The Restless and Relentless Mind of Wes Jackson

Searching for Sustainability

Robert Jensen

In more than four decades as president of The Land Institute, Wes Jackson became widely known as one of the founders of the sustainable agriculture movement for his work on perennial grains and Natural Systems Agriculture. But Jackson’s contribution to contemporary intellectual and political life goes well beyond plant breeding. Ever since he created one of the first university environmental studies programs in the early 1970s, Jackson has been exploring the human predicaments around sustainability and justice, asking questions that pull not only on agriculture and ecology but also on politics, economics, and culture. That work has appeared in four sole-authored books by Jackson, but nowhere is there an accessible summary of his key ideas.

Robert Jensen provides a short, elegant introduction to Jackson’s ideas on ways to provide humanity with a truly sustainable foundation in grain agriculture, presented in a way that connects to the growing concern about climate change and other ecological crises. Jackson’s strength has been in generating new ideas and pushing the envelope not only on sustainable agriculture but also on the other dramatic changes necessary if we are to create a sustainable and just society. This volume helps the reader to organize those exciting ideas in a way that can expand the horizons of students and lay readers as well as challenge specialists in these fields.

“This is a pithy yet deeply satisfying introduction to the life and work of ecological visionary Wes Jackson. Robert Jensen captures Jackson’s ‘restless and relentless’ style of thinking but also shows him to be witty, passionate, and concerned. The ideas consolidated here offer a roadmap to overcome the tragic condition of humanity at this time in history, although the proposed shifts in consciousness may seem dauntingly out of reach.”

—Scott Slovic, university distinguished professor of environmental humanities, University of Idaho

“Philosopher, farmer, scientist, teacher, prophet: Wes Jackson is, most importantly, the cocreator of a movement—what we now call environmental sustainability. To Jackson, we owe a new understanding of agriculture’s mostly disastrous history and the radical rethinking required for its turn to a sustainable future. A timely tribute to the Sage of Kansas and the hugely influential Land Institute he founded. It’s not too much to say that the future of the planet lies in the hands of those who would follow in his footsteps and read this book.”

—Gillen D’Arcy Wood, associate director, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

See all reviews...

In a time when critical thinking and clear understanding are desperately needed if we are to face the multiple, cascading ecological and social crises, The Restless and Relentless Mind of Wes Jackson presents Jacksons crucial insights about the natural world and human societies that can help provide a framework for understanding the tough decisions we will have to make. But just as important is the book’s glimpse into the curiosity that drives Jackson and the creativity that distinguishes his intellectual and activist work.

About the Author

Robert Jensen is professor emeritus in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully, among many other books.