Agrarianism and the Good SocietyLand, Culture, Conflict, and Hope

Agrarianism and the Good SocietyLand, Culture, Conflict, and Hope

Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2011

ISBN: 9780813124391

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


Every society expresses its fundamental values and hopes in the ways it inhabits its landscapes. In this exploration, this book raises difficult questions about America's core values while illuminating the social origins of urban sprawl, dwindling wildlife habitats, and over-engineered rivers. These and other land-use crises, it contends, arise mostly because of cultural attitudes that made sense on the American frontier but now threaten the land's ecological fabric. To support and sustain healthy communities, profound adjustments will be required. The research carried out for this book lead down some unusual paths. The book probes Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain for insights on the healing power of nature and tests the wisdom in Wendell Berry's fiction. It challenges journalists writing about environmental issues to get beyond well-worn rhetoric and explain the true choices that Americans face. In an imaginary job advertisement, the book issues a call for a national environmental leader, identifying the skills and knowledge required, taking note of cultural obstacles, and looking critically at supposed allies. Examining recent federal elections, the book largely blames the conservation cause and its inattention to cultural issues for the diminished status of the environment as a decisive issue. The book identifies the social, historical, political, and cultural obstacles to humans' harmony with nature and advocates a new orientation, one that begins with healthy land and that better reflects our utter dependence on it.