The Decline of Nature
The Decline of Nature captures the history of Western civilization’s ecological impact and the worldviews that shaped this outcome. LaFreniere examines both the idea of Providence (Christian worldview) and the idea of Progress (technological/capitalist worldview) as the foundation for civilization’s use and abuse of Nature.
by Gilbert F. LaFreniere
ISBN 978-0-9748668-5-7; 6 x 9 trade paperback; 457 pages; foreword by Max Oelschlaeger; endnotes; list of sources; index.
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Praise for The Decline of Nature
“The Decline of Nature . . . is clearly an important book, much needed in this period of the greening of Western thought, and I’ll be studying it with care.”
Edward O. Wilson
In a letter to the author from Professor David Orr: “I found The Decline of Nature a treasure trove of information and cogent perspective drawn from a remarkable range of source material. I am going back to read Spengler and others that you cited. I thank you for sending me a copy and for the dedication and effort you put into the research and writing. I consider it to be a classic and hope it has the large audience that it deserves.”
David Orr, Oberlin College, author of Ecological Literacy
“No book could be more timely… LaFreniere offers an in-depth analysis of the fundamental issues that must be faced if solutions for the environmental crisis are to be found. His arguments are a refreshing alternative to the superficial policy proposals of politicians and the glib reporting of the mass media… The Decline of Nature is a masterful critique of the stories that own us. LaFreniere’s analytical effort is a veritable tour de force.”
From the Foreword by Professor Max Oelschlaeger, Northern Arizona University
“…The Decline of Nature’s rally against entrenched destructive ideologies is a significant contribution to environmental history. The very ideas of providence and progress have split modern Western civilization between beliefs—Judeo-Christianity’s disregard for nature and imperial capitalism’s drive for development create inherent cultural conflict in regard to the environment. LaFreniere’s idea of an environmental metanoia, a dismantling of traditional myths in favor of a worldview that incorporates recent ecological and historical knowledge of nature, has the potential for stopping further ecological destruction and the unrealistic theories behind such exploitation. Such a change in worldview could prove crucial as the Western world approaches environmental challenges, such as renewable energy, in the new century.”
Kara M. Schlichting in Environmental Ethics book review, Winter, 2011
“In The Decline of Nature, Gilbert LaFreniere presents a comprehensive survey of Western philosophical thought on nature and history in the light of the contemporary understanding of environmental history. In a brilliant sweep from the early Near East, Greece and Rome through Medieval and Modern times to the present-day trials of environmentalism, LaFreniere highlights the most important themes and relates them to the changes that humans were making in the natural environment. Finally, he makes an excellent case that a change in the dominant paradigm to an ecological world view is necessary if humankind is to alter our present disastrous pattern of conflict and resource depletion. For anyone desiring depth and perspective on the dichotomy between understanding in the philosophical sphere and action in the environmental sphere, this book is essential reading.”
J. Donald Hughes, John Evans Distinguished Professor, University of Denver
“The virtue of his book is threefold: it ingeniously connects the latest findings of environmental science to the broad stream of cultural history; exposes the flaws inherent in Western attitudes about nature, especially the destructive, providential ‘idea of nature’; and revives the much neglected field of speculative philosophy of history.”
Professor Klaus Fischer, author of Oswald Spengler and the Decline of the West and Nazi Germany: A New History
“Why is our species, so intelligent and so thoughtful, wrecking the planet? Historian and geologist Gilbert LaFreniere has the answer to that question. As a scholar equally at home in the complexities of classical philosophy and climate change, he offers us an extraordinarily insightful view. Conservationists and environmentalists, read and heed…”
Ben Gadd, Canadian naturalist and author
About The Author
Gilbert F. LaFreniere is Professor Emeritus of Geology and Environmental Science at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He taught geology, environmental ethics, and environmental history for more than twenty-five years and holds an advanced degree in geology from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in intellectual history from UC Santa Barbara.
His intellectual research focused on French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and his idea of progress. LaFreniere has extensively explored the natural history of Europe, New England, California, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada.
Among his other publications are the book Jean Jacques Rousseau and the Idea of Progress (1976) and articles in Environmental History Review, Agriculture and Human Values, and The Trumpeter.