The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture[Ebook] ➥ The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture By Wendell Berry – Jobs-in-kingston.co.uk Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in , The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development a Since its publication of America: Epub µ by Sierra Club books in , The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline Today s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of The Unsettling PDF/EPUB ² its cultural context and away from families As a result, we as a nation are estranged from the land from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it Sadly, as Berry notes in his Afterword to this third edition, his arguments and observations are relevant than Unsettling of America: Kindle Ñ ever We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits Although this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong, Berry writes, there are good people working to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction. maybe you ll find this at a garage sale in a beat up box for twenty five cents you ll pull it from the box rub two dimes and five pennies together you ll read it and research rain barrels you ll sell that book to some used bookstore you might and a thin bookstore employee will set it on a shelf where some manicured hand might find it and bring it back to her loft maybe she ll turn the pages and sigh at her consumption maybe or maybe she wont maybe she ll walkand ride her bicycle maybe you ll find this at a garage sale in a beat up box for twenty five cents you ll pull it from the box rub two dimes and five pennies together you ll read it and research rain barrels you ll sell that book to some used bookstore you might and a thin bookstore employee will set it on a shelf where some manicured hand might find it and bring it back to her loft maybe she ll turn the pages and sigh at her consumption maybe or maybe she wont maybe she ll walkand ride her bicycle to the local market slowly in gradual steps she will find herself in her landscape here is the revolution she might think as shuts her door for the last time gone to a place a plot of land that she cares for and which in turn cares for her the nurturing of her landscape becomes almost spiritual in her recognition of the land and its affect on her or maybe she is just standing in a shopping mall and feeling the emptiness with the people walking by talking into cell phones bags on their arms maybe she will stop there in the center of the mall feeling the emptiness or maybe she will be driving city streets just all green lights and fluorescent gas station lights and the radio playing some seventies song and she will feel the emptiness maybe she will pull into a grocery store parking lot at dusk and listen to the grackles as they call and shout on architect planned trees in the calling of those birds the emptiness might turn into something else a step a decision to bridge the gap of the estrangement of herself from her landscape maybe her heart moves an inch closer to the right place Every once in a while, a book comes along at the right place and at the right time, and that book has the power to change your life This was that book for me It moved me out of the city and into the country, and inspired me to grow food for people It changed the way I view my relationship to the earth, and my responsibility to it Don t read this book if you want to live comfortably with your current worldview. Having spent five years at a land grant institution, I can safely say that everything Mr Berry accuses agricultural education programs of is true, even today All of my ag professors, save one, laughed at the idea of organic and sustainable and would only allow the non regulated trend of all natural a measure of respect, because frankly they make a ton of money off of false advertising.I moved to the city after graduating, and took work on a small organic farm half an hour outside o Having spent five years at a land grant institution, I can safely say that everything Mr Berry accuses agricultural education programs of is true, even today All of my ag professors, save one, laughed at the idea of organic and sustainable and would only allow the non regulated trend of all natural a measure of respect, because frankly they make a ton of money off of false advertising.I moved to the city after graduating, and took work on a small organic farm half an hour outside of town While they are a callow operation still, their success is great I ve struggled with the idea of writing my mid west ag college and insisting on a refund for my bogus, biased, non sustainable and recently declared most worthless in the nation education.While I don t follow Mr Berry s religious leanings You could often replace Christian with any other religion. as most agree on terms of goodness and responsibility, which he seems to forget reading the book felt like sitting in the pews of a call and response sermon Sometimes I had to mark my place, put the book down, and feel a surge of adrenaline pass before continuing The relief and joy of finding so much truth in one book wasexciting than any fiction I ve picked up in years.There are few books that I would pay someone to read This one would make the list This book is the classic that all Wendell Berry readers should read first It goes through his ecological ethic and his belief that morality and ecology are inseparable that our disconnection from the earth and our disconnection from each other are part of the same problem This quote from his essay Think Little is a perfect introduction to his philosophies See Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the bes This book is the classic that all Wendell Berry readers should read first It goes through his ecological ethic and his belief that morality and ecology are inseparable that our disconnection from the earth and our disconnection from each other are part of the same problem This quote from his essay Think Little is a perfect introduction to his philosophies See Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way we don t know how to produce any kind in any way Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato And for this condition we have elaborate rationalizations, instructing us that dependence for everything on somebody else is efficient and economical and a scientific miracle I say, instead, that it is madness, mass produced A man who understands the weather only in terms of golf is participating in a chronic public insanity that either he or his descendants will be bound to realize as suffering I believe that the death of the world is breeding in such minds muchcertainly and much faster than in any political capital or atomic arsenal. Wendell Berry has long been an inspiration to me, the kind of person I think about when facing highly symbolic questions that are of little import What would Wendell Berry