Wendell Berry on Mankind’s Ecological Imprint

Video here

The hummingbird successfully crossing the Gulf of Mexico is adaptive, mile by mile, to the distance. It does not exceed its own mental and physical capacities, and it makes the trip exactly like pre-industrial human migrants on contemporary energy.

For humans, local adaptation is not work for a few financiers, and a few intellectual and political hotshots. This is work for everybody, requiring everybody’s intelligence. It is work inherently democratic.

What must we do?

First. We must not work or think on a heroic scale. In our age of global industrialism, heroes too likely risk the lives of people, places and things they do not see. We must work on a scale proper to our limited abilities. We must not break things we cannot fix. There is no justification ever for permanent ecological damage. If this imposes a burden of guilt upon us all, so be it.

Second. We must abandon the homeopathic delusion that the damages done by industrialization can be corrected by more industrialization.

Third. We must quit solving our problems by moving on. We must try to stay put and learn where we are, geographically,  historically, and ecologically.

Fourth. We must learn, if we can, the sources and cost of our own economic lives.

Fifth. We must give up the notion that we are too good to do our own work and clean up our own messes. It is not acceptable for this work to be done for us by wage slavery or by enslaving nature.

Sixth. By way of correction we must make locally-adapted economies, based on local nature, local sunlight, local intelligence, and local work.

Seventh. We must understand that these measures are radical. They go to the root of our problems. They cannot be performed for us by any expert, political leader, or corporation.

This is an agenda that may be undertaken by ordinary citizens at any time on their own initiative. In fact, it describes an effort already undertaken all over the world by many people. It defines also the expectation that citizens who by their gifts are exceptional will not shirk the most humble service.


Always love anything from Wendell Berry and Gene Logsdon. I’m a little, bitty artist/hobby farmer making all sorts of mistakes but feel like I’m doing the right thing trying.

Amen Wendell Berry, amen.

Bravo Wendell and Gene.

The two concepts that resonate most strongly with me (actually, they all do obviously) are those of personal accountability and everyone doing what they can be it great or small – just do it. I believe the ancient Greeks had a proverb that went something along the lines of “a society is great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never sit under”. That is the way of life that I try to live by. Fits in perfectly with the ‘seven commandments’ as written above.


Bravo, Wendell! Would that we had dozens more philosophers of like mind.

That is just a beautiful to do list ! The rape of the earth is such a consistent theme in the demise of cultures and societies past and present. Human beings used as a resource to build wealth upon a land used like a kleenex. Only way out is to change the culture. First move is to cut out the middle man. How is it possible that we have “representatives” that are bought and sold by lobbies and there is no organized movement to change the system? The US needs to become a technocracy. All citizens vote on all issues. Weekly referendums and online town halls. Leaders will emerge that may influence local and national debate. Leaders like Wendell Berry. Taxes with representation is worse than taxes without representation !

His last sentence should be a commandment or at least an amendment to the Constitution.

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