Wendell Berry and Helena Norberg-Hodge: On CARETAKING our own

How often do I read something that rings bells all the way through? These two beautiful souls truly “walk their talk,” each expressing their unique natures to connect with both fellow humans and our Mother Earth, in ways that are not just rational and logical, but sensuous and alive. 

I highlighted two excerpts, just to give you the flavor; the entire discussion is well worth absorbing.

Caretaking

Excerpts:

HNH: It’s also important to realize that the real problem is not human nature, but what I think of as an inhuman system. One of the biggest problems we’re facing is that the system has become so big that we can’t see what we’re doing and what we’re contributing to. Our economic system is of such an inhuman scale that it has become like a giant machine—a global juggernaut that’s pushing us all into fear and a terrible sense of scarcity.

WB: What one has to say to begin with is that, as humans, we are limited in intelligence and we really have no reliable foresight. So none of us will come up with answers to the whole great problem. What we can do is judge our behavior, our history, and our present situation by a better standard than “efficiency” or “profit,” or those measures that we’re still using to determine economic decisions. The standard that I always come back to is the health of the world, which is the same as our own personal health. We can’t distinguish our health from the health of everything else. And we know enough from the ecologists now to know that health is a very complex and un-understandable complexity of relationships that makes the world whole.

HNH: Rather than those economic measures you referred to, the goal needs to be human and ecological well-being. And when people are more dependent on the living community around them—both the human and the nonhuman—then it becomes obvious that their well-being is connected to the well-being of the other.

WB: It seems to me that it all depends upon our ability to accept limits. And the present economic system doesn’t even acknowledge limits. It is “develop[ing] resources”—which is to say, turning resources into riches (which is to say, money)—which leads almost inevitably to destruction. Money is an abstraction. Goods are particular, and always available within limits— natural limits, and the rightful limits of our consumption.

. . .

WB: One of the roots of the problem is the focus of environmentalists. The conservation movement, for one hundred years, has, at least in this country, focused on wilderness preservation—places of spectacular rocks and waterfalls—at the expense of what I would call the “economic landscapes” of farming, forestry, and mining. The politicians have kept the environmental movement quiet by designating wilderness areas. And in the meantime, they’ve let corporations run completely out of control, and extraordinarily destructively, in the economic landscapes, without any acknowledgement at all that the natural world is out there just the same as it is in the parks.

HNH: At the same time, what I find so inspiring is that, in the localization movement, communities around the world are rebuilding truly healthy economies by diversifying. Those are like little diamonds in the landscape, aren’t they, of beauty and joy.

WB: Those are the examples we need to study and look to. And always that localization depends on a revival of the neighborhood principle. People can only do this if they help each other, and accounts come in my mail of how farmers, for instance, have scaled back, diversified, and increased the number of people who are employed on the land. This, it seems to me, is the incontrovertible answer to these people who say, “We need to give up on human nature and, as a favor to Nature, commit suicide.”

HNH: Another important point is that small, diversified farms always produce more per unit of land, water, and energy than large monocultures. So we have to turn this lie around that there are too many people now to localize, too many people to have small farms. It’s exactly the opposite.

WB: Small farms make economic sense. They also produce more happiness, more beauty, more health—those things that aren’t so quantifiable.

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2 Responses to Wendell Berry and Helena Norberg-Hodge: On CARETAKING our own

  1. Gabrielle says:

    Beautiful! This man has inspired me more than any poet or person of note in the last 5 years. I adore Wendell. I liken him to a modern Walt Whitman. My grandfather would have loved him.

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