Renowned Farmer and Writer Wendell Berry: Confronting the Consequences of Runaway Capitalism
Photo Credit: Screenshot: BillMoyers.com
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Transcript is available below the video.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome. In this broadcast you will meet an effervescent man who still believes we can make democracy work. Later we’ll talk about those people in Washington who refuse to let it work, but first Wendell Berry. A master of the written word, he rarely appears on television. For one thing, when he’s not writing, he’s farming—and that can keep a fellow busy from sunrise to sunset. But we met recently and after considerable persuasion he said “OK, bring your cameras with you.” This portrait is the result. Produced with the Schumann Media Center, which I head.
WENDELL BERRY: We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?
BILL MOYERS: For Wendell Berry, the defense of the Earth is a mission that admits no compromise. This quiet and modest man who lives and works far from the center of power on a farm in Kentucky where his family has lived for 200 years has become an outspoken, even angry advocate for a revolution in our treatment of the land.
WENDELL BERRY: “A Warning to My Readers.”
Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness, or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it is.
BILL MOYERS: Berry rarely gives television interviews, but recently, here at St. Catharine College, near Louisville, he agreed to sit down with me to read some of his work and talk about his passions.
PRESIDENT WILLIAM HUSTON: Good morning everyone, my name is….
BILL MOYERS: It was a special occasion, from far and wide, friends and followers of Berry gathered in the Louisville area to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of his landmark work, The Unsettling Of America. It’s one of forty books in Berry’s prolific career: poems, essays, novels, short stories. The two day conference addressing what it will take to resettle America, brought together advocates of sustainable agriculture, environmentalists, leaders in the local food movement, and others who recognize Wendell Berry as a visionary.
BILL MCKIBBEN: He understood what was happening on this planet a long time before everybody else. He’s, you might say, a prophet of responsibility.
PATRICK HOLDEN: This conference is at a very important moment because it’s a turning point. You’ve got all the elders, the founders of the sustainable agriculture movement gathered here and we’re all now involved with the need for a transition towards more sustainable food systems.
VANDANA SHIVA: I do see this as a defense of democracy and freedom, for survival. And so I’m here.
BILL MOYERS: It was just a year ago on Earth Day you said, “People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped by influence, by power, by us.” And some of us who have read you and followed you took that as an indication that maybe, maybe the mad farmer is getting a little madder, a little more radical.
WENDELL BERRY: Well I have grown more radical the older I’ve become. I don’t remember saying that, but it sounds like me.