Agrarianism and the Good Society
Land, Culture, Conflict, and Hope
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Series: Culture of the Land
One way to judge a people is to look at the ways they use nature—the land, broadly defined to include its soils, rocks, waters, plants, animals, and sustaining processes. A culture writes its name on land for all to see. Is the soil kept fertile and in place? Are water-ways clean and full of life? Are tracts of land devoted to uses for ...
1. Life in the Enclaves
The work of managing a natural area—a wildlife refuge, park, public forest, wilderness reserve—does not fit easily into American culture. When well done, the profession entails ways of thinking, valuing, and acting that stand culturally apart. It deviates from, and indeed calls into question, much of what America is about. ...
2. A Durable Scale
The conservation community in the United States suffered a loss in April 1948, when sixty-one-year-old Aldo Leopold died ﬁghting a grass ﬁre on a neighbor’s farm. It was a loss not just of a lead conservation voice but of a type of conservationist, one who could roll up his sleeves and labor on land yet who understood the broad cultural ...
3. The Education of Ada
It is early one morning, August 1864, in the mountains of western North Carolina. Ada Monroe has risen and sits on her house porch. The life she has known has wound down and come to a halt. Kinless and nearly friendless, alone and immobile, she has no idea what to do. The solace she gains from books and art is not enough to ...
4. Framing Our Choices
To judge from its popularity, the journalistic convention of reporting two sides to every controversy reﬂects something like a deep-rooted yearning—certainly among Americans, perhaps among other peoples too—to reduce complex issues into opposing options. The world is hardly so simple, of course. Dichotomies are as apt to confuse as they are to clarify. ...
5. Good-bye to the Public-Private Divide
To live well on land has long been a challenge and a hope for people everywhere. It is the “oldest task in human history,” Aldo Leopold claimed, and he was in a position to know as a careful student of the land and of the ways various peoples had misused it.1 In America today, we are having trouble at that task, according to many conservationists. ...
6. Back toward Community
The institution of private property is one of the chief mechanisms through which a society interacts with the natural world. Property law creates a framework for managing and using nature. It explains who gets to do what, and where. When a landscape is divided into private parcels, it is not the land that is fragmented; nature remains an integrated whole. ...
7. Love and Democracy
One of Wendell Berry’s valuable contributions to conservation thought has been his persistent reminder that good land use rarely occurs in isolation. Good land use requires human users who care about land and know how to use it well. Sound knowledge is critical, and so is a supporting social order, a community that can inform and help sustain good practices. ...
8. Wanted: Environmental Leader
The United States is currently seeking one or more national environmental leaders. Applications for the position are invited, especially from individuals, resident or nonresident, who have a capacity to stand back from U.S. culture and reflect critically upon it. Applicants will be screened based on their knowledge, character, and personal skills. ...
9. The Politics of Homeland Health
One lesson that stands out from the past few federal elections is that the land-conservation stance is due for an overhaul. Fifteen years ago, the first President Bush matter-of-factly declared himself an environmentalist. Today, few Republicans and a good many Democrats would accept the label only with qualifications, if at all. ...
Several of the chapters of this book were delivered originally as addresses to diverse audiences, and I am grateful to the sponsors of the various gatherings for letting me air my views. Chapter 1 was presented in October 2004 as an address to the international Natural Areas Association’s annual gathering in Chicago, Illinois; it then carried the title “Natural Areas in Place and Time.” ...