What gets lost or severely diminished when we liken creatures to machines is the essence of Creation or, indeed, of evolution: what gets lost is life. Wendell Berry has written beautifully on this theme, the ugly determinism it involves, the industrial devastation it enables, “the incalculable cost,” as he puts it in Life is a Miracle, “to other creatures and to ourselves.”
For my final project in Agrarian Theology for an Urban World, I brought John Howard Yoder’s Anabaptist ecclesiology together with Wendell Berry’s agrarian cultural criticism to explore what church might look like if we were to take the ecological crisis seriously as a test of Christian discipleship.
Has the work of the university, over the last generation, increased or decreased literacy and knowledge of the classics? Has it increased or decreased the general understanding of the sciences? Has it increased or decreased pollution and soil erosion? Has it increased or decreased the ability and the willingness of public servants to tell the truth? Such questions are not, of course, precisely answerable. Questions of influence never are. But they are askable, and the asking, should we choose to ask, would be a unifying and a shaping force.
-- Wendell Berry, "The Loss of the University," Home Economics, 1987
it is a story of love, loss, community, progress, and recognizing/appreciating the simple joys of life that many of us no longer see due to our busy, over-worked, cluttered lives... guilty as charged.
Now Berry has decided to pull his personal papers from the University of Kentucky's (UK's) archives to protest what he believes is its misguided emphasis on research to the detriment of teaching and its insensitivity to environmental stewardship. The school's acceptance of a $7 million donation from coal interests and the subsequent renaming of a dormitory for basketball players as the Wildcat Coal Lodge, he says, was the "last straw" in a long series of public fights with the institution. He says he planned to write about the issue but was compelled to speak out when the local newspaper learned this week about his decision and called him for comment.
Here is an edited version of his conversation yesterday with ScienceInsider.
Transferring his donated personal papers from the University of Kentucky to the Kentucky Historical Society is an act of principle for which Wendell Berry deserves commendation.
But really, we would expect no less from the noted novelist, essayist and poet.
He has spent a lifetime promoting respect for nature — for the land that can nourish us and for the landscape that can have a nurturing influence on us.
Wendell Berry, perhaps Kentucky's best-known writer, is pulling many of his personal papers from the University of Kentucky's archives to protest the naming of Wildcat Coal Lodge.
Berry excoriated his alma matter in a Dec. 20, 2009, letter, saying the decision to name a new dorm for UK basketball players the Wildcat Coal Lodge "puts an end" to his association with the university.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court made its first-ever ruling on genetically engineered crops. Agribiz flaks and environmentalists are arguing over just how pro-corporate the ruling — which lifted an injunction against the USDA from allowing limited plantings of Monsanto's Roundup-Ready alfalfa before filing a complete EIR — was.
One thing's for sure: GMO crops continue to expand in the U.S., despite persistent and widespread public discomfort.
The boys called him Jayber, an odd name for a robin, but they’ve heard me talk about Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow, and I guess it seemed like a good name for this bald, homeless bird. Little did they know that the character in the novel was also a balding orphan in search of a home.
For a few days, it was not clear that Jayber would survive, but he turned out to be a bird of some pluck. As the days passed he grew, his feathers began to come in, and he become increasingly mobile. The shoebox kept him contained for a time, but eventually he managed to get to the rim and he was soon attempting to explore the house. We graduated to a larger box, fully three feet deep, complete with branches for perching and a lid for closing. We shut him up at night, and as long as it was dark, he stayed quiet. The least amount of light or noise would set him to chirruping.
Wendell Berry is one of the greatest writers of our time. His award winning books, essays, and poems have captured the soul of rural America. Yet, the rural lifestyle that Berry writes about with such passion and grace is a reality that no longer exists in most of America. When I interviewed Berry a few years ago, he told me that America, especially rural America, was worse off as a result of high tech, intensive agriculture. Many of the staunchest critics of modern agriculture quote Berry in their call for a return to a more agrarian lifestyle. Yet, a just published study from Stanford University demonstrates with factual clarity that our world would be much worse off without modern agriculture.