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from "Why Left and Right like Wendell Berry "

In 1977, Berry put out The Unsettling of America, which may be his most influential book. As an attack on large-scale agriculture, it is very much in keeping with the themes of his Jefferson Lecture. Yet it’s more than an anti-corporate screed. Berry also defends the virtues of the smallholder farm, not as a unit of efficient production but rather as an essential component of a thriving culture that values strong communities and ecological stewardship. “The healthy farm sustains itself in the same way that a healthy tree does,” he wrote, “by belonging where it is, by maintaining a proper relationship to the ground.” Russell Kirk — a longtime NATIONAL REVIEW contributor who, like Berry, fled the academy for a rural homestead — discovered the Kentuckian around this time. “Berry is possessed of an intellect at once philosophic and poetic, and he writes most movingly,” wrote Kirk in a 1978 newspaper column. “Humane culture has no better friend today than he.” Kirk was probably the first prominent conservative to detect an undercurrent of conservatism in Berry’s work: suspicion of progress, support for local autonomy, and a preference for the old ways of doing things.

Berry certainly doesn’t view himself as a conservative, and he seems both puzzled and amused that his work would find favor with conservatives. “Mostly I’m a Democrat,” he says. “I’m a child of the New Deal. My family have always been Democrats.” Berry says he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and plans to vote for him again this November. He has met Obama once, when the president awarded him the National Humanities Medal two years ago. Michael Pollan, the liberal foodie activist, thinks the connection may go deeper, citing Obama’s criticism of mainstream agriculture and its dependence on cheap oil: “I have no idea if Barack Obama has ever read Wendell Berry, but Berry’s thinking had found its ways to his lips,” Pollan wrote in the introduction to Berry’s 2009 book, Bringing It to the Table.


Be sure to read the whole article HERE.

Blog Watch: Mention of a visit with Wendell Berry

And that was all a just warm up for the real road trip, which started five days ago with a trip to Wendell Berry’s farm in Kentucky. Wendell was Stegner’s student at Stanford, and I think it is fair to say that he was Stegner’s favorite student. I have written elsewhere that when Wallace Stegner died he left an unfinished things-to-do list on this desk. In that essay, I suggested that it is the job of the rest of us to help finish the things that Stegner started, and no one alive does that particular work better than Wendell Berry. One of the highlights of that visit was late in the afternoon when the heat broke and a thunderstorm rolled in. I drove down to the barn with Wendell and watched him command his border collie, Maggie, as she herded the sheep into the barn before the lightning started.


The Berry Center hosts 2013 conference on Wendell Berry's 'Unsettling of America'

The Berry Center is hosting a conference April 4-6, 2013 to answer the question, “What will it take to resettle America?” For three days at St. Catharine College near Springfield, Kentucky, authors, activists, farmers, leaders, scholars, and theologians will come together to illuminate and discuss these issues pertinent to the answer: Education for Homecoming, Land Use, Local Food Systems, Local Initiatives and Real Accounting


Reflecting on Wendell Berry and Hope

Tell as much truth as you can bear, and then face all the rest of the truth. If we place our hope in the systems that created this world, our hope will betray us, and then we will betray each other and those who come after us. We will betray the children, and their children, as long as there are children.

There is always hope, but it is hope that lies beyond these systems, beyond the world as it is structured today. To be truly hopeful is to speak about a different world structured by different systems. To be truly hopeful is to risk irrelevance when engaged in polite conversation in mainstream America. Irrelevance, in these situations, is a virtue. Our chance of saving ourselves depends on enough people willing to be irrelevant soon enough.


Of interest: "Appalachia Turns on Itself"

Despite the evidence, the coal industry and its allies in Washington have persuaded the majority of their constituents to ignore such environmental consequences, recasting mountaintop removal as an economic boon for the region, a powerful job creator in a time of national employment distress.

Of course, since mountaintop removal is heavily mechanized, the coal industry is the real job killer — and, until recently, miners would have been suspicious of any claim to the contrary. For decades the companies had fought the miners’ efforts to unionize, resulting in violent strikes.

After finally recognizing the union, King Coal opposed its demands for things like a living wage, health insurance, safety precautions and measures to curb the alarming rates of black lung disease. The strategy was simple: the companies would buy off individual communities and leaders, exchanging meager payouts for silence or even support against the more adamant activists.