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An Ecological Foundation

An Ecological Foundation

(p.113) Five An Ecological Foundation
Our Oldest Task
Eric T. Freyfogle
University of Chicago Press

This chapter begins the process of distinguishing land use from land abuse and constructing an overall normative frame for understanding nature. It begins by noting how U.S. property law in the nineteenth century evolved to allow more intensive land uses and largely dropped all mention of the rights of communities. Rising ever higher was the autonomous individual, detached from nature and the social community and linked to the market to satisfy desires. The cultural path ahead needs to change this focus; to understand people as embedded in land communities and dependent for their long-term flourishing on the health and resilience of their home communities. Linked to this value should be an acceptance of the limits on our knowledge and the wisdom of acting with precaution and using nature as our measure. At the same time, we have good reasons to protect islands of wildness where we go beyond health and resilience to maintain biological diversity (integrity). The chapter ends by surveying the many reasons to value other life forms. The assessment challenges the assumption of animal-welfare advocates that we can value other species only as they resemble humans: as value-creating creatures we can create value as we see fit.

Keywords:   animal welfare, biological diversity, ecological integrity, ecological resilience, ecological wholes, land community, land health, nature as measure, value creation

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