Published Papers (Peer-Reviewed)

Koutnik, Gregory. 2020. “Aldo Leopold and the Stewardship Vocation: A Civic Education in Ecological Perception.” American Political Thought, 9.2 (Spring 2020), 235-263.


Published Papers

Koutnik, Gregory. 2021. “Ecological Populism: Politics in Defense of Home.” New Political Science, 43.1 (Spring 2021), 46-66.


Book Reviews

Koutnik, Gregory. 2020. “This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth, by Jedediah Purdy.” American Political Thought, 9.3 (Summer 2020), 489-493.



Title: In Defense of Home: The Politics of Ecological Belonging


Committee: Jeffrey Green (Chair), Anne Norton, Loren Goldman

Key Topics: Environmental Political Theory; Environmental Politics; Property and Law; Green Political Economy; Place and Belonging; Populism; Agrarianism


My dissertation, In Defense of Home: The Politics of Ecological Belonging, offers an original approach to environmental political theory by exploring a phenomenon I call “ecological belonging” in which people come to feel at home in their environs through experiences of value and attachment. I argue that a viable popular environmental politics must avoid the anti-economism, anti-humanism, and elitism of prevalent strains of environmental criticism while nonetheless directly confronting the economic institutions and doctrines that prize unrestrained development at the expense of ecological health and human flourishing.

First, drawing especially on John Locke, Karl Polanyi, Margaret Radin, and Wendell Berry, I critique the dominant economic paradigm of growth and accumulation (I call this “developmentalism”) while also emphasizing the need to defend non-fungible property like the homes and habitats that developmentalism threatens. Second, I turn to the eminent conservationist Aldo Leopold for a vision of environmental stewardship that offers a sense of human purpose in nature while demanding a robust commitment to protecting natural habitats for their own sake. Third, I offer an approach to emotional attachments to environmental homeplaces that incorporates the rootedness and mobility inherent in the human relationship to home, speaking to the experiences of both the ecological refugee and the rooted resident. Finally, I draw on the legacy of 19th-century American populism to develop an ecological populism in which everyday people act to curb developmentalist policies in defense of the places they call home.