Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

Synopsis

Theologian, academic, and third-generation organic farmer Frederick L. Kirschenmann is a celebrated agricultural thinker. In the last thirty years he has tirelessly promoted the principles of sustainability and has become a legend in his own right.Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher documents Kirschenmann's evolution and his lifelong contributions to the new agrarianism in a collection of his greatest writings on farming, philosophy, and sustainability. Working closely with agricultural economist and editor Constance L. Falk, Kirschenmann recounts his intellectual and spiritual journey. In a unique blend of personal history, philosophical discourse, spiritual ruminations, and practical advice, Kirschenmann interweaves his insights with discussion of contemporary agrarian topics. This collection serves as an invaluable resource to agrarian scholars and introduces readers to an agricultural pioneer whose work has profoundly influenced modern thinking about food.

Excerpt

In the mid-1970s, Fred Kirschenmann told a class of graduating seniors that education is like a baseball mitt. You might think mitts are to protect your hand and education is to help you get a good job, he said, but the true purpose of baseball mitts is to extend your reach so you can catch balls you would otherwise miss. Likewise, education helps you extend your imagination to catch opportunities otherwise beyond your grasp (see Kirschenmann’s essay in this volume, “What’s an Education For?”). Three decades later, Kirschenmann continues unveiling basic principles to help us grasp the challenges we face.

In the 1970s, energy shortages, hunger, poverty, and pollution appeared to be humankind’s main problems. It seemed we could solve them if we just deployed the right technologies. We now know these crises were early warnings of the human-induced, planetary-scale degradation of all life. Fundamentally, our predicament can be traced to the gradual shift in our self-image from being part of nature to being separate from and conquerors of the natural world. According to Kirschenmann, our fascination with technologies now distracts us from recognizing two important human shortcomings: our belief that we can solve problems without nature, and our habit of ignoring the consequences of our technologies in the complex natural world.

This volume of selected works spans his career, a career marked above all by a concern for ecological priorities and a conviction that people can and will make a difference if they understand the relevant issues and pertinent choices. Kirschenmann’s themes are grounded in his experience on his North Dakota farm, where he grappled with the sometimes harsh rhythms of nature and inherited his father’s legacy of independent thinking and deep appreciation for the value of healthy soil.

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