of soft technology is the replacement of “mass production” with selfsufficient local production. “Tapping Into Collective Intelligence. 2007. albeit faster. Permanent Publications. Living out of the products of your own labour does not undercut trade.from a wonderful division of living space to a stove kitchen and even a piano. solar energy. heating with wood from their forest and eating from their gardens”. Hampshire. I can testify that this house does not lack the comfort modern man needs. they sought consistency in their lifestyle -from the elementary vegan diet to using horse power as a means to produce their foodstuffs. pp. “Club 99” has been living according to this principle since its inception. this economic behaviour appears extremely radical to a modern society which has the model of market economy and the absolute necessity of mass production deeply embedded in its social philosophy. while one of the neighbourhoods. pp. The practical goal of using very few resources and emitting as little quantity of pollutants as possible brought the members of this club together. the fear for reduced material standard of living and the fear of unemployment. Monitoring the energy consumed informs and instigates the search to replace modern 'conventional' tools and techniques. while the inhabitants declare themselves satisfied with their standards and conditions of living.31 In practical terms. only with volunteers' work-hand and no electrical tools. Beyond You and Me. within the boundaries of a particular community. as they are considered the most ecologically progressive of the Sieben Linden community. They manifest it by having built a straw-bale house entirely out of recycled material. to serve the needs of that community. For this reason. in 1999. “the dark outlook for an early transformation to soft technology in Europe may be especially associated with three restraining political factors: the fear for reduced industrial-economic profitability. one of the major accomplishments would be the building of the largest inhabited straw-bale construction in Europe called “Strohpolis”. Clearly their fears and attention are focused on different criteria than those of the European public opinion.water cycle. UK. it is very well isolated to conserve heat and powered by a car batteries installation underneath the house. Community and Lifestyle. This type of organization empowers the community. For example. Ecology. and pushed lobby so far that it is now approved by the German building authorities as certified material.). 98 17 . by making it independent from a centre of authority or supply.

Deep ecologist militants as the famous American “Earth First!” movement often organize caravan tours and road shows in which they artistically (through photographs.cfm? lang=00&theProjectID=740B4CEF-15C5-F4C0-99FC9EA83F00FB5C 34 idem. for example. “Evoking the Ecological Self”. for those who desire a more intense closeness and prepare only for a benign side of nature. is able to come a close second to living within nature in leading towards this transformation. ’the Earth's sacred voices [and thus authentic human consciousness] are paved over. 226 35 18 . pp.3 Developing an ecological consciousness. in Peace Review: The International Quarterly of World Peace. but neither expresses self-abnegation or a grand sacrifice. But how is this possible in the modern”35 However. when. to keep the amount of soil that is covered as small as possible. 225-230: June 1993. in whose 2007 competition the village was among the finalists. ingenious and yet compellingly necessary to arouse the ecological sensibility of the city dweller. in the words of one activist.“The area that can be built on is limited to 16m² per person. I find this practice so simple. 33 http://www. The measure of setting a sixteen square meters of dwelling place per person indicates that humans who have gone beyond anthropocentric thinking can establish a measure to balance their own needs and those of their habitat. 29 Bron Taylor. It would mean on the one hand non-intentional degradation of nature and on the other hand human life at peril.means and attempts “Most deep ecologists think that time spent in undefiled wilderness is the central prerequisite for people developing deep ‘ecological consciousness’ or an ’ecological self‘that understands the sacredness and value of all life.’ Deep ecologists believe that there is no substitute for a direct experience of the wild. poetry-reading) depict the importance of feeling as an integrated part of nature.”33 we learn from the World Habitat .”34 The last part of this phrase has always raised a few eyebrows. through its power to stand against utility-maximizing industrialism. By exposing people to images of pristine nature alongside those of industrial degradation they hope to convert the individual self of their audience to expand into an environmental consciousness. there are also those who claim that art. and maximising the ground area available for agriculture and other activities. concerts. I perceive this as a beautiful example of establishing a standard of living space comfort which does not thread unnecessarily heavy on the natural surroundings. I often wonder about the practical effects of getting closer to nature of. as the formulation “satisfaction of vital needs” left to interpretation might accommodate all sorts of lifestyles damaging to nature in a variety of forms. 5 (2).worldhabitatawards. performances. 3. it solves and in the same time avoids the problems which direct contact with nature might pose. pp. a very large group of people inspired by the deep ecologists' call. Point 3 in the Deep Ecology Platform states that “Humans have no right to reduce the richness and diversity of nature except to satisfy vital needs.

