Americans in general love royalty. Whether food movement participants care about royalty is a different matter. I can't imagine anyone in America having more weight than Michael Pollan and Alice Waters but it's great to have Michelle Obama and now the Prince on our side.
Last May, just a day after his son William's eagerly anticipated marriage to Kate Middleton, Prince Charles flew to Washington D.C. to give a speech at the Future of Food Conference, in which he outlined the social and environmental problems associated with industrial food systems and some pragmatic solutions to them. Author and environmentalist Laurie David was in the audience that day and like many others (including Ecocentric bloggers Chris Hunt and Kai Olson-Sawyer), was deeply impressed. Laurie immediately set out to convince the Prince -- and Rodale Press -- that an essay adaptation of the speech would make a great small book.
Today, that little book is out in print and called The Prince's Speech: On the Future of Food, with a foreword by poet and farmer Wendell Berry, and an afterword co-written by urban farmer/MacArthur genius Will Allen and longtime food journalist Eric Schlosser.
In "Earth Works" (Indiana University Press), the nationally honored practitioner Scott Russell Sanders has collected 30 of his first-person-singular writings in continuing pursuit of "perennial human questions" that will never have definitive answers but suffer tragically from being too seldom asked.
By turns somber and snap-out-of-it buoyant, these elegant artifacts of restless inquiry cover subjects as intimate as the author's sexual awakening and his father's alcoholism, as broad as the origins of the universe and the disarray of contemporary hyper-urban society.
In THE PRINCE'S SPEECH, HRH Prince Charles lays out a persuasive case to support the fact that sustainable and organic agriculture can, indeed, feed the world and addresses the real reasons why an industrialized system-one deeply dependent on fossil fuels and chemical treatments-is promoted as viable while a much less damaging one is condemned. THE PRINCE'S SPEECH provides a concise and convincing roadmap for how individuals and nations can achieve a situation where food production is at once affordable, available to all, and not overly taxing of the Earth's quickly diminishing natural resources.
THE PRINCE'S SPEECH will include a foreword by noted author and farmer Wendell Berry and an afterword by urban farmer Will Allen and bestselling author Eric Schlosser-available only in this special commemorative edition. Beautifully packaged as a small-format paperback with flaps, the book will retail for $6.99 and will also be available as an e-book. This stirring, thought-provoking, and ultimately hopeful call to action is a must-have for anyone who cares about the survival of our planet and its people.
Berry is interesting to me because he is so simple. He doesn't spend a thousand pages developing his characters like Dostoevsky. He doesn't overflow with witty banter like Austen and Wilde. He doesn't weave intricate, sometimes surprising plots like the Bronte sisters or Dickens. He doesn't create fantastical worlds like Tolkien, Lewis, or, more recently, Wilson.
And yet his simplicity is every bit a piece of perfection.
I have taken the opportunity this weekend before and on my way to the retreat to read some of what Wendell Berry has said about the necessity of limits. I’ve been meaning to do so for awhile, but this weekend I stumbled upon this fabulous essay that Berry wrote in 2008 for Harpers Magazine — Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits. This is a short essay and well worth reading.
Berry gets to the heart of the issue:
The problem with us is not only prodigal extravagance but also an assumed limitlessness. We have obscured the issue by refusing to see that limitlessness is a godly trait. We have insistently, and with relief, defined ourselves as animals or as “higher animals.” But to define ourselves as animals, given our specifically human powers and desires, is to define ourselves as limitless animals—which of course is a contradiction in terms. Any definition is a limit, which is why the God of Exodus refuses to define Himself: “I am that I am.”
No, I didn’t start up a software business. I didn’t pursue any entrepreneurial track to riches. My plan was simply to get any job I could and spend my free time exploring the Red River Gorge which is located near where I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. My plan had no long term component.
I don’t know when I first discovered Wendell Berry’s The Unforeseen Wilderness, but it was about this same time in my life. I wanted to read it, but as a poor college dropout with little cash to spend on books it remained out of my hands for a time.
One day I was out with a friend and saw it on a bargain table. I had no cash, but the friend, seeing my eagerness to read it, bought it for me. It was a fortunate encounter because the book changed the way I looked at the world, my life, and the landscape of my soul.
Most of life is very ordinary. We are children and we are adults. We hope and we love. We work and we play. Most of life is not lived globally, but very locally, in houses or apartments, on streets and in neighborhoods, in towns and in cities—and it is in those places among those people that we live into who we are and what we believe.
One of the reasons that I have chosen to live within the literary vision of Wendell Berry is that he writes about this kind of common life. In every course I teach I require my students to read him and learn, looking over-his-shoulder and through-his-heart as he unfolds a vision of vocation that is formed by the truest truths of the universe, and yet in language the whole world can understand.
If we could see the world with a particularly illuminating set of spectacles, one of its most prominent features at the moment would be a giant carbon bubble, whose bursting someday will make the housing bubble of 2007 look like a lark. As yet -- as we shall see -- it’s unfortunately largely invisible to us.
In compensation, though, we have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology. Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization’s gallery: “Blue Marble,” originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image shows a picture of the Americas on January 4th, a good day for snapping photos because there weren’t many clouds.
It was also a good day because of the striking way it could demonstrate to us just how much the planet has changed in 40 years. As Jeff Masters, the web’s most widely read meteorologist, explains, “The U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s.”
WASHINGTON (February 6, 2012) — Wendell E. Berry, noted poet, essayist, novelist, farmer, and conservationist, will deliver the 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. The annual lecture, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
“Wendell Berry is an American treasure whose prose and poetry have— with subtlety, intelligence, and conviction—helped open our eyes to the importance of respecting and living with nature,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “Tilling the land of his Kentucky forebears, he is a 21st-century Henry David Thoreau.”
Berry will present the 41st Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on Monday, April 23, 2012 at 7:30 PM at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. In the lecture, “It All Turns on Affection,” Berry will discuss man’s interaction with nature, as depicted in history, philosophy, and literature.
Request tickets HERE.
Washington Post article HERE.