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September 2010
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Of interest: Jeff Todd Titon on "Nature's Economy"

From Oct. 13-16 I was in Nashville, TN for the American Folklore Society conference. For my paper presentation at the conference this year, I returned to an idea that I’ve mentioned on this blog a couple of times before: Nature’s economy. This was the title of Donald Worster’s fine book on the history of ecological thought. Re-reading it, I found the section where Worster tried to explain the phrase, tracing it to the Enlightenment naturalist Gilbert White. The explanation was intriguing in the context of my attempts to find common ground between ecology and economics, and so I decided to read White’s book, The Natural History of Selborne, compiled from letters that he wrote in the mid-1700s. Doing so, I observed White’s use of the phrase “Nature’s economy” (Nature as the greatest economist) and began to think that the concept might point the way towards a reconciliation of the two conflicting discourses over sustainability—those from conservation ecology and from developmental economics.


Of interest: A review of Bouma-Prediger's "For the Beauty of the Earth"

I think that this extension of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic is at least a firm foundation upon which to build a thoroughly Christian method of thinking about environmental issues. As someone who cares deeply about these things, I am grateful that there are people who devote their time and wisdom to projects such as these. In the case of Steven Bouma-Prediger, it is time and effort well spent. Alongside other great Christian thinkers of our day like Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, and Norman Wirzba I think we see the church continuing to flesh out what it means to believe that God is the Center and Creator of all things. The author said it best himself, “We must cultivate a (sub)culture of creation, in which we gratefully acknowledge a loving God who creates and sustains and redeems all things, and whose vision of shalom includes a flourishing natural world of meaning and value.” (80)


Blog Watch: Reading "What Matters"

The collection consists of five essays written recently, in 2009 (or 2006, in one case), and ten essays written up to several decades ago (1985, etc.). All have to do, ostensibly, with the economy, but they all have that special Wendell spin: looking at the economy in terms of not only money, but in terms of lifestyles and choices, as well as land and community stewardship.


Wendell Berry: Thicke for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

As Food, Inc's Kenner says, "Francis Thicke has a vision of how our agricultural system can work that will benefit our communities, our farmers and the consumer."

"When one combines a scholarly understanding with on-the-farm practice," says The Land Institute's Wes Jackson about Thicke, "it's hard to beat." That's the hope of those working round the clock in the week before the election.

But they are reminded of Northey's dark tactics used in the final days of his last election. Trailing behind another organic farmer, he poured lots of big-Ag's money into a smear campaign, which allowed him to just squeak by on Election Day. And apparently he's been paying them back ever since.

Will Iowans re-enlist an Agriculture Secretary who is a mouthpiece for huge corporations, or will they go for Thicke's "New Vision?" Author and legend Wendell Berry says, "I think we need people who take agriculture seriously, for a change, and I trust Francis Thicke to take it seriously."


WB cited in profile of Ernest J. Gaines

Mr. Gaines has put down his pen — he wrote the first draft of all his novels in longhand — in the belief that he has “nothing original left to say.” He chronicled life in rural southern Louisiana, in a fictional version of this plantation, and his people, he said, showed him the meaning of dignity. As his friend Wendell Berry, the writer, once observed, he and Mr. Gaines “knew the talk of old people, old country people, in summer evenings.” Mr. Gaines’s goal now is to honor them by keeping up the cemetery.


Blog Watch: Peters on Orr on "Allan Bloom v. Wendell Berry"

Orr took Bloom to task not because Bloom was a white guy trying to advance white guys, which was his most grievous error back then, but because Bloom’s curriculum didn’t adequately address our most pressing ecological problems.

“Amidst growing poverty, environmental deterioration, and violence in a nuclear-armed world,” Orr said, “Professor Bloom is silent about how his version of the liberal arts would promote global justice, heal the breech with the natural world, promote peace, and restore meaning in a technocratic world.” In fact, Bloom “dismisses those concerned about such issues.”

Orr’s contention, by contrast, was that “if our era adds any ‘classics’ to the archeology of human thought, they will more likely than not be written about these subjects.”

The Unsettling of America anyone?


Of interest: "Sacred Soil as Sacred Space"

While there is a pervasive belief in the West that sacred places are ‘made,” indigenous peoples see that the land is inherently sacred. Michael Rotondi, an architect from California, works from the vision that architecture should manifest the sacredness of the land that is already present. He will discuss the initial results of his contemplative architecture project with land at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Sponsored by the Merton Center for Contemplative Living and co-hosted by the Urban Design Studio. Free. Bring your own lunch or order a box lunch from Miss C’s, located in the Henry Clay: 502.992.3166. The Henry Clay, 604 S. 3rd St., Louisville, KY


Blog Watch: Berry cited in "HANGING GARDEN at Holy Cross Church"

As I experienced this piece and thought about the appreciation of impermanence and imperfection, the lines of a favorite poem by Wendell Berry came to mind, “Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.” But I love this poem too much to not quote the whole thing. Just. Can’t. Do it. Luckily, I think it’s words fit nicely with the wordless poignancy of Hanging Garden.