Pragmatism for philosophy, economics, and environmental policy

Plan Author

  • Isaac Lawrence, 2010

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: Institutional Economics and Collective Action
  • Tutorial: Collaborative Planning in the Northern Forest; Environmental Pragmatism
  • Course: Modern Philosophy
  • Course: Wildlife Policy, Law, and Values

Project Description

An interdisciplinary study of environmental management with a focus on collaborative, place-based, and adaptive planning.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluators

  • Jan Dizard, Amherst College
  • Charles Hamilton, Houston Professor in American Culture (sociology); co-Chair of Environmental Studies


Sustainable management of natural resources is critical to the long-term success of any economy. Without careful environmental planning that ensures a sustainable supply of raw materials, economic activity will eventually deplete natural resource stocks and collapse. In addition to providing economic value, agrarian philosophies assert that proper stewardship of natural and agricultural resources makes societies healthier and happier. This Plan studies how environmental management organizations have applied these two perspectives to create pragmatic environmental plans.

Drawing on the author’s experience studying conservation easements with the Vermont Land Trust, this plan examines how public/private partnerships can use economics to advance agrarian philosophy. Common-pool resources, such as fisheries and forests, provide an example of how agrarianism and economics can coexist: as biomass resources can only provide long-term value when sustainably managed, their economic use is intrinsically tied to their preservation. The Plan’s final paper examines land use planning proposals put forth by the Northern Forest Land Council in 1994 through the lens of pragmatic environmental planning, and explores how we evaluate the success of land management programs.


“When the Vermont Land Trust buys development rights, they pay the difference (roughly) between the developable value of the land and its value in whatever uses will be retained by the landowner (say, agriculture). In areas that are at high risk for development, this difference can be a large one – for struggling farmers, such a windfall can mean the difference between staying in and getting out of farming.”

“Environmental philosophy gives us two basic kinds of values that individuals hold for the environment: instrumental and intrinsic. By calculating these two values, the argument goes, we can take account of all the ways we value the natural world.”