Pragmatic Environmentalism in Land Use


As I mentioned in my last post, I am making a couple of exceptions to my normal practice of blogging about only those resources that can be downloaded for free.  The second book I recommend as great food for thought is: Ben Minteer’s The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America (MIT Press 2006).  Minteer is a professor in the Human Dimensions of Biology Faculty in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.  Trained in philosophy, Minteer has produced several works that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries to tackle important questions about environmental ethics, conservation of nature, and democracy.  A description of The Landscape of Reform (from the book jacket) appears below: 


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 20th century:

Liberty Hyde Bailey, a forgotten figure of 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 – narrative that has 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 democracy, conserve regional culture and community identity, and reclaim a broader understanding of the public interest that went beyond economics and materialism.  . . . [He] considers two present-day manifestations of an environmental third way: 1) Natural Systems Agriculture, an alternative to chemical and energy-intensive industrial agriculture; and 2) New Urbanism, an attempt to combat the negative effects of suburban sprawl.  By rediscovering the pragmatic roots of American environmentalism, writes Minteer, we can help bring about a new, civic-minded environmentalism today.