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Altars of Unhewn Stone: Science and the Earth Paperback – January 1, 2006

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Altars of Unhewn Stone: Science and the Earth + Becoming Native to This Place + The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Wooster Book Co. (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590982878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590982877
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,410,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Modern agriculture depends on pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels, and high rates of soil erosion to sustain it. In a charming series of short essays, Jackson, founder and director of the Land Institute, argues for a new approach. His solution is an agriculture that reduces the cost to the ecological fabric through emphasis on long-term sustainability rather than on short-run production. He effectively debunks many fallacies about agriculture and questions the narrow economic goals of agribusiness. More importantly, he describes a conceptual approach to development of practical alternatives to current agriculture. Recommended. James R. Karr, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Panama
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Jackson stands out among proponents of sustainable agriculture by asking tough philosophical questions that require complex ethical and practical answers." -- Bloomsbury Review

"With this book, Wes Jackson again shows himself to be one of the more original and important thinkers on matters relating to agriculture and preservation." --Earth First!

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By George P. Shadroui on March 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wes Jackson has undertaken one of the most profound efforts of our time: to save us from ourselves. Altars of Unhewn Stone consists of a series of reasoned essays about the dangers of our slide as a nation into corporate agricultural system in which we are losing touch with the natural order and putting ourselves at risk. Current agricultural practices, which have led to the destruction of millions of family farms, are too dependent on fossil fuels, thereby highly inefficient; have narrowed biodiversity in agricultural products, thereby making us more vulnerable to disease and famine; are leading to the long-term erosion and degradation of our soils and ecosystems. Jackson, as a founder of the Land Institute, is trying to embrace this issue in a constructive way. He and his colleagues, including the great essayist Wendell Berry, are arguing for a more intelligent use of the land, citing Native American and Amish models. It is not simply the family farm that is being destroyed, but our fundamental connecton to a natural and healthy way of life. The brave new world of agriculture that Jackson fears is one in which biological and genetic manipulation are the norm, in which chickens are bred without feathers, and pigs and cows are mutated, and animals are increasingly treated brutally, confined to warehouses and feed lots rather than farms. The tragedy unfolding on our land is being forestalled by huge investments in pesticides, fuels and equipment, but the long term cost to us can not be denied, he argues, as we pollute, destroy or degrade our environment. This is one of several important books Jackson has written on the subject and it is an important cultural critique that we fail to heed at our own peril.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Kramer on January 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Wes Jackson is one of the wise men of our time, but unfortunately one whose views are not been considered in how we grow our food and nurture our communities. There is an active movement afoot however to inform the new administration of the other way of thinking. This book was first published in 1987, it is time.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter, "Farm Debt".
"If the government is interested in continuing to subsidize agriculture, it should concentrate on supporting the farmer as part of a rural community, instead of passing money through the farmer to subsidize agricultural business. Without rural community, the money paid as a direct subsidy to the farmer quickly finds its way into the pockets of agribusiness...........
Farm debt and ecological debt on the farm foreshadow what is to come for our entire culture and the environment as a whole, unless we change, and fast. For the farmer and the farm, problems are still multiplying, problems that had their genesis decades and even centuries ago. Most of the rest of the American culture, though, still living in the white light of affluence, is so dazzled by the brilliance that emanates from a high energy society that it is not yet able to see the full spectrum of environmental and economic problems. Until we begin to acknowledge that giving the green light to capitalism prevents us from really solving the problems, the environment will remain speechless, soil will erode, and farmers will remain broke, dispersed, and relatively quiet."

....."Sometimes to cope is to change, but not often enough. We need to have in mind economic models of sustainability that are based in nature or in primitive cultures, so that proposals to help farmers cope with a bad situation can be evaluated against some standard of permanence."...less
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