Deep ecology and ecological feminism have incomparable differences. Deep ecology was coined by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, and developed by the American philosophers Bill Devall. It is a movement in environmental philosophy that attempts to tease out the metaphysical and ethical implications of the science of ecology (Azzarello, 2012). On the other hand, ecological feminism is an umbrella term which captures a variety of multicultural perspectives on the nature of the connections within social systems of domination between those humans in subdominant or subordinate positions, especially women and the domination of nonhuman nature.
Naess argues that the aim of the deep ecology is a realization of an “ecological self” that sees itself as non-separated from and identifying with other beings as its’ parts and the whole. Azzarello (2012) indicated that deep ecology has over the time generated much debate in critical elaboration and critique. For example, Val Plumwood in nature, self and gender, feminism, environmental philosophy, and the critique of rationalism has faulted Naess and by extension, the deep ecologisists for the fuzzy thinking surrounding the concept of identification.
Studies indicate that ecological feminism often takes women’s oppression the key form of oppression which explains all others. Sturgeon (1997) says that ecological feminism remains close to the anarchist political theory of social ecology. Val Plumwood locates her version of ecological feminism as the strongest version of anarchism; for the most part ecological feminists who are not explicitly social ecological feminists have not developed an anarchist critique of bureaucracy and the state.
According to Sturgeon (1997), the central point of the deep ecology is that environmental problems stem from anthropocentricity of the human-centered ideological position. This means that though deep ecology has had an abiding influence on a number of activist-oriented movements it remains primarily an intellectual movement. Warren (1994) further says that ecological feminism is a radical environmentalism which incorporates both ecological and feminist concerns, emerging from the global feminist movement of the early 1970s. The proponents of ecological feminism note that there are many links among the oppression of women, the degradation of the environment, and other forms of oppression and domination.
Some of the ecological feminist objections to the deep ecology have been carried out primarily in the pages of environmental ethics within the parameters of environmental philosophy. Keller (2010) says that ecological feminism has begun to receive fair amount of attention lately as an alternative feminism and environmental ethic. Ecological feminism is the position that there are important connections of historical, experiential, and symbolic theoretical sense between the domination of women and the domination of nature, and understanding of which is crucial to both feminists and environmental ethics (Keller, 2010). Keller (2010) also argues that with basis in both ecology and feminism, ecological feminism provides an alternative construction of the relational or connected subject that requires the other. It is important to note that ecological feminism provides a model of connected subjectivity such that relationships among and between take precedence over individual elements.
Ecological feminism agrees that the logic of domination has functioned historically within patriarchy to sustain and justify the twin dominations of women and nature. Keller (2010) indicated that the ecological feminism clarifies why the logic of domination and any conceptual framework which gives rise to it, must be abolished in order both to make possible a meaningful notion of difference which does not breed domination and to prevent feminism from becoming a support movement based primarily on shared experiences.
Ecological feminism takes the position that environmental and feminist issues are intrinsically linked, and that environmental feminism philosophies should acknowledge and address these connections. Warren (1994) noted that deep ecology is an example of an ecological philosophy based on a theory of bio-centric, or life centered, and equality. Warren (1994) also indicated that at the core of Naess’s view is the belief that arbitrarily restricting moral consideration to humans is an example of anthropocentrism or thinking which is unjustifiably human centered. Deep ecology considers the long range dimensions of ecological problems and solutions are non-anthropocentric, non-reformist, which aims at ansering the question at its deepest levels (Warren, 1994).
According to Keller (2010), deep ecology is adding a psychological perspective onto environmental ethics. Both Naess and Sessions, the norms of deep ecology precipitate directly from psychological awakening. Keller (2010) says that Naess has maintained that deep ecology is essentially descriptive and it is simply an enumeration of general principles that persons open to the direct apprehension of nature agree upon. Unlike ecological feminism which focuses on women’s oppression, deep ecology rests upon two principles: an axiology of egalitarian biocentrism and ontology of metaphysical holism.
Deep ecology can be divided into a philosophy of ecology which asks deeper questions concerning our relationship to the environment and social/political movement which follows a set of guidelines called deep ecology platform. JongeTop in ForBottom of Form (2004) noted that the profoundness of deep ecology is seen as analogous to discovering metaphysical foundations for a philosophy of ecology which might otherwise be subsumed as a branch of environmental ethics. Deep ecology has eight basic principles. The first being the well being and flourishing of human and non-human life on earth, having the value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes. JongeTop
of ForBottom of Form (2004) says that the richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
Another major principle of deep ecology is that the flourishing of human life and culture is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease. JongeTop of ForBottom of Form (2004) also says that another major principle is that the ideological change is mainly that one should be appreciating life quality rather than adhering to an increasing higher standard of living. Though all the three thinkers who include Naess, Devall and Sessions had been writing on ecological issues and promoting deep ecology during the 1970s and early 1980s, the text by Devall remains first monograph devoted to exploring the range of deep ecological ideas as a social, philosophical, political and activist movement (JongeTop of ForBottom of Form, 2004). However Naess argues that in different papers at different times that deep ecology can be regarded exclusively in terms of any of the eight principles.