think about my job clothes car haircut, I wonder Alas, in almost all cases I end up feeling like I ve let the poor chap down He is my hero and I love him I initially read this book very slowly because I wanted to be sure I was understanding and absorbing its messages Then I was distracted by my husband s hospitalization and serious complications following surgery and needed lighter reading material for several weeks Now I ve finally finished and amconvinced than ever that Wendell Berry really is a prophet He makes me feel very grateful to be living in Sonoma County, CA, where many local farmers subscribe to the same approach to small sca I initially read this book very slowly because I wanted to be sure I was understanding and absorbing its messages Then I was distracted by my husband s hospitalization and serious complications following surgery and needed lighter reading material for several weeks Now I ve finally finished and amconvinced than ever that Wendell Berry really is a prophet He makes me feel very grateful to be living in Sonoma County, CA, where many local farmers subscribe to the same approach to small scale traditional agriculture that Berry advocates We are lucky to have easy access to many varieties of heirloom fruits vegetables, organic dairy products from a farm whose energy comes almost exclusively 99%, I believe from the manure produced by the cows, and numerous cheesemakers and bakers who make use of local ingredients from small farms This book, written in 1977, helped tie it all together for me in 2013 Agribusiness has been destroying our soil fertility, killing beneficial insects like bees , decimating our waterways through eutrophication that kills fish and all aqueous life , and striping the nutritional content from our food you can grow crops on industrial chemicals, but you can t make them nutritious for roughly eighty years As a consequence Americans are unhealthier than any other population in the world along with European nations with the same practices , and life on the planet i Agribusiness has been destroying our soil fertility, killing beneficial insects like bees , decimating our waterways through eutrophication that kills fish and all aqueous life , and striping the nutritional content from our food you can grow crops on industrial chemicals, but you can t make them nutritious for roughly eighty years As a consequence Americans are unhealthier than any other population in the world along with European nations with the same practices , and life on the planet is at serious risk Yet, our government continues to subsidize the industry and fund agricultural colleges that are perpetuating this destruction Berry wrote the book over forty years ago, in hopes that he might forestall further damage Unfortunately, the powers that be have ignored his book If we want to see a change, and turn around our agricultural practices before it s too late, we needyoung farmers dedicated to a scientific approach to organic methods, and we need informed consumers who refuse to support Big Ag Reading this book would be a good place to start A funny thing happened with this book, I read it last year before the election and felt it was beautifully written but sort of idealistic and naive Then after the election, I reread it, and my mind was muchprepared for it It is truly a masterpiece of American literature and letters I think if you want to understand how things have gotten to how they are, politically, culturally and economically, or even if you want to understand one of the possible causes of ennui in America today, then A funny thing happened with this book, I read it last year before the election and felt it was beautifully written but sort of idealistic and naive Then after the election, I reread it, and my mind was muchprepared for it It is truly a masterpiece of American literature and letters I think if you want to understand how things have gotten to how they are, politically, culturally and economically, or even if you want to understand one of the possible causes of ennui in America today, then this book is a lovely place to start Not always perfect, but definitely always thought provoking Over the past 5 6 years, Berry s writings have changed me, shaping my worldviewthan perhaps any other single author s ever have This book continues in that vein, both frustrating and inspiring me I give it 4.5 stars It is a flawed book Full of polemic, often lacking in nuance and charity But it speaks so much truth to power And it speaks so much to me personally, to my family and personal history growing up on a modern, industrial, somewhat large but relatively small family farm t Over the past 5 6 years, Berry s writings have changed me, shaping my worldviewthan perhaps any other single author s ever have This book continues in that vein, both frustrating and inspiring me I give it 4.5 stars It is a flawed book Full of polemic, often lacking in nuance and charity But it speaks so much truth to power And it speaks so much to me personally, to my family and personal history growing up on a modern, industrial, somewhat large but relatively small family farm that was squeezed out because we couldn t get even larger And then leaving to university on the East Coast to make something of myself, now becoming an academic, a specialized expert, disconnected from my original community and from the land Like Berry s fiction and poetry, these essays are an indictment of my life, my career, my mobility His words bring me to an awareness of my sinfulness, of my complicity in the sins of my generation they call me to repentance At the same time, I feel that with this book, I am finally ready to put Berry to rest for a season Ready to instead pick up where he leaves off, exploring how to implement the vision of community and membership and connection to the land that he espouses within the life that I now have I am ready to connect my self responsibly to practical circumstances to learn to stay put in the body to which I belong and in the place to which preference or history or accident has brought me in short, to find my self in finding my work p 111.A collection of my favorite passages from The Unsettling of America On our personal responsibility to take action Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live P 19 The only real, practical, hope giving way to remedy the fragmentation that is the disease of the modern spirit is a small and humble way a way that a governmental agency or organization or institution will never think of, though a person may think of it one must begin in one s own life the private solutions that can only in turn become public solutions P 23 A responsible consumer would be a critical consumer, would refuse to purchase the less good And he would be a moderate consumer he would know his needs and would not purchase what he did not need he would sort among his needs and study to reduce them P 24 The lost identity would find itself by recognizing