Home Feed
Home
Search
Search
Add Review, Blurb, Quote
Add
Activity
Activity
Profile
Profile
Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Revised)
Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Revised) | Wendell Berry
19 posts | 2 read | 4 to read
Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in 1977, "The Unsettling of America" has been recognized as a classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the landfrom the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it. Sadly, as Berry notes in his Afterword to this third edition, his arguments and observations are more relevant than ever. We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits. Although this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong, Berry writes, there are good people working to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth. Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction."
Amazon Indiebound Barnes and Noble WorldCat Goodreads LibraryThing
blurb
readinginthedark
post image

Watched this documentary this morning! I had to get it through Interlibrary Loan, but it was worth the wait. What a poignant biography and commentary on farming versus change for the sake of "progress." Really good!

tpixie I read one of his books and the mother had decided that while she and her husband worked so hard to allow their kids to go to college, that going to college was the beginning of the breakdown of the family. Because when children went away to college they did not come back to live near their parents or each other. That has really stayed with me. 6mo
readinginthedark @tpixie Interesting! I've never read any of his novels, just poetry and a couple of essays/articles, but he was a strong advocate for the land and a knowledgeable but simple life. I should read that one. 6mo
tpixie It‘s the only one of his I read. It was s good, quiet gentle read you can tell he loves the land 6mo
50 likes3 comments
quote
jessamyngrace
post image

Nature never loses anything: she preserves and protects herself.

quote
jessamyngrace

For the care or control of fertility, both that of the earth & that of our bodies, we have allowed a technology of chemicals & devices to replace entirely the cultural means of ceremonial forms, disciplines, & restraints. We have gathered up the immense questions that surround the coming of life into the world & reduced them to simple problems for which we have manufactured & marketed simple solutions. An infertile woman and an infertile field...

jessamyngrace ... both receive a dose of chemicals, at a calculated risk of undesirable consequences, and are this equally reduced to the status of productive machines. And for unwanted life -- sperm, ova, embryos, weeds, insects, etc -- we have the same sort of ready remedies, for sale, of course, and characteristically popularized by advertisements that speak much of advantages but little of problems." 2y
1 comment
quote
jessamyngrace
post image

It's taken me a long time to get into this book. Berry mostly talks on agricultural issues (which do interest me, in general, because food has caused so many of my health issues).

But this... This is such an interesting correlation. What do you think?

quote
jessamyngrace

The Amish "have escaped the mainstream American Life of distraction, haste, aimlessness, violence, and disintegration....The Amish no doubt have their problems; I do not wish to imply they are perfect. But it cannot be denied that they have mastered one of the fundamental paradoxes of our condition: we can make ourselves whole only by accepting our partiality, by living within our limits, by being human -- not by trying to be gods."

2 likes1 stack add
quote
jessamyngrace

There is an inescapable kinship between farming and art, for farming depends as much on character, devotion, imagination and the sense of structure, as on knowledge. It is a practical art. But it is also a practical religion, a practice of religion, a rite. By farming we enact our fundamental connection with energy and matter, light and darkness.

Meglet This was too abstract for Ryan. 😂 He thought it was a bit hokey. 2y
jessamyngrace @Meglet ?? I've found that Berry makes a lot of good points regarding what our relationship with nature *should* be. But, because he is railing against the industrialization of farming, agribusiness, etc, he tends to overstate things for emphasis. For context, he is talking about the soil and it's life. How the cycles of farming cannot be thought of as a "store" of energy like a battery or a gas station. Nature isn't a machine. 2y
jessamyngrace It is a Wheel of Life, according to Berry and Sir Albert Howard, where "death supersedes life and life rises again from what is dead and decayed." 2y
See All 6 Comments
Meglet When I read this to him, his look pretty much said, that guy is making way too much out of farming. You plant seeds, you water and fertilize, you harvest. My husband's such a concrete, hands-on guy. 2y
jessamyngrace @Meglet hahaha. Mine is the same. As Americans, I think we are conditioned to value efficiency. That is our standard of success. Efficiency doesn't examine the whys of what we do. Efficiency focuses on getting the maximum yield from minimum work. But, I guess the question posed by Berry is, should efficiency be the standard? Are we supposed to be rulers or stewards? 2y
Meglet Such a valuable question. 2y
1 like6 comments
quote
jessamyngrace

