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January 2009
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March 2009

Blog Watch: The coal action cometh

See you in jail: It's not symbolism when you live in D.C. | Gristmill: The environmental news blog | Grist.

On Monday, I'm going to get arrested just two blocks from the U.S. Capitol building. I'll peacefully block the entrance to an energy plant that burns raw coal to partially power Congress. My motivation is global warming. My colleagues in civil disobedience will include the poet Wendell Berry, country western signer Kathy Mattea, and Yale University dean Gus Speth.

Up to 2,000 other people from across the country will risk arrest, too. We'll all be demanding strong federal action to phase out coal combustion and other fossil fuels nationwide that threaten our vulnerable climate.

This mass arrest might seem symbolic and radical to many Americans. Symbolic because it's purposefully organized amid the iconic images of Washington, D.C. And radical because, well, isn't getting locked up kind of out there? And isn't global warming kind of vague and distant? READ MORE ...

WB to honor Stegner with reading

Stegner by Berry - Salt Lake Tribune.

For his March 5 reading at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple as part of the University of Utah's Stegner symposium, Berry said he will read from his short stories. Renowned for his novels chronicling a fictional, post-WWII Kentucky community known as Port William, Berry most recently wrote an illustrated children's story, Whitefoot , about a mouse in the woods who adapts to the discovery of an environment outside the old, limited view of her world.

While Berry's undying emphasis on environmental concerns in his fiction has numerous fans, one critic on described him as a "self-righteous Luddite who knows what's best for you."

Berry said he finds that assessment amusing. "I'm not really interested in the question of whether or not I'm self-righteous," he said. "I'd be far more interested in the question of whether or not I'm right." READ MORE ...

Blog Watch: WB essay inspires a decision

Why I Am a Pacifist at

Until very recently, if you had asked me to describe my spiritual and intellectual leanings on the matter of warfare, I would not have described myself as a pacifist. In fact, I have distanced myself from pacifism in conversations with various friends and intellectual sparing partners, choosing instead to be counted among the students of the Christian just-war tradition; to my mind this provided a tidy loophole that allowed me to be in favor of violence that prevents greater violence, establishes justice, or wins a greater, longer-lasting peace.

I’ve changed my mind. Now I am a pacifist.

I made the decision to call myself a pacifist at about nine o’clock in the evening on February 9, 2009. I was reading an essay by Wendell Berry and came across these words:


Blog Watch: Reflection on WB and computers

dreams of genevieve: a saturday morning tradition.

My take on the matter is: you don't have to own a computer to be happy or successful. Wendell Berry is proof of that - he writes everything by pencil or pen and a piece of paper. His wife types and edits his work on a 1956 Royal standard typewriter. And he has produced a cornucopia of books: fiction, essays, short stories, and poetry. I adore that man's way with words and 95% of his philosophy.

But technology - like everything else we enjoy - is a blessing from God. All good things come from Him. And like my friend/teacher, Kemper, taught me (and others) a few years ago, the good life is all about balance. Too much of anything is harmful and gluttonous; too little of the important things isn't so great, either. I'm actually working toward lessening my computer-time to get more reading, writing, and housework done; and to listen to my fascinating husband much more often. He has great things to teach me. Yet my MacBook is a necessary tool, I do believe - for the glorious application that is iCal, writing research, healthy recipes; and even just for pleasure and play. READ MORE ...

A documentary film about young farmers

The Greenhorns.

The Greenhorns is a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farming community—its spirit, practices, and needs. As the nation experiences a groundswell of interest in sustainable lifestyles, we see the promising beginnings of an agricultural revival. Young farmers’ efforts feed us safe food, conserve valuable land, and reconstitute communities split apart by strip malls. It is the filmmakers's hope that by broadcasting the stories and voices of these young farmers, we can build the case for those considering a career in agriculture—to embolden them, to entice them, and to recruit them into farming. READ MORE ...

Blog Watch: Re: WB's inspiring forward and address

Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Listening to Wendell Berry.

The Unsettling of America, his critique of the myopic “get big or get out” agricultural model that dominated the 1970s, was far ahead of its time, yet seemed and still seems to sit, collecting dust, on the shelves of those who’ve made major agricultural policy decisions since the 1970s. And with the same awareness he shared in The Unsettling of America, Berry now offers a concise and declarative message for agricultural planners and farmers alike—“all farmland needs to be under perennial cover.” This is the message he’s written in the forward of a forthcoming book called Grasslands by Fred Kirschenmann.