physical landmarks, by connecting itself responsibly to practical circumstances it would learn to stay put in the body to which it belongs and in the place to which preference or history or accident has brought it it would, in short, find itself in finding its work P 111 If change is to come, then, it will have to come from the outside It will have to come from the margins P 174On ecology, healthy agriculture, and our connections to our bodies and communities and the land Though we have no choice but to live at the expense of other life, it is necessary to recognize the limits and dangers involved past a certain point in a unified system, other life is our own P 47 There is, in practice, no such thing as autonomy Practically, there is only a distinction between responsible and irresponsible dependence P 111 we are members of the human community and are therefore bound to help or harm it by our behavior P 172 It is typical of the mentality of our age that we cannot conceive of infinity except as an enormous quantity We cannot conceive of it as orderly process, as pattern or cycle, as shapeliness We conceive of it as inconceivable quantity that is, as the immeasurable P 84 But farming is also a practical religion, a practice of religion, a rite By farming we enact our fundamental connection with energy and matter, light and darkness In the cycles of farming, which carry the elemental energy again and again through the seasons and the bodies of living things, we recognize the only infinitude within reach of the imagination P 87 The energy crisis reduces to a single question Can we forbear to do anything that we are able to do Or to put the question in the words of Ivan Illich can we, believing in the effectiveness of power, see the disproportionately greater effectiveness of abstaining from its use P 95 Odysseus found his father in solitudespading the earth around a young fruit tree.He wore a tunic, patched and soiled, and leggings oxhide patches, bound below his kneesagainst the brambles Although Odysseus jokes about his father s appearance, the appropriateness of what he is doing is never questioned In a time of disorder he has returned to the care of the earth, the foundation of life and hope And Odysseus finds him in an act emblematic of the best and most responsible kind of agriculture an old man caring for a young tree P 128 29 For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment, the size of its income, or even the statistics of its productivity, but the good health of the land P 188 writing of the Amish It is possible, I think, to say that this is a Christian agriculture, formed upon the understanding that it is sinful for people to misuse or destroy what they did not make The Creation is a unique, irreplaceable gift, therefore to be used with humility, respect, and skill P 213 For the orthodox obsession with production, profit, and expansion, this healthier agriculture would substitute acomplex consciousness, the terms of which would be ecological integrity, nutrition, technological appropriateness, social stability, skill, quality, thrift, diversity, decentralization, independence, usufruct Or, putsimply, it would replace the concern for production with a concern for reproduction P 217 We must learn again to think of human energy, our energy, not as something to be saved, but as something to be used and to be enjoyed in use P 219On the household and marriage Degenerate housewifery is indivisible from degenerate husbandry There is no escape This is the justice that we are learning from the ecologists you cannot damage what you are dependent upon without damaging yourself The suffering of women is noticed now, is noticeable now, because it is not given any considerable status or compensation If we removed the status and compensation from the destructive exploits we classify as manly, men would be found to be suffering as much as women They would be found to be suffering for the same reason they are in exile from the communion of men and women, which is their deepest connection with the communion of all creatures P 116 Fidelity can best be seen as the necessary discipline of sexuality, the practical definition of sexual responsibility, or the definition of the moral limits within which such responsibility can be conceived and enacted The forsaking of all others is a keeping of faith, not just with the chosen one, but with the ones forsaken The marriage vow unites not just a woman and a man with each other it unites each of them with the community in a vow of sexual responsibility toward all others The whole community is married, realizes its essential unity, in each of its marriages P 122 No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one s partiality P 123On religion and ecology and orthodoxy This separation of the soul from the body and from the world is no disease of the fringe, no aberration, but a fracture that runs through the mentality of institutional religion like a geologic fault And this rift in the mentality of religion continues to characterize the modern mind, no matter how secular or worldly it becomes But I have not stated my point exactly enough This rift is not like it s your logic fault it is a geologic fault It is a flaw in the mind that runs inevitably into the earth And yet what is the burden of the Bible if not a sense of the mutuality of influence, rising out of an essential unity, among soul and body and community and world These are all the works of God, and it is there for the work of virtue to make or restore harmony among them P 109 Invariably the failure of organized religions, by which they cut themselves off from mystery and therefore from sanctity, lies in the attempt to impose an absolute division between faith and doubt, to make belief perform as knowledge when they forbid their prophets to go into the wilderness, they lose the possibility of renewal P 130 the very nature of orthodoxy one who presumes to know the truth does not look for it P 173 74 The pattern of orthodoxy in religion, because it is well known, gives us a useful paradigm The encrusted religious structure is not changed by the institutional dependents they are part of the crust It is changed by one who goes alone to the wilderness, where he fasts and prays, and returns with cleansed vision And going alone, he goes independent of institutions, forswearing orthodoxy right opinion I m going to the wilderness he goes to the margin, where he is surrounded by the possibilities by no means all good that orthodoxy has excluded By fasting he disengages his thoughts from the immediate issues of livelihood his willing hunger takes his mind off the payroll, so to speak And by praying he acknowledges ignorance the orthodox presume to know, whereas the marginal person is trying to find out He returns to the community, not necessarily with new truth, but with a new vision of the truth he sees itwhole than before P 174On academia, careerism, and mobility