Unsurprisingly other “methods” of inspiring the participants into eco-centric consciousness. 228 40 ECL. 176 19 . 97 ibidem. Past. in Peace Review: The International Quarterly of World Peace. they aim at softening the relation with their ideological opponents. 225-230: June 1993. change people's attitudes. “Evoking the Ecological Self”. She writes that “there is nothing esoteric about conducting this form of group work. including novels. such as Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. New Catalyst Books. Thinking Like a Mountain. It is only through work.performing “a shift from the shrunken sense of self.”36 One of the most famous rituals in this category is “A Council of All Beings”. and to deepen their motivation to act. pp. pp.”37 The various aims of the ritual amount to a common deep ecologist objective. an identification deep enough to color the overall life conditions and ideology of a society”40 Hardly probable that everybody can take his suggestion literally and get a job in 36 John Seed. to which our mainstream culture and its institutions have conditioned us. with other lyrics in place) or political. The structure of the ritual consists in a blending of different native traditional practices and requires outdoor meditation.79 37 idem. Bron Taylor identifies even “various form of nature writing. pp. which are also assumed capable of evoking ecological consciousness. 5 (2). USA. which includes group exercises in which the participants imagine being inhabited by and inhabiting a non-human form of life and describe the sufferings which human activity has brought them. It is a natural and easy way to help people expand and express their awareness of the ecological trouble we are in. The sense of appreciating humanity as an integrated part of nature and relating to the other participants both in their human and in their non-human 'masks' as identical and a part of the individual self engenders peaceful and harmonious coexistence. pp. present and future human generations are evoked in making a common appeal to their spiritual sensibility. Following on the footsteps of deep ecology initiator. Joanna Macy.”38 While researching into the anthropology of radical environmental movements. 99 38 39 Bron Taylor. Religious (some nature songs are crafted on the music of Christian chants. and help them to “think like a mountain” consist in conducting rituals which “experiment with new ways of healing our separation from nature. pp. nature activist and author Joanna Macy has been conducting such rituals which have the form of community therapy and vary in length from one-and-a-half hour sessions to weekend workshops. Pat Flemming. What does the ecophilosopher himself propose ? Naess writes that “wildlife and forest management. play and understanding that a deep and enduring identification with nature can develop. more ancient and resilient sense of our true ecological Self. to a larger. and other professions in intimate contact with nature. 2007.”39 An interesting feature of poetry or music created to serve in gatherings with an environmental message is the humoristic ingredient that comes out of parodying dogmatism in various forms. Arne Naess. Arne Naess.

the transcendence of certain needs. the land is cultivated only as much as it is necessary (to feed a bit over 100 villagers) and with as large a work-hand as to make the work itself non-strenuous. As it began to appear among large groups. Nevertheless. This new life would involve new types of social interaction. but it would. for instance. makes one very cautious about wasting resources and finding comfort in voluntary simplicity. he introduces the idea of friluftsliv. on a global scale. more wisdom in dealing with human aggressiveness. they have set ground to a village Forest kindergarten where the children are encouraged to play and learn from their surroundings. minimal strain upon the natural combines with self-reliance. Moreover. Sieben Lindeners have dissolved the border between working and enjoying time off in the middle of nature. My conclusion would be that the 'conversion' rests on an initial penchant to accept nature as a part of the individual self and vice-versa.reservation parks. After my visit there. new styles of energy consumption. To present a viable alternative. simple living predominates in scale to industrial development. from technology to politics. 4. eventually exhibit features and regularities we cannot predict from the patterns of ordinary human existence” (Michael Murphy. spending time in a Nordic cabin while growing up. greater care for the physical environment. The Future of the Body. but a lifestyle which does not disregard the need to come in contact with nature through various outdoor activities would be recommended. The less developed areas of the world are prone to 41 idem. Through their lifestyle. outdoor education that discourages competition. but it not accompanied by environmental concerns in the same measure.”41 Guidelines to practicing it would be: to have respect for all life and landscape. when seeing a bigger picture than our immediate existence is obscured by a multitude of screens. pp. why don't we already live in them? As a matter of fact. He does acknowledge that many of the modern outdoor activities or sports involve an high interference of technology. the greatest possible elimination of apparatus from the outside. Closing Remarks “The self-evident break with normal consciousness and behavior. I can safely claim that Sieben Linden itself acts as a centre of motivating the development of consciousness in the deep ecological sense. and which he translates as “touching the Earth lightly. create a new kind of life on this planet. as part of friluftsliv.a positive kind of state of mind and body in nature. I believe. and giving oneself time to adjust from urban to outdoor living before sensitivity for nature is developed. I have advanced that the inhabitants of the ecovillage under scrutiny have coagulated into a community on the premises of an environmentally deep insight. I thus reassert my confidence in the example which eco-communities offer to humanity at a time “out of joint”. but intuitively recognizableenvironmental consciousness. and the selfmastery of mind and flesh characteristic of metanormal functioning would. a Norwegian word for outdoor recreation which seeks to tamper with the integrity of nature as little as possible. pp 178 20 . As for instilling an environmental education. new rituals of work and play. if realized by enough people. 30 ) The present investigation into deep ecology and the life of an ecovillage has had as a main objective the search for something hard to conceptualize. such functioning might not appear at first so dramatic that it comprised a new kind of evolution. Physical labor is performed outdoors (with the exception of cooking probably) and it is pleasant enough to be done by a self-appointed group. one that brings us closer to some of the many aspects of identification and Self-realization with nature that we have lost. if ecovillages are such a great idea.

The tendency is encouraging. We have not “come full circle” through forming eco-communities. and new levels of consciousness. new paths opened by technological upheaval. Going back to the parallel between an ecovillage and a poor village. but are ascending an upwards spiral of new ecological challenges. through deep ecological philosophy in practice.the same man-versus-nature modern worldview in an effort to catch up with the rest. it will take less time to bridge the cultural separation between humans and the natural world in its entirety. given that we begin to perceive ecovillages as communities which herald a vital shift. 21 . I would like to amend the previous statement concerning modernity's return to traditional living.

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