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Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 1989

Ramachandra Guha
Pages 71-83
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics198911123

Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Perservation
A Third World Critique

I present a Third World critique of the trend in American environmentalism known as deep ecology, analyzing each of deep ecology’s central tenets: the distinction between anthropocentrism and biocentrism, the focus on wildemess preservation, the invocation of Eastem traditions, and the belief that it represents the most radical trend within environmentalism. I argue that the anthropocentrism/biocentrism distinction is of little use in understanding the dynamics of environmental degredation, that the implementation of the wildemess agenda is causing serious deprivation in the Third World, that the deep ecologist’s interpretation of Eastem traditions is highly selective, and that in other cultural contexts (e.g., West Germany and India) radical environmentalism manifests itself quite differently, with a far greater emphasis on equity and the integration of ecological concems with livelihood and work. I conclude that despite its claims to universality, deep ecology is firmly rooted in American environmental and cultural history and is inappropriate when applied to the Third World.