The professor lives in his career, in a ghetto of career oriented fellow professors Where he may be geographically is of little interest to him One s career is a vehicle, not a dwelling one is concerned less for where it is than for where it will go The careerist professor is by definition a specialist professor Utterly dependent upon his institution, he blunts his critical intelligence and blurs his language so as to exist harmoniously within it and so serves his school with an emasculated and fragmentary intelligence, deferring realistically to the redundant procedures and meaningless demands of an inflated administrative bureaucracy whose educational purpose is written on its paychecks They begin to need, and so to promote, the mobility, careerism, and moral confusion that are victimizing the local population and destroying the local communities The stock in trade of the man of learning comes to be ignorance P 147 48 The typical American success story moves from a modest rural beginning to urban affluence, from manual labor to office work We must ask, then, what must be the educational effect, the influence, of a farmer s son who believes, with the absolute authorization of his society, that he has mightily improved himself by becoming a professor of agriculture Has he not improved himself by an upward motivation which by its nature avoids the issue of quality which I assume is simply that an agriculture specialist is better than a farmer And does he not exemplify to his students the proposition that the way up leads away from home How could he, who has succeeded by earning a Ph.D and a nice place in town, advise his best students to go home and farm, or even assume that they might find good reasons for doing so P 160On what modern agriculture has wrought I remember, during the fifties, the outrage with which our political leaders spoke of the forced removal of the populations of villages in communist countries I also remember that at the same time, in Washington, the word on farming was Get big or get out a policy which is still in effect and which has taken an enormous toll The only difference is that of method the force used by the communists was military with us, it has been economic a free market in which the freest were the richest And so those who could not get big have got out not just in my community, but in farm communities all over the country But as a social or economic goal, bigness is totalitarian it establishes an inevitable tendency toward the one that will be the biggest of all Many who got big to stay in are now being driven out by those who got bigger The aim of bigness implies not one aim that is not socially and culturally destructive P 41 By this most logical of developments, then, we have passed from a farm based, family based, independent agriculture to an agriculture abjectly dependent upon many kinds of industrial inputs and firmly based upon several kinds of disaster We are producing, at an incalculable waste of topsoil and of human life and energy, and at the cost of destroying communities and poisoning the land and the streams, food to be used against the hungry as a weapon P 167 It would be possible to calculate the probable monetary cost of the unemployment, community and family breakdown, crime, vandalism, pollution, and soil loss that are the results of overwhelming inputs of technology but apparently an agricultural economist is not expected to look either so widely around or so far ahead P 168 Have you ever read an obscure book that no one you know has heard of, and felt that it was so good that it should be required reading for every human being That s how I felt about this book.Wendell Berry is a hero for many, including Barbara Kingsolver, who references many of Berry s ideas in her novel Animal Vegetable Miracle I ve been meaning to get into his stuff for quite some time, and when I read this book it resonated with so many things I have believed or thought of, but never articu Have you ever read an obscure book that no one you know has heard of, and felt that it was so good that it should be required reading for every human being That s how I felt about this book.Wendell Berry is a hero for many, including Barbara Kingsolver, who references many of Berry s ideas in her novel Animal Vegetable Miracle I ve been meaning to get into his stuff for quite some time, and when I read this book it resonated with so many things I have believed or thought of, but never articulated or laid out in so orderly a fashion.A bit of a Michael Pollen from 20 years ago, Berry wrote this essay on the disintegration of the diversified American farm back in the 1970 s Things only seem to have gotten worse in many ways since then Berry outlines the roots of many problems in agriculture and how they came from government policies He talks about how the concept of getting big or getting out was intended to prevent starvation supposedly but has killed off the diversified small farm and created an unhealthy monoculture system of farming He compares this with the healthy, sustainable, organic Amish traditions, which totally made me want to go hang out with the Amish and learn how to wield a scythe.The one good thing I see that has occurred in our country since the publication of this book is the trend towards farmers markets and CSAs They are the one ray of hope I see in our current situation, when most of us haven t a clue where or how the food we put in our bodies was grown The land won t be able to produce forever if large farms continue to misuse it Bottom line Grow your own food If you can t do that, join a CSA or patronize a farmer s market That is the only way small farms stand a chance, and perhaps the only chance we ourselves have to make a stand for the health of the land, the soil, and our own bodies A great, although uneven, criticism of the reigning agricultural and cultural mentality in the U.S It s impressive that Berry wrote thisthan 30 years ago since the argument seems just as timely today The first two and last two chapters were the strongest In between, he gets into an abstract discussion on the relationship between our connection to the land, ourselves, and other human beings The vagueness of some of his terminology and expressions in these chapters resulted in my losing A great, although uneven, criticism of the reigning agricultural and cultural mentality in the U.S It s impressive that Berry wrote thisthan 30 years ago since the argument seems just as timely today The first two and last two chapters were the strongest In between, he gets into an abstract discussion on the relationship between our connection to the land, ourselves, and other human beings The vagueness of some of his terminology and expressions in these chapters resulted in my losing interest The argument itself was subtle, but it wasn t as well elucidated as I would have liked It seems that Berry was relying on his readers to have a poetic sensibility that I myself lack I fully admire the lyricism of his writing in these chapters it just didn t quite scratch my particular itch this time around Some day I ll come back to this when I m older and wiser and give it the five stars it probably deserves Either that, or I ll feel the same way I do now and move it down to three blakerosser1

