Wendell Berry's Radical Skepticism
The celebrated farmer and poet shares a message of love in a time of unrest

Massey, Brian
Date Written:  2016-12-20
Publisher:  Civil Eats
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20417

When the celebrated writer, farmer, and elder statesman of the local food movement sat down in front of a sold-out audience at Johns Hopkins University last week, the crowd seemed even more eager than usual to soak in Berry's wisdom in this particularly fraught national moment. The event was a public conversation between Berry and Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and author of Fast Food Nation, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. And many in the audience -- made up of people who care about the work the Center does to study the intersections between food systems, the environment, and human health -- were likely feeling a great deal worried about the fate of the issues about which they care deeply.



The radical nature of Berry's skepticism allows him to see a problem for what it is, to avoid compartmentalization, and to speak to whole people and whole communities about what's going on. "I can’t think about climate change and look away from the ruining land and the ruining communities and the ruining towns and the ruining lives that are around me. All that has to do with climate change. A lot of climate change starts right there," he said.

Berry spoke about the "great mistake" of separating the land and the people, in that it "permits people to treat the land as an inert material quantity" to be safely exploited. He told the story of the first time he saw strip mining, saying, "It never occurred to me that people could do a thing like that."

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