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Our Oldest TaskMaking Sense of Our Place in Nature$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326399

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326429.001.0001

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The Path Ahead

The Path Ahead

(p.186) Eight The Path Ahead
Our Oldest Task

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

This final chapter begins by reflecting on historian Daniel Rodgers’s The Age of Fracture, an inquiry in the many ways recent American society seemed to fragment, socially, politically, and intellectually, accentuating the autonomous individual and individual choice and discounting communal bonds and shared experiences. It then turns to the origins of individualism, noting the many gains it has brought but linking its dominance to our ecological ills. Meanwhile we have exalted economic growth, calculated by market transactions that ultimately respond to individual preferences. The chapter distills the many deficiencies of this overall moral landscape, including its unwillingness to recognize nature’s limits. A reform agenda would see clearly the need to distinguish land use from land abuse and take on the task as public business—something the environmental movement has not done. It would push new ways of seeing and talking about nature; it would treat good land use as a matter of shared morality, not individual choice; it would emphasize collective and governmental action, not just going green individually; it would push new visions of private property rights; and it would tame market capitalism in identified ways, all while emphasizing, not rights and choice, but virtue and the common good.

Keywords:   Age of Fracture, common good, Daniel Rodgers, environmental movement, environmental reform, individual autonomy, market capitalism, private property, virtue

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