Our Oldest Task: Making Sense of Our Place in Nature


Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
5.9 X 1.0 X 9.1 inches | 1.1 pounds
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About the Author

Eric T. Freyfogle is the Maybelle Leland Swanlund Endowed Chair and professor of law emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is also long associated with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, A Good That Transcends: How US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


"How we reconcile the paradox of the existential natural resource and wildlife crises we face--including the emerging sixth extinction--at a time when humans are less connected with nature than at any time in recorded history will determine our trajectory for centuries. While most writing on these topics jumps directly into scientific findings and policy prescriptions, Freyfogle astutely challenges us to first understand how our culture and values have exacerbated our ecological crises and limit our ability to develop enduring solutions. Our Oldest Task rightly asserts that the only way that we, as a people, can restore what Aldo Leopold called 'the harmony between men and land' is to recognize our interdependence upon each other and nature--and then rebuild the land ethic necessary to catalyze collective action at a scale that matches the magnitude of our natural resource crises."--Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation
"Freyfogle has become a valuable contributor to a broad discourse about environmental challenges that is deep-probing, historically informed, and wise in prescriptions. In this important book, he pushes us one step further into understanding how and why we have so many environmental problems and what their 'solution' will require in the largest cultural sense. Clearly and logically organized, written without jargon but also without oversimplification, Our Oldest Task provides an important critique of American and other modern cultures and of the environmental movement within those cultures. In a way, Freyfogle wants to modernize conservatism, giving it more ecological sensitivity and making it less hierarchical in outlook, as well as emphasize communitarian values that would replace the dominant individualistic ethos of the past 200 years. His call for more substantial philosophical reflection is much needed."--Donald Worster, University of Kansas "author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir"
"Our Oldest Task is clearly our most urgent task. This book is an incisive critique of modern Western individualism as an adequate basis for environmental ethics and cultural reform. Freyfogle argues persuasively for an integrated community of life ethics that provides a long-term perspective for ecological health and well-being. This is a unique and valuable book and deserves to be read widely."--Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology "author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir"