Smith, Leopold, and Sustainable Agriculture: Imagining Today's Ethical Human

By Charlie Corwin.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: September 27, 2016 $US5.00

With environmental degradation stemming from land use choices as the context, I explore the current economic system, rooted in Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.” In this paper, I analyze “Wealth of Nations” and “A Theory of Moral Sentiments”—analysis which refutes environmentalists’ claims that Smith’s self-interest is the motivating factor of capitalist accumulation in our economy. In order for a change in ethics and broader policy that may encourage sustainable land practices within our present economic and agricultural system, I hypothesize that we must also include Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to strengthen the claim that Smith’s notion of sympathy can be stretched to change the way humans interact with and perceive nature. Using the works and critique of Smith and Leopold as foundations, this paper re-theorizes the present day ethical human. Amidst a tumultuous landscape, I argue a change in ethics is required to institute on a large scale, sustainable practices that can mitigate environmental degradation and put us in harmony with fellow humans and nature. To ground my research, I also rework Carol Rose’s customary claims as a possible legal mechanism to work with the new ethical human. Lastly, I contribute particular strategies for current social movements, so they may recognize the new ethical self in others and other things, not as divided from the land, but part of it.

Keywords: Ethics, Sustainable Agriculture, Environment, Economics

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Volume 11, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.11-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: September 27, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 766.030KB)).

Charlie Corwin

PhD Student, Department of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA