Wendell Berry makes me want to do everything slowly and to make sure that I do it well. I'm reading The Unsettling of America right now, a book that has been on my father's shelf since long before I was born. After hearing Mr. Berry speak at Slow Food Nation a few weeks ago, I went back to my dad's apartment and scoured his shelves to find it (my dad claims his books are organized into categories, I have yet to find the key that breaks the code of this organization, but looking through them is always a fun journey). This is the first time in a long time that I have read a book slowly, not just going for essence, but making sure that I am aware of every sentence (I'm still only on page 80).
Thinking back to the panel Mr. Berry spoke at I wonder if maybe he has this effect on everyone; he prepared some opening remarks for the culminating panel of the weekend (the all-star one with Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini). After reading these remarks, Corby Kummer (the moderator) asked him to re-read them so that the audience could more fully digest. Within the context of the weekend this resonated with me. I was glad that not just food was valued as something to be prepared, enjoyed and discussed with integrity, but also the ideas and exchanges themselves. I had never seen anyone take the time at a panel like that to allow something to be respoken, to just get to sit with it for awhile. Now that I'm actually reading Wendell Berry's work, I see that this is the effect he has. I want everyone to read his book, and maybe we can all start doing less a little better.
His remarks from the panel were about the neccessity of local adaptation, I've transcribed them here:
"For too long humans have been spared, mainly by the cheapness of the fossil fuels, from the universal necessity of local adaptation. It is ultimately an inescapable biological imperative that human land use economies should correspond as closely as possible to the ecological mosaic. To this we no longer have even the illusion of a second choice. The increasing cost of energy and the vulnerability of long distance transportation in an age of violence show the importance of local food and forest communities and the reasonable extent of local economic self-sufficiency everywhere. This would require:
1) Diversity of locally adapted domestic species, crops and animals, increasing the acreage of perennials.
2) Conservation of land and water involving the proper use of woodlands and wetlands.
3) Fences. Fenced roads, permanent pastures, farm woodlands, boundaries and edges, which would increase the diversified populations of wild species.
4) More farmers, foresters, and other workers in land economy.
5) Local facilities for processing, distributing and marketing local products.
6) Propriety of state. And I want to include in that propriety the necessity of scaling down in our confidence in our own intelligence. We obviously have to be fairly smart to contrive imposing mechanical, chemical, electronic, genetic and nuclear technologies, but we have little evidence that we can deal intelligently with the results. All these remarkably intelligent, beautifully engineered technologies leave messes behind."