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In this book Taylor traces the evolution of political thought about the environment from within a dialectic between two traditions: the "progressive" and the "pastoral." These traditions are described as having roots in the philosophies of Gifford Pinchot and Henry David Thoreau, respectively, and while this tracing of ancestry is not new or unique to this book, what Taylor does with this starting point is both creative and interesting.
Most books which entertain the analysis of theory applied to the environment concentrate on single dimensions of humanities' ethical or economic impact on nature, without a sense of how that particular analysis fits into the overall complexity of thought that has evolved in environmental political theory. Taylor improves on this practice in two ways.