The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
    The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture there are good people working to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction. maybe you ll find this at a garage sale in a beat up box for twenty five cents you ll pull it from the box rub two dimes and five pennies together you ll read it and research rain barrels you ll sell that book to some used bookstore you might and a thin bookstore employee will set it on a shelf where some manicured hand might find it and bring it back to her loft maybe she ll turn the pages and sigh at her consumption maybe or maybe she wont maybe she ll walkand ride her bicycle maybe you ll find this at a garage sale in a beat up box for twenty five cents you ll pull it from the box rub two dimes and five pennies together you ll read it and research rain barrels you ll sell that book to some used bookstore you might and a thin bookstore employee will set it on a shelf where some manicured hand might find it and bring it back to her loft maybe she ll turn the pages and sigh at her consumption maybe or maybe she wont maybe she ll walkand ride her bicycle to the local market slowly in gradual steps she will find herself in her landscape here is the revolution she might think as shuts her door for the last time gone to a place a plot of land that she cares for and which in turn cares for her the nurturing of her landscape becomes almost spiritual in her recognition of the land and its affect on her or maybe she is just standing in a shopping mall and feeling the emptiness with the people walking by talking into cell phones bags on their arms maybe she will stop there in the center of the mall feeling the emptiness or maybe she will be driving city streets just all green lights and fluorescent gas station lights and the radio playing some seventies song and she will feel the emptiness maybe she will pull into a grocery store parking lot at dusk and listen to the grackles as they call and shout on architect planned trees in the calling of those birds the emptiness might turn into something else a step a decision to bridge the gap of the estrangement of herself from her landscape maybe her heart moves an inch closer to the right place Every once in a while, a book comes along at the right place and at the right time, and that book has the power to change your life This was that book for me It moved me out of the city and into the country, and inspired me to grow food for people It changed the way I view my relationship to the earth, and my responsibility to it Don t read this book if you want to live comfortably with your current worldview. Having spent five years at a land grant institution, I can safely say that everything Mr Berry accuses agricultural education programs of is true, even today All of my ag professors, save one, laughed at the idea of organic and sustainable and would only allow the non regulated trend of all natural a measure of respect, because frankly they make a ton of money off of false advertising.I moved to the city after graduating, and took work on a small organic farm half an hour outside o Having spent five years at a land grant institution, I can safely say that everything Mr Berry accuses agricultural education programs of is true, even today All of my ag professors, save one, laughed at the idea of organic and sustainable and would only allow the non regulated trend of all natural a measure of respect, because frankly they make a ton of money off of false advertising.I moved to the city after graduating, and took work on a small organic farm half an hour outside of town While they are a callow operation still, their success is great I ve struggled with the idea of writing my mid west ag college and insisting on a refund for my bogus, biased, non sustainable and recently declared most worthless in the nation education.While I don t follow Mr Berry s religious leanings You could often replace Christian with any other religion. as most agree on terms of goodness and responsibility, which he seems to forget reading the book felt like sitting in the pews of a call and response sermon Sometimes I had to mark my place, put the book down, and feel a surge of adrenaline pass before continuing The relief and joy of finding so much truth in one book wasexciting than any fiction I ve picked up in years.There are few books that I would pay someone to read This one would make the list This book is the classic that all Wendell Berry readers should read first It goes through his ecological ethic and his belief that morality and ecology are inseparable that our disconnection from the earth and our disconnection from each other are part of the same problem This quote from his essay Think Little is a perfect introduction to his philosophies See Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the bes This book is the classic that all Wendell Berry readers should read first It goes through his ecological ethic and his belief that morality and ecology are inseparable that our disconnection from the earth and our disconnection from each other are part of the same problem This quote from his essay Think Little is a perfect introduction to his philosophies See Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way we don t know how to produce any kind in any way Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato And for this condition we have elaborate rationalizations, instructing us that dependence for everything on somebody else is efficient and economical and a scientific miracle I say, instead, that it is madness, mass produced A man who understands the weather only in terms of golf is participating in a chronic public insanity that either he or his descendants will be bound to realize as suffering I believe that the death of the world is breeding in such minds muchcertainly and much faster than in any political capital or atomic arsenal. Wendell Berry has long been an inspiration to me, the kind of person I think about when facing highly symbolic questions that are of little import What would Wendell Berry think about my job clothes car haircut, I wonder Alas, in almost all cases I end up feeling like I ve let the poor chap down He is my hero and I love him I initially read this book very slowly because I wanted to be sure I was understanding and absorbing its messages Then I was distracted by my husband s hospitalization and serious complications following surgery and needed lighter reading material for several weeks Now I ve finally finished and amconvinced than ever that Wendell Berry really is a prophet He makes me feel