The New Agarianism: Land, Culture, and the Community of Life. Edited by Eric T. Freyfogle. Island Press, 256 pp., $40.00; paperback, $18.00.

The migration of millions of people from farm to city during the past 100 years marks an unparalleled shift in human life and experience. Disappearing in this shift is not simply a "way of life" for a few families, but the daily, intimate understanding of humanity's inexorable relationship to the earth and its members, human and nonhuman. Urbanism, claimed as inevitable by some and now becoming the dominant way of living around the globe, represents a shrinkage of the "community of life," a blindness to the blessing, sublimity and demands of God's creation. As city-dwellers we rarely see or appreciate the fact that we are biological beings whose health and well-being are necessarily bound up with the health and well-being of the soil, water and air, the flora and fauna that nurture and sustain us. It is little wonder, then, that the scale of the earth's destruction has reached crisis proportions.

What is a wonder, however, is that few see agrarianism as having much to do with understanding or solving our problem. The perception of many environmentalists is that we need to set aside more wilderness areas that will be off-limits to hu­man activity. Hu­man use of the earth thus becomes equated with misuse. Ag­rar­ianism, particularly the agrarianism represented in this collection of essays, challenges this fundamental assumption. To be sure, there is value in preserving wilderness areas because of their ecological significance and because they remind us that we do not live in a purely human world. But we must work with the land and all that belongs to it if we are to secure our own livelihood. The human presence on the land, in other words, is not alien. Through our labor, sympathy and understanding we can develop wholesome relationships with the earth that ensure our sustenance and bring honor to the Creator.