In his address at the conference, Berry expanded on that message to describe how a spongy sod under perennial cover benefits the health of our land, watersheds and people. He elaborated on the consequences of the present, temporary and highly specialized agriculture, which is based on cheap fossil fuels and chemicals and treats living organisms as machines. This agri-industrial model is predestined to be a relic for the simple fact that it uses up to produce. Enter perennial grassland. In contrast to this agri-industrial approach, which undermines soil fertility and food security, a perennial plant-based agriculture builds, through deep and extensive root systems, a healthy, responsive sod that is more adaptable in times of drought, disease or flood. A perennial plant-based agriculture is also more supportive of natural ecosystems, increased biodiversity and soil—our common ground and connection to all. READ MORE ...

McKibben's thoughts on upcoming protest

Yale Environment 360: Why I’ll Get Arrested To Stop the Burning of Coal.

The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. It’s bad when you mine it, it’s bad for the city where you burn it, and it’s bad for the climate.

Happily, there’s no place that makes that point much more easily than the power plant Congress owns not far from the U.S. Capitol building. It’s antiquated (built today, it wouldn’t meet the standards of the Clean Air Act). It’s filthy — one study estimates that it and the other coal-fired power plants ringing the District of Columbia cause the deaths of at least 515 people a year. It’s among the largest point sources of CO2 in the capital. It helps support the mining industry that is scalping the summits of neighboring West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky. Oh, and it would be easy enough to fix. In fact, the facility can already burn some natural gas instead, and a modest retrofit would let it convert away from coal entirely. READ MORE ...

WB to appear in Chattanooga

2/18/2009 - Conference On Southern Literature Set For April 2-4 At Tivoli - Happenings -

The 2009 Conference on Southern Literature, sponsored by the Chattanooga Arts and Education Council, will be held April 2-4 in the Tivoli Theatre and feature writers ranging from literary lion Louis Rubin to hot new playwright Marco Ramirez.

Bestselling novelist Lee Smith will deliver the keynote address; poet, essayist, farmer, and novelist Wendell Berry will participate in a session on historical fiction. READ MORE ...

WB mentioned in article critical of ISI

With few exceptions, modern conservatism making turn toward ‘myopic’ views of society | The Kentucky Kernel.

I had the distinct opportunity, some years ago, to attend a conference put on by ISI [Intercollegiate Studies Institute]. It was a tribute of sorts to Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, who has earned the admiration of the conservative ISI because of his semi-radical views on the state of higher education, his insistence upon staid gender roles in modern society and his promulgation of a sort of Luddite, low-tech view of food systems and the homestead. One of the panelists, who shall remain anonymous, actually suggested that humans go back to pre-Industrial Revolution ways and habits, including riding on horses for transportation, writing with quill pens and hand-plowing fields in order to reconnect with our core values. I’m not kidding, and I think, furthermore, that I can let ISI speak for itself. READ MORE ...

Blog Watch: Pondering WB & us

The Ochlophobist: on fits, starts, and short reaches..

There is also the temptation, the very American temptation, of taking from Berry & Co. a moralist perfectionism. An all or nothing disposition which rots the soul, as it judges any effort which does not achieve a fast and secure perfection to be hell-fodder. There is a lack of pause with this sort of perfectionism, scarce disposition to cover the sins of others, few allowances, a poverty with regard to tenderness of heart. We have to live the life that we are given, and when we read Berry as moralist only, or moralist primarily, most of us end up under a load of impossible moral burdens. I will never get to the farm in KY. I have no way of getting there. I must concern myself with my own home, as Berry exhorts. In much of Berry's literature there is that call to be who you are where you are, in as human a manner possible, but the overt moralism in much of his work provides something of a contradiction in tone at times, and one is best to follow Andrea Elizabeth's reading and take this with a grain of salt. There is not going to be a Wendell Berry movement that changes America. You are not going to take part in some great motion of social change by getting your produce from a local farmer or growing one quarter of your caloric intake. This is not to say that such social movements do not exist and will not push and pull society in this and that way. It is to say that such an agenda betrays Berry and the whole notion of living an honest human life. READ MORE ...