very grateful to be living in Sonoma County, CA, where many local farmers subscribe to the same approach to small sca I initially read this book very slowly because I wanted to be sure I was understanding and absorbing its messages Then I was distracted by my husband s hospitalization and serious complications following surgery and needed lighter reading material for several weeks Now I ve finally finished and amconvinced than ever that Wendell Berry really is a prophet He makes me feel very grateful to be living in Sonoma County, CA, where many local farmers subscribe to the same approach to small scale traditional agriculture that Berry advocates We are lucky to have easy access to many varieties of heirloom fruits vegetables, organic dairy products from a farm whose energy comes almost exclusively 99%, I believe from the manure produced by the cows, and numerous cheesemakers and bakers who make use of local ingredients from small farms This book, written in 1977, helped tie it all together for me in 2013 Agribusiness has been destroying our soil fertility, killing beneficial insects like bees , decimating our waterways through eutrophication that kills fish and all aqueous life , and striping the nutritional content from our food you can grow crops on industrial chemicals, but you can t make them nutritious for roughly eighty years As a consequence Americans are unhealthier than any other population in the world along with European nations with the same practices , and life on the planet i Agribusiness has been destroying our soil fertility, killing beneficial insects like bees , decimating our waterways through eutrophication that kills fish and all aqueous life , and striping the nutritional content from our food you can grow crops on industrial chemicals, but you can t make them nutritious for roughly eighty years As a consequence Americans are unhealthier than any other population in the world along with European nations with the same practices , and life on the planet is at serious risk Yet, our government continues to subsidize the industry and fund agricultural colleges that are perpetuating this destruction Berry wrote the book over forty years ago, in hopes that he might forestall further damage Unfortunately, the powers that be have ignored his book If we want to see a change, and turn around our agricultural practices before it s too late, we needyoung farmers dedicated to a scientific approach to organic methods, and we need informed consumers who refuse to support Big Ag Reading this book would be a good place to start A funny thing happened with this book, I read it last year before the election and felt it was beautifully written but sort of idealistic and naive Then after the election, I reread it, and my mind was muchprepared for it It is truly a masterpiece of American literature and letters I think if you want to understand how things have gotten to how they are, politically, culturally and economically, or even if you want to understand one of the possible causes of ennui in America today, then A funny thing happened with this book, I read it last year before the election and felt it was beautifully written but sort of idealistic and naive Then after the election, I reread it, and my mind was muchprepared for it It is truly a masterpiece of American literature and letters I think if you want to understand how things have gotten to how they are, politically, culturally and economically, or even if you want to understand one of the possible causes of ennui in America today, then this book is a lovely place to start Not always perfect, but definitely always thought provoking Over the past 5 6 years, Berry s writings have changed me, shaping my worldviewthan perhaps any other single author s ever have This book continues in that vein, both frustrating and inspiring me I give it 4.5 stars It is a flawed book Full of polemic, often lacking in nuance and charity But it speaks so much truth to power And it speaks so much to me personally, to my family and personal history growing up on a modern, industrial, somewhat large but relatively small family farm t Over the past 5 6 years, Berry s writings have changed me, shaping my worldviewthan perhaps any other single author s ever have This book continues in that vein, both frustrating and inspiring me I give it 4.5 stars It is a flawed book Full of polemic, often lacking in nuance and charity But it speaks so much truth to power And it speaks so much to me personally, to my family and personal history growing up on a modern, industrial, somewhat large but relatively small family farm that was squeezed out because we couldn t get even larger And then leaving to university on the East Coast to make something of myself, now becoming an academic, a specialized expert, disconnected from my original community and from the land Like Berry s fiction and poetry, these essays are an indictment of my life, my career, my mobility His words bring me to an awareness of my sinfulness, of my complicity in the sins of my generation they call me to repentance At the same time, I feel that with this book, I am finally ready to put Berry to rest for a season Ready to instead pick up where he leaves off, exploring how to implement the vision of community and membership and connection to the land that he espouses within the life that I now have I am ready to connect my self responsibly to practical circumstances to learn to stay put in the body to which I belong and in the place to which preference or history or accident has brought me in short, to find my self in finding my work p 111.A collection of my favorite passages from The Unsettling of America On our personal responsibility to take action Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live P 19 The only real, practical, hope giving way to remedy the fragmentation that is the disease of the modern spirit is a small and humble way a way that a governmental agency or organization or institution will never think of, though a person may think of it one must begin in one s own life the private solutions that can only in turn become public solutions P 23 A responsible consumer would be a critical consumer, would refuse to purchase the less good And he would be a moderate consumer he would know his needs and would not purchase what he did not need he would sort among his needs and study to reduce them P 24 The lost identity would find itself by recognizing physical landmarks, by connecting itself responsibly to practical circumstances it would learn to stay put in the body to which it belongs and in the place to which preference or history or accident has brought it it would, in short, find itself in finding its work P 111 If change is to come, then, it will have to come from the outside It will have to come from the margins P 174On ecology, healthy agriculture, and our connections to our bodies and communities and the land Though we have no choice but to live at the