Monday, 3 March 2008

Wendell Berry's 10 commandments

photo: New Southerner
Wendell Berry is a farmer, novelist-poet, and Christian back-to-the-land philosopher. Whether you call his thought agrarianism, eco-economics, anti-megaprojects, or bioethics, books like The Unsettling of America raise crucial questions.
-Beware the justice of Nature.
-Understand that there can be no successful human economy apart from Nature or in defiance of Nature.
-Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale.
-In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else. Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity, and glamour.
-Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made.
-Put the interest of the community first.
-Love your neighbors -- not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.
-Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.
-As far as you are able make your lives dependent upon your local place, neighborhood, and household -- which thrive by care and generosity -- and independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.
-Find work, if you can, that does no damage. Enjoy your work. Work well.

-- reprinted by Prof Grubbs, U of Kentucky, from Berry's "The Futility of Global Thinking." Harper's Magazine Sept. 1989: 16-22; originally "Word and Flesh, an Essay" in What Are People For? (1990).

If agriculture is founded upon life, upon the use of energy to serve life, and if its primary purpose must therefore be to preserve the integrity of the life cycle, then agricultural technology must be bound under the rule of life. It must conform to natural processes and limits rather than to mechanical or economic models.

Our agriculture, potentially capable of a large measure of independence, is absolutely dependent on petroleum, on the oil companies, and on the vagaries of politics.

It is likely that we will have either to live within our limits... or not live at all. And certainly the knowledge of those limits and of how to live within them is the most comely and graceful knowledge that we have, the most healing and the most whole.

The energy crisis is not a crisis of technology but of morality.

-- The Unsettling of America (1977), quoted in William Least Heat-Moon, PrairyErth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991) p.479.

See also Berry's life and writings. Brother Tom Murphy's Mr Wendell Berry of Kentucky with blog, links and discussion list.

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