|Phosphorus bombs over Gaza, January 2009|
|Alberta Tar Sands Complex|
|Phosphorus bombs over Gaza, January 2009|
|Alberta Tar Sands Complex|
|Hiroshima, August 7th 1945|
|Nagasaki, August 11th 1945|
|Castle Bravo Detonation|
|The Ruins of Hiroshima, August 1945|
|Tsar Bomba Detonation|
“Up to now (August 1962) there have been 106 nuclear tests since testing began again (almost a year). Thirty-one of these by the USSR, seventy-four by the USA, and one by Britain, in the USA (Nevada). The USA has made twenty-nine atmospheric tests, twenty-six in the South Pacific and three in Nevada. The USA has also made forty-four underground tests and one in the stratosphere. Total of all nuclear tests since the beginning: USA 229, USSR 86, UK 22, France 5.Grand total: 342 tests, of which 282 were in the atmosphere.Nice going, boys!” (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1965)
“After the blast, Ainri gave birth to a son, Robert. His thyroid glands were so damaged that he became dwarfed. The glands were later removed, consigning him to a lifelong regimnen of medication. Ainri got pregnant again and gave birth, she said, to “a bunch of grapes that had to be pulled out of me.” Twice more Ainri got pregnant, she said, and gave birth to children who appeared to be normal but died several days later. Another son, Alex, survived, but again with damaged thyroid glands. Ainri herself has thyroid problems: two new growths recently (2004) appeared there.”
“Now, data of this type has never been available. While it is true that these people do not live the way westerners do, civilized people, it is nonetheless true that they are more like us than the mice.”
“The habitation of these people on Rongelap Island affords the opportunity for a most valuable ecological radiation study on human beings. . . . The various radionuclides present on the island can be traced from the soil through the food chain and into the human being.”
|Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. Auckland 1985|
|Mountaintop Removal, Kentucky|
|Olympic Dam Mine, South Australia|
"What I am against - and without a minute's hesitation or apology - is our slovenly willingness to allow machines and the idea of machines to prescribe the terms and conditions of the lives of creatures, which we have allowed increasingly over the last two centuries, and are still allowing, at an incalculable cost to other creatures and to ourselves."Apart from the dehumanising aspects of mechanisation, the unspoken context of Berry's position is an understanding that the power and freedom gained by the use of machines will not be infinitely available as cheap and accessible reserves of petroleum begin to dry up.
"If Christianity is going to survive as more than a respecter and comforter of profitable iniquities, then Christians, regardless of their organisations, are going to have to interest themselves in economy - which is to say, in nature and in work. They are going to have to give workable answers to those who say we cannot live without this economy that is destroying us and destroying our world, who see the murder of Creation as the only way of life."Yet such workable answers are unlikely to emerge from the institutional forms of religion that are, like economics and industrial civilisation itself, riven by a deep alienation from the natural world. He continues:
"This separation of the soul from the body and from the world is no disease of the fringe, no aberration, but a fracture that runs through the mentality of institutional religion like a geological fault."Berry's interests lie more in economy than in economics. He consistently uses the term in its etymological sense of housekeeping, of managing a household. The fact that both economy and ecology have common roots is central to his thinking. He is fully conscious of the immense disconnect between the principles that we nominally live by as "Christian" nations and the policies and values that determine our actions in the world:
"Christ's life from the manger to the cross was an affront to the established powers of his time, as it is to the established powers of our time. Much is made in churches of the "good news" of the gospels. Less is said of the gospel's bad news, which is that Jesus would have been horrified by just about every "Christian" government the world has ever seen."
"It [the myth of progress] substitutes this infinite advance towards better and better life in the material sense for the old pilgrimage which you make by effort and grace to become a better person. . . . It takes people's minds off the important things. It becomes, at its worst, a kind of determinism. All we have to do is just passively go along and things will get better and better, and we'll be happier and happier."Wendell Berry herein identifies a major cause of the widespread alienation and social narcissism that assails the present times. The Socratic focus on an examined life grounded in reflective consciousness has been displaced by the boundless positivism preached by scientific and technocratic elites who forever push the boundaries of what is known in pursuit of "the new." We are constantly reassured that such "cutting edge" developments will replace existing technologies with newer, faster and more efficient versions, entertain our restless minds, restore our deteriorating health, and eventually correct dangerously altered climatic patterns. All the while, our collective pockets are steadily emptied into the already bloated coffers of transnational corporations and their shareholders. In his characteristic manner, Berry queries the nature of the "progress" that has been so relentlessly pursued:
"What is the measure of progress? It is possible to measure the progress of the last two or three hundred years in soil erosion. We can measure it in the rate of species extinction. We can measure it in pollution, in the toxicity of the world. Those things, like power and speed, are perfectly measurable. But we need also to raise the questions that are not quantitative. How happy are people? What do we make of all this complaining? How healthy are people? How are love and beauty faring? What do we make of all this doctoring and medication that is going on all the time at such a great expense?"The benefits of industrial civilisation have been gained at a cost which is only now beginning to be more widely understood. The systemic nature of the damage already caused is affecting virtually every dimension of human and planetary life, from the health of ecosystems to the stability of climatic patterns. Together with E.F. Schumacher, Wendell Berry finds such destructive consequences to be inherent in the very nature of the methods of industrial civilisation. He reflects:
"Industrialism, which is the name of our economy, and which is now virtually the only economy of the world, has been from its beginnings in a state of riot. It is based squarely on the principle of violence towards everything on which it depends. . . . The violence towards nature, towards human communities, traditional agricultures and local economies has been constant."
