The Educational Legacy of Lewis Mumford and Ian McHargWilliam J. Cohen
With a Foreword by Frederick R. Steiner
Lewis Mumford, one of the most respected public intellectuals of the twentieth century, speaking at a conference on the future environments of North America, said, “In order to secure human survival we must transition from a technological culture to an ecological culture.” In Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture, William Cohen shows how Mumford’s conception of an educational philosophy was enacted by Mumford’s mentee, Ian McHarg, the renowned landscape architect and regional planner at the University of Pennsylvania. McHarg advanced a new way to achieve an ecological culture―through an educational curriculum based on fusing ecohumanism to the planning and design disciplines.
Cohen explores Mumford’s important vision of ecohumanism—a synthesis of natural systems ecology with the myriad dimensions of human systems, or human ecology―and how McHarg actually formulated and made that vision happen. He considers the emergence of alternative energy systems and new approaches to planning and community development to achieve these goals.
The ecohumanism graduate curriculum should become the basis to train the next generation of planners and designers to lead us into the ecological culture, thereby securing the educational legacy of both Lewis Mumford and Ian McHarg.
“For those wishing to break down today’s seemingly impenetrable academic silos, William Cohen’s Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture should be required reading. It is not only an intellectual biography of Ian McHarg and Lewis Mumford, his mentor; it is a step-by-step primer of how to build true interdisciplinarity—one idea, one course, one faculty hire, and one degree at a time.”
—Robert Wojtowicz, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Art History at Old Dominion University
“If ever there was a time to resuscitate ecological planning, it is now, and Bill Cohen’s wonderful book helps us do that. This thoroughly researched and eloquently told story recounts Ian McHarg’s efforts to mold a new kind of ecologically literate planner/designer—inspired by the vision of his mentor Lewis Mumford. Cohen movingly shows how McHarg’s curriculum evolved and changed over time and ultimately—and sadly—disappeared. Full of rich narrative and personal stories, this book not only remembers McHarg’s ideas but also reengages them in educating the next generation of ecological planners. Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture provides a critical starting point for rethinking the content and pedagogy of design and planning schools.”
—Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia
"Drawing from archival and published sources, Cohen examines in minute detail McHarg’s curriculum adjustments. Graduate students will appreciate Cohen's insights, and faculty and administrators involved in the creation, revision, or assessment of landscape, planning, and sustainability curricula will find useful inspiration. Nonspecialists will find the bibliography a good road map to study of ecological literacy. Summing Up: Recommended."
"(Cohen) masterfully sketches the landscape of the ecohumanist movement, its philosophy, and resulting graduate curriculum. It is an extensive, thoughtful work that will inspire ecohumanists from many disciplines, including those in planning, design, architecture, and education, to move beyond disciplinary territories to work toward the establishment of an ecological culture."
— Teachers College Record
"Cohen traces how two unconventional 20th-century thinkers sparked the creation—and demise—of a curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania that would place ecology and ecological thinking (aka 'ecohumanism') at the center.... The author manages to appreciate McHarg without whitewashing his failings."
" Cohen’s book offers a broad chronological and ideological sweep in its attempt to explain Lewis Mumford’s ecohumanism, the foundational theory that McHarg subsequently implements in practice and education.... Cohen’s book holds many strengths. His writing is clear, straightforward, and free of jargon. The author provides great insight into the lives, accomplishment, and philosophical and ethical stands of Lewis Mumford and Ian McHarg.... Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture is a major contribution to the field because it describes the important cross-fertilization of ideas from Mumford to McHarg, and it details the evolution of McHarg’s methods as they developed in practice and in the MRP (Master of Regional Planning).... Cohen’s book is timely."
— Journal of Planning History