This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth
Today, we are at a turning point as we face ecological and political crises that are rooted in conflicts over the land itself. But these problems can be solved if we draw on elements of our tradition that move us toward a new commonwealth – a community founded on the well-being of all people and the natural world. In this brief, powerful, timely, and hopeful book, Jedediah Purdy, one of our finest writers and leading environmental thinkers, explores how we might begin to heal our fractured and contentious relationship with the land and with each other.
From the coalfields of Appalachia and the tobacco fields of the Carolinas to the public lands of the West, Purdy shows how the land has always united and divided Americans, holding us in common projects and fates but also separating us into insiders and outsiders, owners and dependents, workers and bosses. Expropriated from Native Americans and transformed by slave labor, the same land that represents a history of racism and exploitation could, in the face of environmental catastrophe, bind us together in relationships of reciprocity and mutual responsibility.
This may seem idealistic in our polarized time, but we are at a historical fork in the road, and if we do not make efforts now to move toward a commonwealth, Purdy warns, environmental and political pressures will create harsher and crueler conflicts – between citizens, between countries, and between humans and the rest of the world.
Environmental Studies | Land Use Law | Law
Princeton University Press
"This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth … is … about how to live together once we’ve accepted that there is nothing more “natural” than living in society with other human beings, in a world in which politics and ecology have come to be one and the same. It’s a book to read now and to think from. It’s a call to action."
—Aaron Bady, The Nation
"[A reminder] of just how capable human beings are of remaking the world, when it suits them."
—Rachel Riederer, New Yorker
"A work of analytical and moral clarity."
"This Land Is Our Land is moving, unsettling, and, ultimately, inspiring – a profound meditation for our heedless era."
—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
"This is a Thoreauvian call to wake up, to take up the long-forgotten work of building a 'world-renewing ecological commonwealth,' forging alliances across all that keeps us apart, but that must hold us together if we are to survive the twenty-first century. Don't just read this book – think with it."
—Laura Dassow Walls, author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life
"This Land Is Our Land is a short book of great power by an exceptional writer and thinker. Challenging, dismaying, rigorous, inspiring, this is an urgent and important work about nature, land, and people for our Anthropocene moment."
—Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland: A Deep Time Journey
"Exploring everything from the climate crisis to the rise of the Far Right, This Land Is Our Land manages to transcend partisan squabbling and sketch out a grounded and slyly hopeful account of a troubled twenty-first century. Purdy ties together aspects of politics in the Trump era that are easier to keep separate, and in doing so has written a book that will be a vital framework for understanding whatever comes next."
—Kate Aronoff, contributor to The Intercept and writing fellow at In These Times
"This is a pragmatic, bracing, and beautiful book about the inextricable connections between ecological health and human justice. Purdy's diagnosis is as persuasive as his call for new kinds of solidarity in pursuit of economic and environmental equality."
—Jane Bennett, author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
"Showcasing the ideas of one of our finest writers, political commentators, and environmental law scholars, this is a wonderful book filled with insight."
—Katrina Forrester, Harvard University
"Purdy has established himself as one of the most capacious, thoughtful, and timely writers to confront the great crises of the Anthropocene. I hope this book of gentle provocations finds its way into the hands of all those dreaming of a freer, greener, more just world."
—Daegan Miller, author of This Radical Land
Purdy, Jedediah S., "This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth" (2019). Faculty Books. 160.