The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care we can have no life.

quote
jessamyngrace

It is typical of the mentality of our age that we cannot conceive of infinity except as an enormous quantity. We cannot conceive of it as orderly process, as pattern or cycle, as shapeliness. We conceive of it as inconceivable quantity -- that is, as the immeasurable. Any quantity that we cannot measure we assume must be infinite.... If we think of infinite energy as immeasurable fuel, we are committed in the same thought to it's destruction.

quote
jessamyngrace

The difficulty with mechanically extractable energy is that so far we have been unable to make it available without serious geological & ecological damage, or to effectively restrain its use, or to use or even neutralize its wastes. From birth... we are carrying the physical & the moral poisons produced by our crude & ignorant use of this sort of energy. And the more abundant the energy of this sort... the more abounding must be the consequences.

quote
jessamyngrace
post image

Living energy vs. mechanical energy.

quote
jessamyngrace
post image

We must learn to discipline ourselves, to restrain ourselves, to need less, to care more for the needs of others. We must understand what the health of the earth requires, and we must put that before all other needs. If a catastrophic famine is possible, then let us undertake the labors of wisdom and make the necessary sacrifices of luxury and comfort.

quote
jessamyngrace
post image

quote
jessamyngrace
post image

It divorces us from the sources of our bodily life; as a people, we no longer know the earth we come from, have no respect for it, keep no responsibilities to it.

2 likes2 stack adds
quote
jessamyngrace

Under the discipline of unity, knowledge and morality come together. No longer can we have that paltry "objective" knowledge so prized by the academic specialists. To know anything at all becomes a moral predicament.

quote
jessamyngrace

Sir Albert Howard saw the significance of the "wide chasm between science in the laboratory & practice in the field." He devoted his life to bridging that chasm. His is the story of a fragmentary intelligence seeking both its own wholeness & that of the world. The aim that he finally realized in his books was to prepare the way "for treating the whole problem of health in the soil, plant, animal & man as one great subject."

quote
jessamyngrace

It is by the measure of culture, rather than economics or technology, that we can begin to reckon the nature and the cost of the country-to-city migration that has left our farmland in the hands of only five percent of the people. From a cultural point of view, the movement from farm to city involves a radical simplification of mind and character.

quote
jessamyngrace

A culture is not a collection of relics or ornaments, but a practical necessity, & it's corruption invokes calamity. A healthy culture is a communal order of memory, insight, value, work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities & the human limits. It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth & to each other.

quote
jessamyngrace

"The economy is still substantially that of the fur trade, still based on the same general kinds of commercial items: technology, weapons, ornaments, novelties, and drugs. The one great difference is that by now the revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water. Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself."

Emily92Bibliophile Just saw the preview for his documentary Look & See and now I really want to read his book! 2y
jessamyngrace @Emily92Bibliophile ooohhh I'll have to check that out! Love documentaries. Berry's books are dense... I have to read a chapter at a time, haha. But his observations are spot on. 2y
2 likes2 comments
blurb
Kimzey
post image

Our first film at Sundance was Look and See, a beautiful documentary about Wendell Berry. Robert Redford took the stage for the Q & A!

MicheleinPhilly Exciting! Let me know if you check out Manifesto. I'm dying to see it. 3y
DivineDiana What a wonderful experience! 3y
See All 7 Comments
Kimzey @MicheleinPhilly No, I wasn't able to see Manifesto. It sounds like a fascinating performance. I hope there will be a way to see it after Sundance. 3y
Kimzey @ReadOrDieRachel @DivineDiana It was a great experience and my first time there! We sure packed in a lot of films! 3y
MicheleinPhilly Me too! I want to give her an Oscar just based on the trailer! 3y
Suet624 Is that Gus Van Sant on the left?? 3y
54 likes7 comments