Environmental Ethics

Volume 21, Issue 4, Winter 1999

Mick Smith
Pages 359-376

To Speak of Trees
Social Constructivism, Environmental Values, and the Future of Deep Ecology

The power and the promise of deep ecology is seen, by its supporters and detractors alike, to lie in its claims to speak on behalf of a natural world threatened by human excesses. Yet, to speak of trees as trees or nature as something worthy of respect in itself has appeared increasingly difficult in the light of social constructivist accounts of “nature.” Deep ecology has been loath to take constructivism’s insights seriously, retreating into forms of biological objectivism and reductionism. Yet, deep ecology actually has much in common with, and much to gain from, some varieties of constructivism and can add a new dimension to constructivism’s own critique of current ideologies.