Unlike deep ecology, ecological feminism is made up of twofold commitment to the recognition and elimination of male-gender bias wherever it occurs. It also deals with the development of practices, policies and theories which are not male gender biased (Warren, 1994). Ecological feminism is made ecological as a result of its understanding of and commitment to the importance of valuing and preserving ecosystem. Warren (1994) says that ecological feminism should encompass the recognition of human beings as ecological beings, and of the necessity of environmental dimension to any adequate feminism or feminist philosophy. In this context, many ecological feminists articulate that any feminism which is not informed by the ecological insights, particularly women’s nature insights and any environmental philosophy which is not informed bythe eco-feminism insights is simply inadequate (Warren, 1994).
Naess in his support for deep ecology developed a set of fundamental principles which he termed ultimate norms. JongeTop of ForBottom of Form (2004) explained that deep ecology should include the propositions that all life is interrelated, all organisms have intrinsic value and each being seeks self-realization. Jamieson (2008) noted that ecological feminists such as Warren agree that women are identified with the nature, and whatever is identified with nature is seen as inferior to what is identified with humans in western patriarchal contexts.
Warren correctly points out that ecological feminism differs in respect to the truth of the identification of women and nature. Jamieson (2008) further says that many ecological feminists such as Val Plumwood are anxious to deny any a historical identification of women with nature, they deny the claim that women are identified with nature as anything more than a historical claim about assumptions with patriarchal culture.
It is important to note that even when it is claimed that women are closer to nature, this is rarely a claim about women’s immutable essence. The basic criticism is that the ecological feminists tend to refer to women and nature as if they are metaphysically real categories with essential qualities. Jamieson (2008), on the other hand argues that deep ecologists such as Arne Naess and Bill Devall have argued that the two basic principles of deep ecology revolve around bio-centric egalitarianism and self-realization.
These two principles together are said to make the theoretical framework of deep ecology anti-hierarchical, which includes anti-sexists, anti-racists, anti-classist, and anti-speciest. However, Jamieson (2008), says that many ecological feminists resist this arguing that deep ecology fails to pay adequate attention to inter-human oppression, domination, and exploitation. Ecological feminism believes that the construction of feminist culture is a way to solve problems in the current ecological crisis. Also ecological feminism deconstructs the binary assumptions behind the opposition between men and women, culture and nature, mind and body, and reason and emotions.
Some ecological feminists object to the lack of attention to ecological feminism by deep ecologists by inaccurate and overly broad characterization of ecological feminism, and that deep ecologists have tended to refer to men writing about ecological feminism when most of the writings on the topic are by women. Jamieson (2008) claims that ecological feminists argue that gender-neutral analysis provided by deep ecologists overlooks the androcentrism embedded in the western notion of humanity. Warren accepts that the central disagreement between deep ecology and ecological feminism involves whether androcentrism or anthropocentrism should be given logical, historical or political priority (Jamieson, 2008).
Ecological feminists also have been concerned with the concept of self-realization that deep ecologists offer as the solution to dualistic thinking which constructs the human self as radically different and in opposition to the rest of nature (Jamieson, 2008). Ecological feminists, including Plumwood argue that the ideal of self-realization offered by deep ecology is problematic. Plumwood, an ecological feminism proponent, argues that deep ecological solutions to the discontinuity problem are themselves problematic.
However, Plumwood maintains the notion of self as the self as vague, and deep ecologists slide between at least three different meanings, the indistinguishable self, the expanded self and the transcended self (Jamieson, 2008). Many ecological feminists not only argue that the account of anthropocentrism offered by deep ecologists is shallow; they argue that deep ecologists incorporate andocentric elements into their suggestions of change. Jamieson (2008) says that many ecological feminists argue that not only does deep ecology fail to address androcentrism, it ends up promoting it.
In conclusion, it should be noted that there is lack of explicit attention to issues such as sexism and racism in deep ecology. This implies some highly abstract levels of the principles of bio-centristic equality, and self realization could subsume ecological feminist concerns. In this context ecological feminists have good reasons to resist the concerns raised by deep ecologists when they include sexism on a long list of things they are against, but never get around to dealing with them in any detail. Ecological feminism suggests that an end to the oppression of women should be centrally concerned with ending the exploitation of eco-system.