Social change by Wendell Berry


Wendell Berry is an American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer. He is frequently cited as an inspiring voice; his message: humans must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish. This environmental legend spoke with Bill Moyers about social change – here is the meeting account.


This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the Omega Institute for a sustainability conference focused on « where do we go from here? » I’m still working on digesting all of the interesting ideas that were presented and will be writing more in the coming days, but one thing that was clear throughout the weekend was the widespread reverence for Wendell Berry, the farmer, poet, novelist and environmental legend.

Berry was frequently cited as an inspiring voice by speakers, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bill Moyers just aired a long and interesting interview with Berry on his show Moyers & Company that also profiles his incredible history of environmental journalism and activism.

Berry talks about his long lifes work of activism, including when he and a number of activists occupied the Kentucky Governor’s office to pressure the Governor to hear about the devastation of mountaintop removal mining.

Here are some choice quotes from the interview, which you can watch in-full below:

Berry on social movements: I’m not putting my faith in the people, I’m putting my faith in some of the people.

Berry on our political system: Because in our society, people with money are bigger and more powerful and more noticeable and count more as citizens than people without much money.

Berry on religion and environmentalism: It’s an article of my faith and belief, that all creatures live by breathing God’s breath and participating in his spirit. And this means that the whole thing is holy. The whole shooting match. There are no sacred and unsacred places, there are only sacred and desecrated places. So finally I see those gouges in the surface mine country as desecrations, not just as land abuse. Not just as…as human oppression. But as desecration. As blasphemy.

Berry on the slow process of making change: well we’ve acknowledged that the problems are big, now where’s the big solution? When you ask the question what is the big answer, then you’re implying that we can impose the answer. But that’s the problem we’re in to start with, we’ve tried to impose the answers. The answers will come not from walking up to your farm and saying this is what I want and this is what I expect from you. You walk up and you say what do you need. And you commit yourself to say all right, I’m not going to do any extensive damage here until I know what it is that you are asking of me. And this can’t be hurried. This is the dreadful situation that young people are in. I think of them and I say well, the situation you’re in now is a situation that’s going to call for a lot of patience. And to be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial.

Wendell Berry is a fount of wisdom and inspiration, so watch the full interview:

Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanity from on Vimeo.

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Photo:  © Guy Mendes

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