expense of other life, it is necessary to recognize the limits and dangers involved past a certain point in a unified system, other life is our own P 47 There is, in practice, no such thing as autonomy Practically, there is only a distinction between responsible and irresponsible dependence P 111 we are members of the human community and are therefore bound to help or harm it by our behavior P 172 It is typical of the mentality of our age that we cannot conceive of infinity except as an enormous quantity We cannot conceive of it as orderly process, as pattern or cycle, as shapeliness We conceive of it as inconceivable quantity that is, as the immeasurable P 84 But farming is also a practical religion, a practice of religion, a rite By farming we enact our fundamental connection with energy and matter, light and darkness In the cycles of farming, which carry the elemental energy again and again through the seasons and the bodies of living things, we recognize the only infinitude within reach of the imagination P 87 The energy crisis reduces to a single question Can we forbear to do anything that we are able to do Or to put the question in the words of Ivan Illich can we, believing in the effectiveness of power, see the disproportionately greater effectiveness of abstaining from its use P 95 Odysseus found his father in solitudespading the earth around a young fruit tree.He wore a tunic, patched and soiled, and leggings oxhide patches, bound below his kneesagainst the brambles Although Odysseus jokes about his father s appearance, the appropriateness of what he is doing is never questioned In a time of disorder he has returned to the care of the earth, the foundation of life and hope And Odysseus finds him in an act emblematic of the best and most responsible kind of agriculture an old man caring for a young tree P 128 29 For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment, the size of its income, or even the statistics of its productivity, but the good health of the land P 188 writing of the Amish It is possible, I think, to say that this is a Christian agriculture, formed upon the understanding that it is sinful for people to misuse or destroy what they did not make The Creation is a unique, irreplaceable gift, therefore to be used with humility, respect, and skill P 213 For the orthodox obsession with production, profit, and expansion, this healthier agriculture would substitute acomplex consciousness, the terms of which would be ecological integrity, nutrition, technological appropriateness, social stability, skill, quality, thrift, diversity, decentralization, independence, usufruct Or, putsimply, it would replace the concern for production with a concern for reproduction P 217 We must learn again to think of human energy, our energy, not as something to be saved, but as something to be used and to be enjoyed in use P 219On the household and marriage Degenerate housewifery is indivisible from degenerate husbandry There is no escape This is the justice that we are learning from the ecologists you cannot damage what you are dependent upon without damaging yourself The suffering of women is noticed now, is noticeable now, because it is not given any considerable status or compensation If we removed the status and compensation from the destructive exploits we classify as manly, men would be found to be suffering as much as women They would be found to be suffering for the same reason they are in exile from the communion of men and women, which is their deepest connection with the communion of all creatures P 116 Fidelity can best be seen as the necessary discipline of sexuality, the practical definition of sexual responsibility, or the definition of the moral limits within which such responsibility can be conceived and enacted The forsaking of all others is a keeping of faith, not just with the chosen one, but with the ones forsaken The marriage vow unites not just a woman and a man with each other it unites each of them with the community in a vow of sexual responsibility toward all others The whole community is married, realizes its essential unity, in each of its marriages P 122 No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one s partiality P 123On religion and ecology and orthodoxy This separation of the soul from the body and from the world is no disease of the fringe, no aberration, but a fracture that runs through the mentality of institutional religion like a geologic fault And this rift in the mentality of religion continues to characterize the modern mind, no matter how secular or worldly it becomes But I have not stated my point exactly enough This rift is not like it s your logic fault it is a geologic fault It is a flaw in the mind that runs inevitably into the earth And yet what is the burden of the Bible if not a sense of the mutuality of influence, rising out of an essential unity, among soul and body and community and world These are all the works of God, and it is there for the work of virtue to make or restore harmony among them P 109 Invariably the failure of organized religions, by which they cut themselves off from mystery and therefore from sanctity, lies in the attempt to impose an absolute division between faith and doubt, to make belief perform as knowledge when they forbid their prophets to go into the wilderness, they lose the possibility of renewal P 130 the very nature of orthodoxy one who presumes to know the truth does not look for it P 173 74 The pattern of orthodoxy in religion, because it is well known, gives us a useful paradigm The encrusted religious structure is not changed by the institutional dependents they are part of the crust It is changed by one who goes alone to the wilderness, where he fasts and prays, and returns with cleansed vision And going alone, he goes independent of institutions, forswearing orthodoxy right opinion I m going to the wilderness he goes to the margin, where he is surrounded by the possibilities by no means all good that orthodoxy has excluded By fasting he disengages his thoughts from the immediate issues of livelihood his willing hunger takes his mind off the payroll, so to speak And by praying he acknowledges ignorance the orthodox presume to know, whereas the marginal person is trying to find out He returns to the community, not necessarily with new truth, but with a new vision of the truth he sees itwhole than before P 174On academia, careerism, and mobility The professor lives in his career, in a ghetto of career oriented fellow professors Where he may be geographically is of little interest to him One s career is a vehicle, not a dwelling one is concerned less for where it is than for where it will go The careerist professor is by definition a specialist professor Utterly dependent upon his institution, he blunts his critical intelligence and blurs his language so as to exist harmoniously within it and so serves his school with an emasculated and fragmentary intelligence, deferring