It’s no secret that Wendell Berry is another one of my inspirations when thinking about sustainable food systems – my post about his work “The Pleasures of Eating” has been one of the most-viewed posts on this blog, and his name repeatedly comes up in things I read and am influenced by. A friend of mine found this recent interview with him online and shared it with me, and I would like to continue the chain and share it with you – it’s another great example of his poignant style of thinking and speaking, his multifaceted engagement and his ability to succinctly get to the heart of the matter while still expressing it poetically.
A couple of my favorite quotes drawn from the interview:
On sustainability in America:
Well, we are a young country. [...] And what we have done there in that time has not been sustainable. In fact, it has been the opposite. There’s less now of everything in the way of natural gifts, less of everything than what was there when we came. Sometimes we have radically reduced the original gift. And so for Americans to talk about sustainability is a bit of a joke, because we haven’t sustained anything very long — and a lot of things we haven’t sustained at all.
On the importance of local connections and the preservation of local memories:
[The importance of connections to the land] starts with the obvious perception that land that is in human use requires human care. And this calls for keeping in mind the history of such land, of what has worked well on it and the mistakes that have been made on it. To lose this living memory of what has happened to the place is really to lose an economic asset.
I’m more and more concerned with the economic values of such intangibles as affection, knowledge, and memory. A deep familiarity between a local community and the local landscape is a dear thing, just in human terms. It’s also, down the line, money in the bank because it helps you to preserve the working capital of the place.