..". an important contribution to environmental philosophy.... includes provocative discussions of institutional and systemic violence, indigenous resistance to 'development, ' the land ethic, deep ecology, ecofeminism, women's ecological knowledge, Jeffersonian agrarian republicanism, Berry's ideas about 'principled engagement in community, ' wilderness advocacy, and the need for an attachment to place." -- Choice
" T]his is a very important book, raising serious questions for development theorists and environmentalists alike." -- Boston Book Review
When Indian centenarian Chinnagounder asked Deane Curtin about his interest in traditional medicine, especially since he wasn't working for a drug company looking to patent a new discovery, Curtin wondered whether it was possible for the industrialized world to interact with native cultures for reasons other than to exploit them, develop them, and eradicate their traditional practices. The answer, according to Curtin, defines the ethical character of what we typically call 'progress.' Despite the familiar assertion that we live in a global village, cross-cultural environmental and social conflicts are often marked by failures of communication due to deeply divergent assumptions. Curtin articulates a response to Chinnagounder's challenge in terms of a new, distinctly postcolonial, environmental ethic.
Curtin (philosophy, Gustavus Adolphus College) offers an important contribution to environmental philosophy. Though concerned with proposing an American environmental ethic, he shows that such an ethic requires an intercultural context. On a research trip to India, Curtin met a centenarian, Chinnagounder, who told of environmental displacement and economic upheaval by Western developers and planters. Finding the dominant Western proposals for environmental ethics misguided, especially regarding the intrinsic/extrinsic value-of-nature question, Curtin argues that though Western social values appear just from within, they may produce grave injustice when exported. Ethics, he thinks, especially environmental ethics, must emerge in situ, through attachment to place. In developing his theory, Curtin makes excellent use of McIntyre's concept of a practice as including internal goods not reducible to external values. The consequent moral pluralism is not cultural relativism; rather, Curtin proposes a critical ecocommunitarianism, issuing from a substantive relationship with nature but recognizing the need to face criticism from within and without. Just that clarification of what pluralism might mean makes the book worthwhile, but Curtin also includes provocative discussions of institutional and systemic violence, indigenous resistance to development, the land ethic, deep ecology, ecofeminism, women's ecological knowledge, Jeffersonian agrarian republicanism, Berry's ideas about principled engagement in community, wilderness advocacy, and the need for an attachment to place. Upper--division undergraduates through professionals.June 2000--W. Ouderkirk "SUNY Empire State College "