Books  General Natural History  Philosophy, Ethics & Religion 

The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America

By: Ben A Minteer

264 pages, no illustrations

MIT Press

Paperback | Feb 2009 | #179910 | ISBN-13: 9780262512558
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NHBS Price: £14.95 $18/€17 approx

About this book

Ben Minteer offers a fresh and provocative reading of the intellectual foundations of American environmentalism, focusing on the work and legacy of four important conservation and planning thinkers in the first half of the twentieth century: Liberty Hyde Bailey, a forgotten figure in the Progressive conservation movement; urban and regional planning theorist Lewis Mumford; Benton MacKaye, the forester and conservationist who proposed the Appalachian Trail in the 1920s; and, Aldo Leopold, author of the environmentalist classic "A Sand County Almanac". Minteer argues that these writers blazed a significant 'third way' in environmental ethics and practice, a more pragmatic approach that offers a counterpoint to the anthropocentrism-versus-ecocentrism, use-versus-preservation, narratives that have long dominated discussions of the development of American environmental thought.

Minteer shows that the environmentalism of Bailey, Mumford, MacKaye, and Leopold was also part of a larger moral and political program, one that included efforts to revitalize democratic citizenship, conserve regional culture and community identity, and reclaim a broader understanding of the public interest that went beyond economics and materialism. Their environmental thought was an attempt to critique and at the same time reform American society and political culture. Minteer explores the work of these four environmental reformers and considers two present-day manifestations of an environmental third way: Natural Systems Agriculture, an alternative to chemical and energy-intensive industrial agriculture; and New Urbanism, an attempt to combat the negative effects of suburban sprawl.

This magnificent accomplishment in intellectual history establishes the foundations of American environmental thought in the crucial context of its wider social and political goals. - Mark Sagoff, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland "Minteer has successfully excavated several thinkers who deserve greater consideration by environmentalists. He has also added his well-informed voice to the growing chorus urging what he calls a 'third way.'" - John M. Meyer, Perspectives on Politics"


Acknowledgments vii
1 Civic Pragmatism and American Environmental Reform
2 Nature Study, Rural Progressivism, and the Holy Earth: The Forgotten Contribution of Liberty Hyde Bailey 17
3 Lewis Mumford's Pragmatic Conservationism 51
4 Wildnerness and the "Wise Province": Benton MacKaye's Appalachian Trail 81
5 Aldo Leopold, Land Health, and the Public Interest 115
6 The Third Way Today: Natural Systems Agriculture and New Urbanism 153
7 Conclusion: Environmental Ethics as Civic Philosophy

Notes 199

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Ben A. Minteer is Assistant Professor on the Human Dimensions of Biology Faculty in the School of Life Sciences and Affiliated Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Arizona State University. He is the coeditor of Democracy and the Claims of Nature and of Reconstructing Conservation: Finding Common Ground.

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