Saturday, October 7, 2017

Some important books about ethics and the environment

Go to this link at the University of North Texas's Center for Environmental Philosophy, to see a list of foundational books on ethics and the environment:

Monday, July 24, 2017

interested in "greening" your tavel?

Although a lot of factors were debated a few years ago regarding carbon offsets and other green travel initiatives, some of the forward movement on these topics has stalled or slowed. Some entities are still at work on it, however:

Carbon offsets may still be useful - look into this option, especially if - like me - you are concerned about the effect of emissions from  commercial aircraft.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

new book: Ethics for a Full World

This new text by Tormod Burkey addresses many of the environmental ethics challenges of this current period, and asks the grand-scale, looming question: how long can we avoid facing some of the most pressing issues without permanent damage to the earth's living systems and species, as well as the earth's human population?

‘A cure for narrow-mindedness, this provocative book should be required reading for politicians – and those who vote for them.’ – Brian Czech, President, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, author of Supply Shock: Economic Growth at the Crossroads

‘A fine, concise book which should enlarge the discussion on what in my view is the most important need of humanity, an “Ethics for a Full World”.’ – Paul Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies Emeritus and President of the Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Thoreau revisited - and why I turn toward him still

Henry David Thoreau was a visionary, a seer, an oracle. Not merely one of our most accomplished writers and naturalists, I believe he foresaw some dimensions of the looming conflicts about the land and the way human beings use it - and how we might live together on it.

It became popular in the early 2000's to revisit Thoreau and find the man and his work incomplete, flawed after all. Despite our having been inoculated with Thoreau in literature courses during our secondary and post-secondary educations, the early years of this century seemed to give permission to various writers to criticize Thoreau in new ways. (Since he had been dead so long, and maybe in some cases because even their literature professors were also now dead...perhaps they felt somehow emboldened?)

Yet other scholars have unearthed facts that these critics had overlooked.

Donovan Hohn writes in the New Republic: (

“'One misperception that has persisted is that he was a hermit who cared little for others', says Elizabeth Witherell, who has spent a few decades editing a critical edition of Thoreau’s collected works. “He was active in circulating petitions for neighbors in need. He was attentive to what was going on in the community. He was involved in the Underground Railroad.” He quit his first teaching job, in protest, because he was expected to administer corporal punishment, and struggled to find a new one. He loved watermelons, and threw an annual watermelon party for his friends, of whom he had plenty. Children were especially fond of him. Sophia and Thoreau’s mother were founding members of the Concord Women’s Anti-Slavery Society, and Thoreau invited them to convene at least one meeting that we know of at his cabin in the woods, to celebrate the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the Indies. As for family, he lived most of his life in his parents’ boarding house, paying rent and helping out as a handyman. He was very handy. He could dance, and play music. He wrote lovingly about his father, mother, and siblings in his journals, and they wrote lovingly about him, and he was so devastated by his brother’s death that he developed symptoms of tetanus in sympathy."

Rebecca Solnit  writes in Orion magazine: (

"This compartmentalizing of Thoreau is a microcosm of a larger partition in American thought, a fence built in the belief that places in the imagination can be contained. Those who deny that nature and culture, landscape and politics, the city and the country are inextricably interfused have undermined the connections for all of us (so few have been able to find Thoreau’s short, direct route between them since). This makes politics dreary and landscape trivial, a vacation site. It banishes certain thoughts, including the thought that much of what the environmental movement dubbed wilderness was or is indigenous homeland — a very social and political space indeed, then and now — and especially the thought that Thoreau in jail must have contemplated the following day’s huckleberry party, and Thoreau among the huckleberries must have ruminated on his stay in jail."

Travel is another topic with references from Thoreau, and his words when much abbreviated over the past 170 years can be misleading. A famous line of Thoreau's  is often quoted as: I have traveled a good deal in Concord", but this leaves out the remainder of his thought. The full sentence indeed reads: “I have traveled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.” Thoreau took care to head in the other direction - and most of the time, on foot. 

He had his detractors then, as now - and I'm betting that didn't bother him very much. So I return to him and his writings, over and over - a singular character on the American scene, when it was full of ferment and change - maybe not all that different from right now?

Other Resources:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Land Stewardship Project

"The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop healthy communities. LSP is dedicated to creating transformational change in our food and farming system. LSP's work has a broad and deep impact, from new farmer training and local organizing, to federal policy and community based food systems development. At the core of all our work are the values of stewardship, justice and democracy."

learn more at: