Noted environmental activist David Orton dies at 77

Orton espoused deep ecology and left biocentrism

David Orton on his farm in Pictou County

David Orton on his farm in Pictou County
  • David Orton on his farm in Pictou County

Writer, philosopher and longtime “deep green” environmental activist, David Orton died at his home in Watervale, Pictou County on Thursday. He was 77. Orton had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in March.

During his lifetime, Orton fought many battles against what he saw as destructive environmental practices. He campaigned vigorously, for example, against the widespread use of off-road, all-terrain vehicles; against forestry practices such as clear cutting; against the installation of industrial wind turbines, against the slaughter of seals and against uranium mining. Underpinning his activism was a belief in deep ecology, a movement with a platform that says all forms of life have inherent value and that human beings have no right to reduce the “richness and diversity” of other life forms “except to satisfy vital needs.”

Orton’s main contribution to deep ecology was his work in helping to develop what he called “left biocentrism,” a philosophical approach that blends environmental ethics with left-wing causes such as the fight for social justice. Left biocentrism opposes capitalism, economic growth and consumerism. “An industrial capitalist society, that does not recognize ecological limits but only perpetual economic expansion and has the profit motive as driver, will eventually consume and destroy itself,” Orton wrote. “But we will all be taken down with it.”

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