…though eventually there needs to be a dedicated “Uncle Wendell” chapter in the “p’BD’DiA” book…
For decades the Kentucky poet, critic, and farmer Wendell Berry has advocated personal activism on behalf of the environment. There should not be a “split between what we think and what we do,” he has written. “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.”
Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.
A community economy is not an economy in which well-placed persons can make a ‘killing’. It is an economy whose aim is generosity and a well-distributed and safeguarded abundance. — Wendell Berry
Berry is a strong defender of family, rural communities, and traditional family farms. He has developed 17 rules for the healthy functioning of sustainable local communities. The underlying principles could be described as ‘the preservation of ecological diversity and integrity, and the renewal, on sound cultural and ecological principles, of local economies and local communities’:
- Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.
- Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.
- Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbours.
- Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).
- Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labour saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.
- Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.
- Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.
- Strive to supply as mush of the community’s own energy as possible.
- Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.
- Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.
- Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.
- Sees that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.
- Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.
- Looks into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programmes, systems of barter, and the like.
- Always be aware of the economic value of neighbourly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighbourhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.
- A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.
- A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.
Berry and his family have been in the same place for two centuries, as reflected in the fragments taken from ‘The Gathering’, published in the The Country of Marriage (1973):