photo by max wilbert

What is “Deep Green?”

By Fertile Ground Institute for Social and Environmental Justice / Featured image: Max Wilbert

Although more and more people agree that we must undertake massive changes to address the environmental crises, there is disagreement as to what approach to take. At the risk of oversimplification, most solutions fall into one of two camps. We call them “Bright Green” and “Deep Green.”

Bright Green solutions rely on government legislation, technological innovations and structural adjustments. Examples include massive investments in energy efficiency, developing cleaner energy sources, reducing car dependence, and converting to local and organic agriculture. Bright Green tends to emphasize the positive, and eschew anger and fear as counter-productive.

Deep Green solutions are based on the belief that technological innovations, no matter how well intentioned, inevitably lead to accelerated resource depletion and more pollution. It views the reliance on technology to address the crises as akin to putting out a fire with gasoline. The Deep Green is more likely to look at pre-industrial and pre-civilization ways of living as solutions to the crises. In fact, many believe that the quicker we dismantle the apparatus of our civilization, the greater chance we have for survival.

Deep Green sees fear and anger as rational responses to the scale of the rape of the natural world and the destructive nature of society. The Deep Green movement channels that energy into actively bringing down the apparatus of civilization and creating communities based on the values and social structures of the original peoples. That said, the Deep Green movement also values joy, happiness connection, and positive action, but does not value-judge them to be more valid or productive than fear, anger or direct action.

Bright Green and Deep Green do overlap in their shared desire for structural adjustments. The main difference here would be in “how much” and “how quickly.” Whereas Bright Green wants us to ease into changes that won’t alienate people, Deep Green sees an urgency for profound change and that it is unavoidable that this will be a difficult transition.

The Bright Green movement, because it “feels” better and does not threaten the dominant power structure, gets the vast majority of attention in the press and in public discourse. This is a travesty. The environmental crisis we face is so massive that, at a minimum, we need to consider every possible strategy.

Fertile Ground is a community that is part of the Deep Green movement. We share a belief that Deep Green provides solutions that not only address the magnitude of the problem, but also offer a foundation for the kind of community we want to live in.

8 thoughts on “What is “Deep Green?””

  1. You’d call me a Deep Green, but I think we need to use Bright Green to get there. I don’t see how we could possibly get the majority of people to make the massive and extreme changes necessary to get rid of industrial society and maybe even civilization overnight. Hell, we can’t even get people to make meaningful incremental changes, like organizing their lives so they don’t have to drive regularly and then giving up their cars, or limiting their families to one child. Even incremental changes in the right directions would be a huge improvement, because as it now stands, the human race is continuing in all the wrong directions.

    We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we’re not getting out of it overnight either. Thinking that we could do so is just not realistic, regardless of how badly we long for a planet with a much smaller number of humans who live naturally and in balance with their ecosystems and the plants & animals in them. Trying to get people to make large changes when they won’t even make small ones just doesn’t make any sense and has no chance of succeeding.

  2. So when do we hold consumers responsible for continuing to fill up at the petrol station for unnecessary trips, such as for road-trip tourism? How about healthy students driving very short distances to high school? Chambers of commerce encouraging tourism?

    Also, perhaps showing people how it is possible to become more uncivilized will gain the movement further support. One hundred years ago all my great grandparents lived without a refrigerator. How does one store animal products without one? Why do one-bedroom apartments furnish giant family of four refrigerators? I want to unplug mine, but I don’t know what do with the portion I’m not ready to consume. I realize this organization does not have this as its mission, but resistors need to walk the walk.

  3. Nothing makes sense about this culture. Getting people to change is hopeless. Pick a battle that might let a few more bugs survive. Maybe let a cougar live a few more months before being hunted down because a calf was killed in the 1800’s.

  4. @Deep Green Resistance Great Basin
    I fully agree with the goal, and if it were to be accomplished that would be great. But there are two major problems with this goal.

    First, how exactly do you expect to make “the continuation of industrial civilization impossible”? The Earth is huge compared to humans, and a little ecotage here & there will have minimal if any effect on global industrial civilization. Those of us opposed to industrial society are a tiny percentage of humans, even if combined with the few remaining hunter-gatherers who would support us ideologically but who have little or no contact with industrial humans and thus could not offer any logistical help. Even shutting down even one substantial industrial system would be a Herculean task; shutting down enough industrial systems to end industrial society seems far more like a wishful fantasy than anything that we could reasonably expect to be able to accomplish. The only way to move in the direction of eliminating industrial society that would have a reasonable chance of being successful is to change people’s attitudes toward life in general and toward the natural world specifically.

    Second, even if we were to succeed in forcing the end of industrial society, if we didn’t win the hearts & minds of the majority, people would just rebuild eventually and the Earth would be back where it started. The only way to ensure (as much as it could be ensured) that people would not rebuild industrial society is to get them to not want to do so. In fact, the bad human attitude toward all of this is the root of all of these problems, and if you don’t get to the root, you don’t really fix the problem.

    Perhaps humans are a lost cause and can’t be anything but the cancerous tumor on the Earth that they’ve been at least since they began using agriculture, and perhaps since they began leaving Africa 60-90,000 years ago and caused extinctions wherever they went. But if you want to maintain hope that humans can be a force for good instead of evil destruction and killing, that hope lies in changing humans’ attitudes, from obsessing on the intellect, ego, and the physical world, to focusing on wisdom, empathy, and expanding our consciousness. Anything less would fail to achieve the goal of permanently ending industrial living and industrial society.

    1. We support multiple strategies working towards similar goals in different ways. There will be no “magic bullet.” Nonetheless, we believe our strategy is sound and perhaps critical in our current context. I recommend reading the DGR book if you haven’t already done so for a fuller exploration of these topics.

  5. @Suzanne
    I disagree with DGR on this. The only path I see that has a realistic chance of succeeding is getting people to make incremental changes. We could completely stop living industrially in 150-200 years if people began making changes now, as I suggested in my first comment here.

    As to holding people responsible for the great harms they cause by driving: I’d love to see a $1/gallon tax on gasoline implemented immediately, with an increase of $1/gallon every year until the tax alone reaches $10/gallon. That money should be used to improve, expand, and maintain public transit and bicycling, and walkable communities. In short, in this money worshiping society, you hold people responsible by making them pay.

    Doing what I suggest (actually I demand it, but no one is listening!) would be nothing more than a baby step in the direction of eliminating industrial society, but it would be a start. As I said, by taking incremental steps we could achieve th goal in 150-200 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *