27. 04. 2017

Why the Wonderful Wendell Berry Should Still be on Your Reading List!

I’m just reading ‘Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist’, Paul Kingsnorth’s collection of essays written over the last 15 years or so.

It’s a good read – and very challenging for someone like me as a fully signed-up, still enlisted environmentalist. Or, rather, sustainable development activist, as I prefer to call myself, notwithstanding the fact that sustainable development is one of Paul Kingsnorth’s (many!) bêtes noires.

Paul talks about Wendell Berry in a couple of his essays, and he is indeed one of Paul’s favourite authors. They both write beautifully. They both have a superabundance of trenchant personal opinions. They both love history. They’re both unabashed romantics, with a leaning to the nostalgic. And they’re both really significant opinion-formers, at a time when the Environment Movement is struggling to define its role in a world gone mad.

Which made Paul absolutely the right person to select and introduce a new edition of Wendell Berry’s writings, which I hugely enjoyed reviewing for the latest issue of Resurgence & Ecologist. Here’s how I summed up his overall impact:

“For more than 50 years, Wendell Berry has invited people to think more intelligently about the suicidal stupidity of progress defined by limitless growth. He powerfully reminds us that this is the root cause of today’s environmental crisis, and that the manifold efforts being made today to tweak that model of progress, or mitigate its increasingly destructive externalities, are almost certainly doomed to failure.”

And Paul himself captured the rather more positive upside of everything that Wendell Berry stands for, as follows: “Wendell Berry’s formula for a good life and a good community is simple and pleasingly unoriginal. Slow down. Pay attention. Do good work. Love your neighbour. Love your place. Stay in your place. Settle for less, enjoy more.”

Here’s the review in full:
http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article4880-a-prophet-in-his-own-place.html
‘The World-Ending Fire: the Essential Wendell Berry’, by Paul Kingsnorth. Allen Lane 2017.
ISBN: 978-0241279205
 

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