Blog Watch: WB and water
Blog Watch: WB and roads

A place for the critical

This recent Comments exchange seems significant enough for me to post it generally for wider consideration. Several people have commented positively on this site's linking to recent blog posts that are critical of Mr. Berry's thought. I appreciate that, but am also attentive to those who think such negative takes on WB should have no place here. Smith's comment is very helpful to me.

Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky: Blog Watch: A problem with WB.
Is this the third rant from this "terrierman" that has been linked to from this page lately? Who is this blogger-nobody who thinks he can touch the modern-day Emerson that is Mr. Wendell Berry? Stop giving him attention.
Posted by: Smith | 07/31/2009 at 01:52 AM

Hello! A little looking around tells us that "terrierman" is one Patrick Burns, who has written a book called "American Working Terriers."

 One of my (of course self-defined) missions with this site, "Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky," has been to make easily accessible whatever WB-related material may appear on the web. And I get to make the call on what is substantial, relevant, and interesting among the various things that pop up. But I don't assume that readers here will always agree with my editorial choices.

My experience with WB material on the web has shown that the vastest amount of it is respectful of the man and his work; some of it is worshipful; much is redundant. But only a very small portion is critical to the degree that Mr. Burns' posts have been.

If Mr. Burns were being blatantly obscene or ignorant in his posting, I'd have no problem with ignoring him. But he is clearly trying to construct a rational explanation of some flaws he sees in Mr. Berry's thought (as he understands it). If we find flaws in Mr. Burns' thought, we should probably point them out ... as Brad East has done so well at ... point them out or ignore them as we choose.

Thanks very much for raising this issue. Maybe it's time for me to be more explicit about my intentions and editorial policies behind this site. As all-consumed as it is with "Everything WB" ... and maybe because of this ... it is not a cultic shrine. I don't believe Mr. Berry would want it to be.
Posted by: brtom | 07/31/2009 at 08:33 AM


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Smith - "if indeed that is your name" -- does not have too much to say, does he?

Poor thing.

Does he want a biography on me? Send me an email, with your real name, I will happily send it. For the record, I used to work for one of the largest environmental organizations in the U.S., and on habitat issues no less. While it is true that I do not have too much time to waste on anonymous cowards and trolls, I always take the time to discuss solid data sets and the reasonable (if sometimes diverging) conclusions that can be reached by actually looking at them.

Since Mr. (or Ms.) Smith does not seem to have any data sets, he (or she) might find a review of the numbers a good place to start.

For that, see "Organic and Local Farming by the Numbers" at >>

As for BRTOM, a hat's off to you for understanding that truth rarely suffers in a free and open discussion based on science and fact. A melding of Literacy and Numeracy is how you get good Policy. My criticism with Berry is not that he is not a fine gentleman (he is) or a good writer (he is quite good), but that his work suffers from an almost complete absence of science-based fact or any coherent discussion of how to economically feed poor people, urban people, and people who live in areas not suitable for agriculture. That is a lot of America, and much of the world, including much of Kentucky.


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