"The captains of industry have always counselled the rest of us to be 'realistic'. Let us therefore be realistic. Is it realistic to assume that the present economy would be just fine if only it would stop poisoning the air, or if only it would stop soil erosion, or if only it would stop degrading watersheds and forest ecosystems, or if only it would stop seducing children, or if only it would quit buying politicians, or if only it would give women and favoured minorities an equitable share of the loot? Realism, I think, is a very limited programme, but it informs us at least that we should not look for bird eggs in a cuckoo clock."The Thrasymachean principle of "might is right" now operates in such areas as energy policy, economic development, resource extraction, and - as we have come to observe more recently in Occupy Movement protests - in methods of social control. Wendell Berry urges us to become more conscious of the background forces and the hidden agendas that conspire to keep power in the hands of corporate elites and their armies of political lobbyists. Central to Berry's mission is a call for the re-empowerment of local communities:
"If it is unreasonable to expect a bad economy to try to become a good one, then we must go to work to build a good economy. It is appropriate that this duty should fall to us, for good economic behaviour is more possible for us than it is for the great corporations with their miseducated managers and their greedy and oblivious stockholders. . . . We must learn to spend our money with our friends and not with our enemies. But to do this, it is necessary to renew local economies and revive the domestic arts."
"No matter how urban our life, our bodies live by farming; we come from the earth and return to it, and so we live in agriculture as we live in flesh. While we live our bodies are moving particles of the earth, joined inextricably both to the soil and to the bodies of other living creatures. It is hardly surprising, then, that there should be some profound resemblances between our treatment of our bodies and our treatment of the earth." ("The Body and the Earth", The Art of the Common-Place, 2002)Berry's pursuit of the perennial has also brought him to a clear understanding of the role of healthy communities in the life of humanity. He reflects:
"What I'm talking about in my work is the hope that it may be possible to produce stable, locally adapted communities. . . . The idea of a healthy community is an indispensable measure, just as the idea of a healthy child, if you're a parent, is an indispensable measure. You can't operate without it."Wendell Berry has never sought a following. But he has ever sought to awaken us to the sacred dimension of earthly life. Wendell Berry simply asks to be heard.
I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labour of the fields
longer than a man's life
I am at home. Don't come with me.
You stay home too.
(Stay Home, 1980)
"After he finished delivering his paper I could not have told anyone what he said, but I knew I had heard the most important thing I had ever heard."This encounter also proved to be highly consequential for Thomas Berry. After the conference, a number of his articles and essays were published in Whole Earth Papers, a series of monographs produced by GEA between 1977 and 1983. These helped to carry the developed ideas of Thomas Berry out of academic and theological circles and into the broader community.
"There had never been any association between the Von Boecklin family and the Dominican Sisters, but through some providential purpose this farm was left to the Sisters who use it as a new expression of their traditional work in eduction."Two years later, Genesis Farm was established as a teaching center with Miriam MacGillis as its Director.
"Genesis Farm has provided a model for the Franciscans, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Loreto, Sisters of Notre Dame, and numerous other Catholic religious women's orders in their design and organisation of what now constitutes the Sisters of Earth network." (Sustainability and Spirituality, p. 82)
"Stemming, in part from our profound concern about transgenic seeds, the power line expansion, hydraulic fracking for natural gas and other local and planetary ecological threats, we have been working to explore what options are now available to us for expanding our traditional approaches to advocacy and activism. . . .Integral to the philosophy underlying many of the programs at Genesis Farm is the New Cosmology as articulated by Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme and others. Our view of the universe and our place in it has in recent centuries been radically expanded by the discoveries of science. This change in perspective can, if incorporated into our individual and collective understanding, awaken us to the errors in thinking that have led to a widespread and relentless destruction of the natural world by industrial civilisation, and the savaging of human communities through warfare and the exercise of titanic military capabilities.
Humans now stand on the threshold of a critical point in time, where our collective and individual actions have enormous potential and import."
"[Thomas] Berry suggests that . . . western society is being given a new revelation powerful enough to awaken us from our destructive behaviors toward the natural world. We are seeing with new eyes such as through the Hubble telescope or at the quantum level into the profound inner and outer unity of all being. He [Thomas Berry] describes this capacity to see the sacred unity of the whole and our participation in it as a moment of grace."Like Thomas Berry, and to a certain extent, Teilhard de Chardin before him, Miriam MacGillis views the progressive development of scientific understanding as a vehicle whereby our own understanding of the universe and its nature can be powerfully transformed. Ironically, this "moment of grace" is not universally received. There are many who interpret the same "revelation" as a refutation of the notion of the existence of any sacred meaning or purpose underlying both the cosmos and our human experience of the cosmos.
|Pierre Teilhard de Chardin|
"He [Teilhard] intuited that matter was not just matter but was spirit. He sensed that the universe was evolving, not just in its physical aspects but as a deeply spiritual process. . . He feared that if we did not develop our capacities to see (and by that we might say into evolutionary time and space ) that we wouldn’t have an adequate vision of the outer world to activate the energies needed to take us through our emerging crises in order to open up a different direction into the future."Though Teilhard was profoundly Christocentric in his vision, it is clear from a number of essays published in his Christianity and Evolution that he had strong sympathies with a pantheistic view of the world that saw all of creation as being charged with divine presence. Miriam MacGillis reflects further:
"Genesis Farm is rooted in a belief that the Universe, Earth and all reality are permeated by the presence and power of that ultimate Holy Mystery that has been so deeply and richly expressed in the world's spiritual traditions. . . This Sacred Mystery, known by so many religious names, is the common thread in our efforts."One of the signatory elements in the work of Miriam MacGillis is a deep respect for the spiritual traditions of all cultures. The diversity of ways in which sacred presence is honoured reflects the diversity of experience and history of different cultural groups. She is no worshipper of monolithic institutions, be they of a political, religious, or corporate nature, but delights in the fact that we have the freedom to draw upon "the wisdom of all the earth's peoples."