Friday, June 26, 2015

Kentucky author, farmer echoed Pope Francis' sentiments about nature and humanity in 1983

Wendell Berry delivered the Jefferson
Lecture in the Humanities in 2012.
The Vatican released Pope Francis' "first much anticipated Encyclical 'Laudato Si' ("Praise Be to You") last week. In the document and the subsequent media conference at the Vatican, scientists and theologians of varying traditions intoned dire warnings about the limits of a science-based culture and called on the world to recover a pre-Modern respect for nature that harmonizes human advances with natural integrity," Duke University student Travis Knoll writes for The Huffington Post.

"As it turns out, a U.S. author from Kentucky came to Francis' same conclusions a little over thirty years ago," Knoll writes. "Award winning author Wendell Berry advocated in his 1983 essay 'Two Economies' for a system that would prioritize the spiritual 'Kingdom of God' without neglecting economical necessities."

"Two religious humans, one the leader of more than a billion Catholics, and the other, a small Kentucky farmer, both recognize that nature and humanity are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent," Knoll writes. "If you are suspicious of the Argentine cleric in white's credentials or relevance to the U.S.'s conscience, try lending your ears to the Kentucky farmer."

Berry's essay "advocated for a practical harmony that both shaped the environment through human invention and allowed the environment to provide practical aids and limits on human development," Knoll writes. "Berry used topsoil as an example. He argued that industrialists overlooked complex ecological systems by replacing the double function of topsoil, water retention and drainage, with machines and dams that performed merely one or the other task, risking eroded ecosystems. In short, in the name of efficiency, technocrats had overlooked and reduced nature's efficiency. Turning to the ironic belief that we can or ought to control nature, Berry asked: 'What is to be the fate of self-control in an economy that encourages and rewards unlimited selfishness?'"

"Berry illustrated that while humans could ruin the environment through a divorce of humanity and nature, human engagement with nature might improve it, if scaled correctly," Knoll writes. "He pointed to an indigenous community, the Papago in Mexico, that, through irrigation and regular agriculture, had formed a type of oasis that attracted birds. The Park Service in Arizona had banned the same nation from their traditional farming methods on an ecological preserve. This restriction ironically reduced the bird sanctuary's bird and plant biodiversity." (Read more)

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