Deep Ecology: Thinking Like a MountainJune 26, 2021
“Think like a mountain!” warning is closely related to the concept of “deep ecology” introduced by the Norwegian philosopher and environmentalist Arne Naess in 1973.
He uses this concept to emphasize his belief that if we want to prevent an environmental catastrophe, we must first accept that we are a part of nature and cannot be separated from it. However, the idea of thinking like a mountain dates back to 1949, when the American environmentalist Aldo Leopold expressed it in his “Sand Region Almanac”.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Leopold, a forester in New Mexico, shoots a she-wolf at the foot of the mountain. Leopold writes that they “came near the wolf when the angry green fire in his eyes was about to die out” and adds:
“That’s when I realized there was something new to me in those eyes, but very familiar to him and the mountain, and it never left my mind from that moment on.”
It is from this experience that Leopold’s idea that we should think like a mountain, taking into account not only the needs of ourselves and our fellow humans, but also the needs of all nature, comes from this experience. Leopold says that we often overlook the broader implications of our actions and look only to our immediate interests.
“Thinking like a mountain” means identifying with a wider environment and recognizing its role in our lives.
Naess takes Leopold’s idea and uses it to bolster his own idea of ”deep ecology.” It means that we protect our environment only when we undergo a transformation of the kind that happened to Leopold. Naess encourages us to see ourselves as part of the biosphere.
Instead of seeing the world with a sense of separation, it reminds us that we must find our place in nature by knowing the essential values of all the elements of the world we live in. Naess introduces the “ecological self”; it is a sense of self that stems from the awareness of our relationship with the “large community of all living things”.
He argues that expanding our identification with the world to include wolves, frogs, spiders, and perhaps even mountains will lead to a happier and more meaningful life.
Naess’ deep ecology has had a powerful impact on environmental philosophy and the development of environmental activism.
For those of us who live in the city, it may seem very difficult, even impossible, to engage with an ecological self. It is still possible. As Zen master Robert Aitken Roshi wrote in 1984:
“When one thinks like a mountain, one also thinks like a black bear; so much that honey drops run down your fur as you rush to the bus to work.”
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook