The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics

The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics

The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics

The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics

Synopsis

As industry and technology proliferate in modern society, sustainability has jumped to the forefront of contemporary political and environmental discussions. The balance between progress and the earth's ability to provide for its inhabitants grows increasingly precarious as we attempt to achieve sustainable development. In The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics, Paul B. Thompson articulates a new agrarian philosophy, emphasizing the vital role of agrarianism in modern agricultural practices. Thompson, a highly regarded voice in environmental philosophy, unites concepts of agrarian philosophy, political theory, and environmental ethics to illustrate the importance of creating and maintaining environmentally conscious communities. Thompson describes the evolution of agrarian values in America, following the path blazed by Thomas Jefferson, John Steinbeck, and Wendell Berry.Providing a pragmatic approach to ecological responsibility and commitment, The Agrarian Vision is a significant, compelling argument for the practice of a reconfigured and expanded agrarianism in our efforts to support modern industrialized culture while also preserving the natural world.

Excerpt

How can we make our society and our lives more sustainable? What would it mean for us to try? When Thomas Jefferson assumed office as the third president of the United States, he faced a sustainability crisis of his own. The new republic was straining to recover from debts incurred while opposing the British in the Revolutionary War. Although historians of the United States seldom mention the fact, many colonials chose to relocate their businesses after the Revolution, seeking a more stable economic and political environment. The United States’ chief international ally was France, which had endured a decade of revolution itself. Jefferson not only had to find some way to rebuild the economy of the new nation; he also had to do it in an manner that would fend off predatory European states still looking to recolonize the North American continent, should the government of the United States falter. What is more, events in France had demonstrated how experiments in democracy could abuse power as well as how they could fail. Could the American experiment in democracy survive? Was it sustainable?

Jefferson would not have used the word sustainability to describe his challenge. His sustainability crisis was primarily political, whereas ours is environmental. Jefferson’s response may serve as a model for us nonetheless. The urge to live sustainably is fast becoming a theme for contemporary politics and environmentalism, and it is easy to forget how recently sustainability entered our vocabulary and our mind-set. Our Common Future (also known as the Brundtland Report) brought the phrase sustainable development into widespread circulation in 1987. The report was the product of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), an international working group that hoped to define a new consensus to guide thinking on global environmental is-

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