realistically to the redundant procedures and meaningless demands of an inflated administrative bureaucracy whose educational purpose is written on its paychecks They begin to need, and so to promote, the mobility, careerism, and moral confusion that are victimizing the local population and destroying the local communities The stock in trade of the man of learning comes to be ignorance P 147 48 The typical American success story moves from a modest rural beginning to urban affluence, from manual labor to office work We must ask, then, what must be the educational effect, the influence, of a farmer s son who believes, with the absolute authorization of his society, that he has mightily improved himself by becoming a professor of agriculture Has he not improved himself by an upward motivation which by its nature avoids the issue of quality which I assume is simply that an agriculture specialist is better than a farmer And does he not exemplify to his students the proposition that the way up leads away from home How could he, who has succeeded by earning a Ph.D and a nice place in town, advise his best students to go home and farm, or even assume that they might find good reasons for doing so P 160On what modern agriculture has wrought I remember, during the fifties, the outrage with which our political leaders spoke of the forced removal of the populations of villages in communist countries I also remember that at the same time, in Washington, the word on farming was Get big or get out a policy which is still in effect and which has taken an enormous toll The only difference is that of method the force used by the communists was military with us, it has been economic a free market in which the freest were the richest And so those who could not get big have got out not just in my community, but in farm communities all over the country But as a social or economic goal, bigness is totalitarian it establishes an inevitable tendency toward the one that will be the biggest of all Many who got big to stay in are now being driven out by those who got bigger The aim of bigness implies not one aim that is not socially and culturally destructive P 41 By this most logical of developments, then, we have passed from a farm based, family based, independent agriculture to an agriculture abjectly dependent upon many kinds of industrial inputs and firmly based upon several kinds of disaster We are producing, at an incalculable waste of topsoil and of human life and energy, and at the cost of destroying communities and poisoning the land and the streams, food to be used against the hungry as a weapon P 167 It would be possible to calculate the probable monetary cost of the unemployment, community and family breakdown, crime, vandalism, pollution, and soil loss that are the results of overwhelming inputs of technology but apparently an agricultural economist is not expected to look either so widely around or so far ahead P 168 Have you ever read an obscure book that no one you know has heard of, and felt that it was so good that it should be required reading for every human being That s how I felt about this book.Wendell Berry is a hero for many, including Barbara Kingsolver, who references many of Berry s ideas in her novel Animal Vegetable Miracle I ve been meaning to get into his stuff for quite some time, and when I read this book it resonated with so many things I have believed or thought of, but never articu Have you ever read an obscure book that no one you know has heard of, and felt that it was so good that it should be required reading for every human being That s how I felt about this book.Wendell Berry is a hero for many, including Barbara Kingsolver, who references many of Berry s ideas in her novel Animal Vegetable Miracle I ve been meaning to get into his stuff for quite some time, and when I read this book it resonated with so many things I have believed or thought of, but never articulated or laid out in so orderly a fashion.A bit of a Michael Pollen from 20 years ago, Berry wrote this essay on the disintegration of the diversified American farm back in the 1970 s Things only seem to have gotten worse in many ways since then Berry outlines the roots of many problems in agriculture and how they came from government policies He talks about how the concept of getting big or getting out was intended to prevent starvation supposedly but has killed off the diversified small farm and created an unhealthy monoculture system of farming He compares this with the healthy, sustainable, organic Amish traditions, which totally made me want to go hang out with the Amish and learn how to wield a scythe.The one good thing I see that has occurred in our country since the publication of this book is the trend towards farmers markets and CSAs They are the one ray of hope I see in our current situation, when most of us haven t a clue where or how the food we put in our bodies was grown The land won t be able to produce forever if large farms continue to misuse it Bottom line Grow your own food If you can t do that, join a CSA or patronize a farmer s market That is the only way small farms stand a chance, and perhaps the only chance we ourselves have to make a stand for the health of the land, the soil, and our own bodies A great, although uneven, criticism of the reigning agricultural and cultural mentality in the U.S It s impressive that Berry wrote thisthan 30 years ago since the argument seems just as timely today The first two and last two chapters were the strongest In between, he gets into an abstract discussion on the relationship between our connection to the land, ourselves, and other human beings The vagueness of some of his terminology and expressions in these chapters resulted in my losing A great, although uneven, criticism of the reigning agricultural and cultural mentality in the U.S It s impressive that Berry wrote thisthan 30 years ago since the argument seems just as timely today The first two and last two chapters were the strongest In between, he gets into an abstract discussion on the relationship between our connection to the land, ourselves, and other human beings The vagueness of some of his terminology and expressions in these chapters resulted in my losing interest The argument itself was subtle, but it wasn t as well elucidated as I would have liked It seems that Berry was relying on his readers to have a poetic sensibility that I myself lack I fully admire the lyricism of his writing in these chapters it just didn t quite scratch my particular itch this time around Some day I ll come back to this when I m older and wiser and give it the five stars it probably deserves Either that, or I ll feel the same way I do now and move it down to three blakerosser1 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  • Paperback
  • 246 pages
  • The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
  • Wendell Berry
  • English
  • 09 April 2019
  • 0871568772