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Nature and the Environment in Amish Life

, 312 pages

32 b&w photos, 1 map, 1 figure

September 2018



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Nature and the Environment in Amish Life


The pastoral image of Amish communities living simply and in touch with the land strikes a deep chord with many Americans. Environmentalists have lauded the Amish as iconic models for a way of life that is local, self-sufficient, and in harmony with nature. But the Amish themselves do not always embrace their ecological reputation, and critics have long questioned the portrayal of the Amish as models of environmental stewardship.

In Nature and the Environment in Amish Life, David L. McConnell and Marilyn D. Loveless examine how this prevailing notion of the environmentally conscious Amish fits with the changing realities of their lives. Drawing on 150 interviews conducted over the course of 7 years, as well as a survey of household resource use among Amish and non-Amish people, they explore how the Amish understand nature in their daily lives and how their actions impact the natural world. Arguing that there is considerable diversity in Amish engagements with nature at home, at school, at work, and outdoors, McConnell and Loveless show how the Amish response to regional and global environmental issues, such as watershed pollution and climate change, reveals their deep skepticism of environmentalists. They also demonstrate that Amish households are not uniformly lower in resource use compared to their rural, non-Amish neighbors, though aspects of their home economy are relatively self-sufficient.

The first comprehensive study of Amish understandings of the natural world, this compelling book complicates the image of the Amish and provides a more realistic understanding of the Amish relationship with the environment.

David L. McConnell is a professor of anthropology at the College of Wooster. He is a coauthor of An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community. Marilyn D. Loveless is emeritus professor of biology at the College of Wooster.

"Highly original and substantial; there is no other book devoted entirely to examining Amish relations to nature. Writing in a lively, clear, and engaging way, McConnell and Loveless highlight the diversity of beliefs and behaviors within the category of people known as the Amish."

"McConnell and Loveless break new ground, presenting readers with a comprehensive narrative on a full range of Amish beliefs and practices about the environment, from agriculture and forestry to hunting and birding. Nowhere before has any single book discussed these topics so comprehensively."

"This social-scientific study provides a fascinating window into, and judicious analysis of, the complex relationships between the Amish and their environment-related beliefs and practices. I highly recommend this volume both for its insights and as a model for mixed-methods research."

"This trailblazing study shatters long-held stereotypes of Amish life. Loveless and McConnell's cross-disciplinary insights show the complexity of Amish entanglements with the natural environment. A spectacular achievement for its breadth, depth, readability, and nuanced scholarship."

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