The Profile of Kimberly K. Smith

TheProfile of Kimberly K. Smith

KimberlySmith is a towering figure in the area of philosophy. She hascontributed in different philosophical thought including political,social, and environmental philosophy. A graduate of the University ofMichigan, The Boalt School of Law, and the University of California,she has set a remarkable legacy by being a resource fellow or acontributor on various aspects of philosophy. Her articles areprominent of the Journal of Political Philosophy. She has greatwriting skills especially in analyzing the idea of present andclassical philosophers in regard to different philosophical aspects.W.E.B. Dubois is one the modern thinkers that Smith has written aboutin relation to her environmental philosophy. Other philosophers thatSmith has previously written about are Booker T. Washington, AlainLocke, Fredrick Douglas, and Wendell Berry. Ideally, Smith has beeninstrumental in introducing a different approach to environmentalphilosophy and also projecting the contributions of African AmericanEnvironment thought.

Smith’senthusiasm about environmental issues is quite definitive of her. Herbook, “Wendell Berry and the Agrarian Tradition: A common Grace”,a remarkable piece that many pundits and admirers alike consider areflection of her enthusiastic views about the need to incorporatephilosophical thought into environmental issues. She brought outBeery’s ideals as a conservationist(Smith 349).Through her book she meticulously analyzed the Berry’s ideas ofenvironmental conservation through American Agrarianism explicablydemonstrated their relevance to contemporary socio-political theory.Her philosophy focuses on the fragility of the environment and thesocial worlds of human beings. Her work on Wendell Berry revisits theessence of living a meaningful life in world prone to disasters andunimaginable possibilities. Through her theoretical look at thephilosophy of environmental conservation she leads the way inprojecting it as a central tenet that should guide contemporarypolitical thought. For most readers Smith is among the first authorsto weave together the ideas of environmentalists with the thoughts ofclassical and modern philosophers. On Berry’s teachings, she isable to intelligently knit together the strands of his thoughts intoa remarkable agrarian philosophy that has already begun prompting thenew era of agrarian philosophy.

Smith’sreflections on Beery’s thoughts are probably the most pivotal onher profile as an environmental philosopher and a critique of modernand classical political philosophy. She examines the relationshipBerry’s relationship to the agricultural and environmentaltraditions of America. In her perspective, Berry’s ecologicalpractices are derived from the philosophy of “grace”, or livingin harmony with nature and the society that sustains its existence.She vehemently defended several accusations from other analysts thatviewed Berry’s assertions as being utopian. She negates the commonargument that Barry based his teachings on the philosophy of ruggedindividualism that characterizes most farmers. Instead, Smith viewsthis as a replica of decentralized democracy, which could havemotivated Barry with her strong assertions. Smith’s analysisreiterates Berry’s agrarian democracy in a manner that befits herposition as an ecological philosopher. She sparks a discourse thatwould probably go beyond the agrarian past of America. Pundits viewher work as an embodiment of a vision that America should adopt ifthe future has to be confronted through the spectrum of moralphilosophy. The journal of Agricultural Environmental Ethicscommended Smith’s work by stating that,

“Thework of Kimberly Smith she get the attention and appreciation shedeserves because she projects Wendell Berry’s thoughts in ahistorian perspective of American agricultural, environmental, andpolicy approaches. Through Smith the world learns about thecorrective ideas that Berry shared for a green future…. Her book isrich with information worth a close read.” –TheJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

The“Reviewof Politics”had the same positive view of her work as a moral agriculturalphilosopher. An analyst had the following comments,

“Smith’sphilosophical analysis of Berry agrarian teachings is not only one ofits kind, but also a unique masterpiece which is worth reading. It isremarkably rich and instructive in nature and approach. All scholarsand students alike must have a cause to be grateful for this kind ofwork.”

Finallythe Interdisciplinary studies in literature and Environment alsomade brief but assertive remarks about her contribution toenvironmental philosophy through her analysis of Berry’s work. Itstated that,

“Anintelligent, accurate, articulate, and philosophical views of Berry’sthoughts and its logical roots”

Anotherremarkable masterpiece that defines Smith as an environmentalphilosopher is her work about “African American EnvironmentalThought”(Smith 151).Her monograph was flaunted by many experts as phenomenal. She onceagain brought a new discourse on the role slavery played inestablishing a relationship between African Americans, land, and theenvironment in the same way that it did for white Americans. Heranalysis of the contemporary African American reveals a relationshipthat was already established through slavery. Therefore, theexclusion of the African American community from the participating inissues and events of environmental participation negates the legacythey already have a right to claim. Smith brought in a newconsciousness about the role that African Americans in advancingposterity through environmental conservation. For the first time inthe history of environmental philosophy, the writings of AfricanAmerican theorists came into perspective. Smith asserted that AfricanAmerican theorists wrote about ‘natural beauty’, an idea that waswell into their culture and discourse just as it was for elitewhites. For a long time, African Americans’ work on conservationand preservation had been portrayedon a domestic scale and notthrough the backwoods as the elite whites did. Smith challenges thisnotion by bringing in the idea of the natural responses and thedesire for civil rights. Smith emphasized the idea that AfricanAmericans wrote about domestic conservation as an expression of thedesire to own land leave freely as whites did.

Thereare many other occasions where Smith has exemplified herself as anenvironmental philosopher. Her consistency is noteworthy and herassertions worth reading. As a scholar, she is among the few who haveestablished a basis of modern discourse about the philosophy ofenvironmental conservation. Considering that environmental aestheticsis fairly new in philosophical thought, Smith will be credited infuture for being one of the few that began the discourse ofenvironmental conservation. The aesthetic value of the naturalenvironment seems to be Smith’s area of interest. Her background iseducation and professional service may not really be inclined to astrong philosophical background, but her contributions throughwriting and teaching are, indeed, phenomenal. Her contributionscontinue to determine the future of environmental aesthetics. Herdeep thoughts may be the most influential in fostering a deeperunderstanding of the value and origins of environmental conservation.


Smith,Kimberly K. &quotMere Taste: Democracy and the Politics of Beauty.&quotWis.Envtl. LJ7 (2000): 151.

Smith,Kimberly K. &quotNatural subjects: nature and political community.&quotEnvironmentalValues(2006): 343-353.

Smith,Kimberly K. WendellBerry and the agrarian tradition: A common grace.Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2003.