The foundations of planetary agrarianism. Thomas Berry and Liberty Hyde Bailey

Paul A. Morgan, Scott J. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The challenge of pursuing sustainability in agriculture is often viewed as mainly or wholly technical in nature, requiring the reform of farming methods and the development and adoption of alternative technologies. Likewise, the purpose of sustainability is frequently cast in utilitarian terms, as a means of protecting a valuable resource (i.e., soil) and of satisfying market demands for healthy, tasty food. Paul B. Thompson has argued that the embrace of these views by many in the consumer/environmental movement enables easy co-optation by agribusiness. It also reflects a critical weakness in this movement: a lack of commitment to philosophical principles that depart from the utilitarian premises of the industrial model of agriculture. This paper draws on the writings of Thomas Berry and Liberty Hyde Bailey to identify the philosophical principles of what we call planetary agrarianism. From the perspective of planetary agrarianism, the pursuit of sustainability is a broad and challenging moral, educational, and political task. Berry helps us see that it is fundamentally a project of worldview transition, which requires a new cultural narrative that must rival, in form and appeal, the mythic power of the utilitarian industrial vision. Liberty Hyde Bailey, author of The Holy Earth (1915) and a leader in the land-grant education and nature-study movements, took up the project of worldview transition in his life work. While in some ways dated and flawed, Bailey's writings are a valuable source of guidance for developing and pursuing a viable philosophy of agriculture for the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-468
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Agrarian philosophy
  • Agricultural ethics
  • Darwinism
  • Land-grant education
  • Liberty Hyde Bailey
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Thomas Berry
  • US agricultural history
  • Worldview transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • History
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Environmental Science


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