Friday, October 27, 2017

Wendell Berry says declining number of farmers limits grasp of economics, environmental policy

Wendell Berry (Photo by Guy Mendes)
In an interview with Time magazine's Sarah Begley, Kentucky writer-farmer Wendell Berry talks about why more people should live in rural areas and work the land through agriculture or animal husbandry. One big reason, he says, is that people who live in rural areas can better appreciate why we need to take care of our environment through policy -- an area in which activists have mostly failed.

"The more people who live in cities, the fewer there are who have knowledge of what I'm calling the economic landscapes. So that's the wrong way to get a lobby for better land care. There's nobody lobbying for the best use of farming and forest and mining landscape," Berry says. "For land use and land maintenance in those economic landscapes, we have done no good. We've not ever been able to put any meaningful restraints on the coal industry. They've done what they wanted to do. So-called farming has become increasingly dependent on toxic chemicals. There's still too much soil erosion."

Those who have never lived near a farm don't have that bone-deep knowledge of finite resources that comes from dealing with the vagaries of nature, Berry says: "This has been a dominant idea throughout our history: if you don't have it here, you can get it from somewhere else. If you use up this commodity here, you can't produce it here anymore, you've worn out the possibility here, get it from somewhere else. Or if you're short of labor or you're too good for certain kinds of labor, go to Africa and get some slaves. That recourse has haunted us, has plagued us to death." Read the whole interview here.

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