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Louis Bromfield and the Pursuit of Agroecological Abundance: The Use and Limits of an Environmentalist Alternative

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In the early Cold War years, neo-Malthusian authors alarmed many readers with predictions that food and other resources would fall short in supplying rapidly growing populations as ecological conditions worsened. Louis Bromfield, a prominent author, political commentator and soil conservationist, countered the neo-Malthusians by claiming that modernising farming reforms, particularly involving better care of the soil, would allow long-time abundance to continue. He undertook exemplary projects in the US Midwest, the US South and southern Brazil. Bromfield and his cohort mingled ideas about soil, health, politics and both domestic and international modernisation in ways that call into question long-time scholarly distinctions between conservation and environmentalism, while underscoring how US regional stereotypes fed into the nation's Cold War ideas about international development. Bromfield's argument that conservation was integral to modernisation did not become the dominant practice, and agricultural conservation remains a significant environmental need.

Keywords: Agroecology; abundance and scarcity; development ideology; modernisation; neo-Malthusianism; soil conservation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2018

This article was made available online on January 5, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Louis Bromfield and the Pursuit of Agroecological Abundance: The Use and Limits of an Environmentalist Alternative".

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  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2020) of 0.714. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.735.
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