Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Wendell Berry speaks about environmental and societal problems, rebuking us for not taking personal responsibility for the care of our land and communities.
"The danger, in other words, is that people will think they have made a sufficient change if they have altered their "values," or had a "change of heart," or experienced a "spiritual awakening," and that such a change in passive consumers will necessarily cause appropriate changes in the public experts, politicians, and corporate executives... The trouble with this is that a proper concern for nature and our use of nature must be practiced, not by our proxy-holders, but by ourselves. A change of heart, or of values, without a practice is only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life. The "environmental crisis," in fact, can be solved only if people, individually and in their communities, recover responsibility... We have an "environmental crisis" because we have consented to an economy in which by, eating, drinking, working, resting, traveling, and enjoying ourselves we are destroying the natural, the God-given, world."
How often have I been the one who thought I had made a "sufficient change" because I cared about an abstract "environmentalism." In college in CA I was an "active" (attending) member of the environmental club. I spoke passionately about how we needed to care for our earth. Then one day when I had moved back to the Midwest it hit me. I didn't even recycle. (I actually don't right now either, I've been a bit disillusioned by it.) So, I began packing up all of my recycling from my cabin 15 minutes from my campus and sorting it into their recycling bins. Just that small step made me feel a bit more legitimate deep in my soul. Imagine how appalled I was the day the expose came out in our college paper that the college didn't actually recycle! Everything was put in the same dumpster.
But, Mr. Berry's point goes further than that. He calls us as a community to become less dependent on people we can't touch for our lives. He wants us to make and grow as much as we can and then buy the rest from locals. He wants us to take our elderly into our homes rather than putting them in impersonal state-run homes, to care for our neighbor's children rather than having them go to day care, even in organizing local entertainment rather than going to a movie theater. Through this he believes that real healing will come not only to our land, but also to our relationships and souls.
For me today this means that I am baking my own bread and line drying my families clothes. How does it look for you? (I know cheesy question to elicit reader response, but I truly am curious! I'm always looking for new ideas.)
to be continued...