Author Spotlight: Wendell Berry


Wendell Berry, 85, on his farm in Port Royal, Kentucky. Guy Mendes / Vox

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.” -from Wendell Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays, 1993

Wendell Berry is an American author of both fiction and nonfiction, a poet, essayist, environmental activist, and farmer. He has written extensively about the practices of agriculture, and the impacts it has on consumers, animals, and the planet. As environmental consciousness grows, Berry’s writings reflect an urgent and raw call for action and reform.

Though Wendell Berry has gained more traction and attention in the past decade, he is no newcomer to advocating for his environmentalist beliefs through writing. His more recent works have come to reflect a current dissatisfaction with the political character of our nation, most prominently regarding America’s animal agriculture practices and harmful destruction. Despite his dissatisfaction with the current governing and operation of American, Berry’s writing paves a road towards hope for future generations. By advocating for more sustainable, less environmentally taxing practices, he is helping to reform the agricultural landscape of modern society. 

In the world of today’s climate crisis, Berry’s work urge readers to actively take charge and make change in their communities. Global change begins with individuals making a conscious effort to lessen their negative impact on the environment around them. Young activists today can look to Berry’s writings for non-violent, environmentalist prose, which urges readers to end the destruction of the Earth, animals, and human beings. Berry believes that once we have the knowledge to recognize wrong in the world around us, it is our moral duty to try and make change or find solutions to the issue- as demonstrates in his participation in the 2011 Kentuckians for the Commonwealth rally/sit-in to end mountaintop removal coal mining. In “The Peace of Wild Things”, Berry discusses the discomfort of industrialization, and the contrasting solitude and serenity found in nature:

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Post written by Emily Bunn

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