Wisdom in the Open Air

The Norwegian Roots of Deep Ecology


Peter Reed and David Rothenberg, editors

An introduction to Nordic deep ecological thought and its impact on the evolving worldwide environmental movement.

An introduction to Nordic deep ecological thought and its impact on the evolving worldwide environmental movement.

Wisdom in the Open Air traces the Norwegian roots of the strain of thinking called “deep ecology”—the search for the solutions to environmental problems by examining the fundamental tenets of our culture. Although Arne Naess coined the term in the 1970s, the insights of deep ecology actually reflect a tradition of thought that can be seen in the history of Norwegian culture, from ancient mountain myths to the radical ecoactivism of today.

Beginning with an introduction to Norway’s emphasis on nature and the wild, Reed and Rothenberg explore the birth of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s. What follows is a collection of writings by prominent Norwegian thinkers on humanity and nature, most never before published in English. From Peter Wessel Zapffe, a twentieth-century Kierkegaardian figure, the list goes on to include Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, activist-critic-artist Sigmund Kvaloy, wilderness educator Nils Faarland, novelist Finn Alneas, sociologist Johan Galtung, and social reformer Erik Dammann. Their fascinating points of view offer thoughts on the significance of modern life and what it means to be human in the face of the deteriorating global environment of the twentieth century. Wisdom in the Open Air asks and answers a fundamental question concerning the ecomovement: what is the role of deep, often abstract, thinking in the attempt to avert a very real ecological crisis?

Peter Reed received a Fullbright fellowship for research in Norwegian ecophilosophy after graduating from Bowdoin College in 1984. He was a research associate at the Council for Environmental Studies in Oslo at the time of his death in a mountaineering accident in 1987.

David Rothenberg holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. He spent several years at the University of Oslo, collaborating with Arne Naess on the translation of Naess’s major work, Ecology, Community, and Lifestyle, and is the author of Is It Painful to Think? Conservations with Arne Naess (Minnesota, 1992).

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