Today’s hortatory fanfare

Wendell Berry’s writing surely exemplifies the phrase “clarion call”, though I’ve often felt that it’s just not possible to live up to his level of ecological and economic rectitude. Still, there’s often a shiver of Right On! as I read his commentaries on what we’re missing through inattention. Today Tim O’Reilly links to Berry’s essay In Distrust of Movements (2000) and I’ll quote my favorite bits:

…I must declare my dissatisfaction with movements to promote soil conservation or clean water or clean air or wilderness preservation or sustainable agriculture or community health or the welfare of children. Worthy as these and other goals may be, they cannot be achieved alone. I am dissatisfied with such efforts because they are too specialized, they are not comprehensive enough, they are not radical enough, they virtually predict their own failure by implying that we can remedy or control effects while leaving causes in place. Ultimately, I think, they are insincere; they propose that the trouble is caused by other people; they would like to change policy but not behaviour

We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm. Most people cannot imagine the forest and the forest economy that produced their houses and furniture and paper; or the landscapes, the streams and the weather that fill their pitchers and bathtubs and swimming pools with water. Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations.