environmentalism plato

Eco-Republic:What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living by Melissa Lane

In this provocative and accessible reflection on the potential contributions of Platonic political thought to the resolution of contemporary environmental problems, Lane (Princeton) attempts to craft “an intuitive and imaginative model inspired by the ancients” (p. 6).  As a work in political theory, the book offers new insights into Plato and contemporary debates regarding climate change as well. The book is divided into three coherent parts, each focusing on a central aspect of her interpretation. Part one is devoted to inertia, a critique of the limitation of our current approaches to everyday life and the environment. Instead of a simple refutation of current attitudes, Lane argues for improvement, suggesting the West can be “saved from itself” (p. 43). Part two addresses how an improvement in our thinking about politics and society through a revitalized imagination can help offer new approaches to resolving environmental dilemmas. Her use and explication of a moral imagination would have benefited greatly from the integration of the work of a greater variety of theorists. Lane’s erudite integration of Plato’s Republic is a significant accomplishment. Part three deals with initiative, or how we can respond to change. Lane argues that we must change, but how we respond to the change is the most important consideration.

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