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Environment: Why Read the Classics? presents six important essays by some of the world's leading environmental thinkers on six of the most emblematic books ever written on the environment.
The books – Walden; A Sand County Almanac; Small is Beautiful; Silent Spring; The Limits to Growth; and Our Common Future – taken together have been hugely important in the development of global environmental awareness, activism and policy. The essayists – Timothy O'Riordan, Satish Kumar, J.B. Callicott, Jose Lima Santos, Marina Silva and Viriato Soromenho-Marques – invite readers to reflect on these ground-breaking works and examine their historical importance, as well as what they should mean to us today and what relevance they will have to future generations.
These books are often considered as some of the environmental movement's most emblematic, and quite possibly its primary, promoters. More than just books about the environment, they are also philosophical, in that they increase our understanding of the natural world and of ourselves, calling us 'to weigh and consider', as Bacon put it. In particular, they make us reflect on the need to constantly redefine the purposes of progress, the economy and society. How we relate to nature seems to be a crucial aspect of how we programme our life projects, and every one of these books inspires a more respectful relationship, both with nature and humanity, and consequently with ourselves.
The six essays in this book are the result of a series of conferences organised in Lisbon by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation with the support of the American Embassy in Portugal. Its raison d'etre was the need to revisit the ideas that have shaped the environmental movement, and so acquire the inspiration to deal with what seems to be a very challenging future. We need to revisit timeless ideas, and these books are full of them – ideas that keep their spark even in our difficult times – and it is this evergreen nature that makes them classics in a number of ways. This is a provocative book and will be essential reading for all those concerned about the state of the world.
Foreword by Professor Andrew Dobson
Introduction Sofia Guedes Vaz
1. Walden: A tale on the 'art of living' Viriato Soromenho-Marques
2. A Sand County Almanac: An evolutionary-ecological worldview J. Baird Callicott
3. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring: A legacy for sustainable development Jose Lima Santos
4. The Limits to Growth revisited Tim O'Riordan
5. Small is still beautiful Satish Kumar
6. An essay on Our Common Future Marina Silva
Sofia Guedes Vaz graduated as an environmental engineer in 1989. She worked in environmental consultancy and received an MSc in environmental technology in 1993 from Imperial College, London. From 1997 to 2002 she worked at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, specialising in environmental policy and environmental emerging issues such as the precautionary principle. From 2003 to 2007 she undertook a PhD on environmental political philosophy, focusing on responsibility and virtue politics. Sofia co-edited the books Late Lessons from Early Warnings: The Precautionary Principle 1896 - 2000 (2001) and Interfaces between Science and Society (2006) and co-authored the Environmental Ethics Handbook (2010). She is currently a researcher on sustainable consumption and on food waste at CENSE (the Centre for Environmental and Sustainability Research), New University of Lisbon. She is part of the group 'Stand-Up Scientists', who communicate science through stand-up comedy. Sofia writes a monthly column entitled Positive Environment for a Portuguese online magazine. She has two children and lives in Portugal.