The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics

Overview

Charting the history of contemporary philosophical and religious beliefs regarding nature, Roderick Nash focuses primarily on changing attitudes toward nature in the United States.  His work is the first comprehensive history of the concept that nature has rights and that American liberalism has, in effect, been extended to the nonhuman world.

“A splendid book.  Roderick Nash has written another classic.  This exploration of a ...

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Overview

Charting the history of contemporary philosophical and religious beliefs regarding nature, Roderick Nash focuses primarily on changing attitudes toward nature in the United States.  His work is the first comprehensive history of the concept that nature has rights and that American liberalism has, in effect, been extended to the nonhuman world.

“A splendid book.  Roderick Nash has written another classic.  This exploration of a new dimension in environmental ethics is both illuminating and overdue.”—Stewart Udall
    
“His account makes history ‘come alive.’”—Sierra

“So smoothly written that one almost does not notice the breadth of scholarship that went into this original and important work of environmental history.”—Philip Shabecoff, New York Times Book Review

“Clarifying and challenging, this is an essential text for deep ecologists and ecophilosophers.”—Stephanie Mills, Utne Reader

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For more than two centuries, the rights of people were the predominant concern of intellectuals and reformers; in recent years, nature has been granted an ethical status equal to that of people, in what may be the most dramatic expansion of morality in the history of human thought, says Nash ( Wilderness and the American Mind ). He traces the origin of environmental ethics from the Roman jus animalium to the radical groups of today (Greenpeace, Earth First!) and follows the new perspectives on nature through the writings of Aldo Leopold, Rene Dubos and others. Nash notes that some theologians are questioning the Judeo-Christian tradition of anthropocentrism, reinterpreting the Scriptures to include the rights of nature. Natural-rights philosophy is simply the old American ideal of liberty applied to nature, he argues, placing environmental ethics at the forefront of liberal thought in the 20th century. Illustrations. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Historian Nash systematically traces the philosophical concept of man and nature from ancient to modern times in an engaging and readable manner. Then, focusing on America, he makes an analogy between the ``ethical extension'' of rights from white males to blacks, women, and Indians, and calls for, as the next step, a constitutional amendment in which ``nonhuman life must not be deprived of life, liberty or habitat without due process of law.'' Today's deep ecologists (those who place environmental concerns above human ones) are far removed from past anthropocentric thought. Extensively footnoted, this is a major addition to the field. Sondra Brunhumer, Western Michigan Univ., Kalamazoo
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Roderick Nash is professor of history and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the author of nine books.

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