What We’re Reading: July 2011

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This post is part of an on-going series highlighting what our members are currently reading in the Post Growth and sustainability realms.

Slowcoast.ca is the only blog I follow religiously; I have been doing so for a couple of years now, and it just keeps getting better. Written by another Powell River, Canada local, the flavour and content of the posts always varies. He posts roughly once a week, but less in the busy food producing season it seems.  A consistent thread is the notion of civic responsibility—and it’s interesting to learn how this sense of responsibility manifests in the form of concrete actions and deep philosophical musings for one very engaged citizen. It encourages me to think critically about my own life and to consider new possibilities. — Janet Newbury

 I’ve been getting a lot of value from Shareable.net, a website which offers stories, anecdotes, and lessons about how a sharing culture can contribute to well being. Practical ideas for car, house, and tool-sharing, as well as growing and enjoying food—all of these collaborative approaches to shared living can make life easier and more affordable, while saving time and reducing the demand for resources. Shareable.net shows people how this is happening right now, using practical examples from communities everywhere. — Sharon Ede

Wendell Berry would probably disapprove of the fact that my first contact with him was when a friend whipped out his iPhone to play me a recording of one of his speeches. Berry is chiefly a writer, but his enjoyment of the physicality of the written word leads him to orate, as well as famously continue the practice of writing by hand. His reasons for such “Luddite” behaviour are outlined in his book of essays, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Berry grew up in a farming community in the U.S. state of Kentucky, left as an adult, and then returned. Like many people who have grown up “on the land,” Berry has spent a lot of time thinking about the value of place-based community.

The Art of the Commonplace
The Art of the Commonplace

In The Art of the Commonplace he draws heavily on the local stories of his community to create a narrative that is globally applicable. He crosses constantly between the public and private, secular and sacred, redefining them as he goes.

Berry provides new insights into the intersection of gender and race relations, market economics, community, agriculture, and environment: Why do we celebrate the “liberation” of women from domestic drudgery when their alternative is to join men in a workforce full of bosses? What is desirable about an “equal” marriage of two careerists merely sharing the same bed and consumption pattern—rather than shared and productive work in a home economy? Why don’t we see that our weak and obese bodies and the loss of our agricultural topsoil are linked? What knowledge do we lose when we build roads that seek merely to move individuals from one economic centre to another at the quickest speed, rather than recognising, and responding to, the narratives of the land in which we pass? What is the “progress” we seek, and what do we lose to obtain it?

By weaving together seemingly disparate themes, Berry reminds us that this disparity is a cultural construct—and a relatively new one at that. We treat compartmentalised disorders at our peril, he suggests. To truly “progress” we need to see these disorders as symptoms caused by a culture of extractiveness that affects everything from the way a man and woman relate to our very ability to feed ourselves. — Jane Addison

Published by Scott Gast

Scott walks, bikes, reads, and lives in rural western Massachusetts. His day jobs have included stints at YES! Magazine, the City of Chicago's Waste to Profit Network, and The Nature Conservancy. He is a graduate of the Environmental Science program at Allegheny College, and Special Projects Assistant at Orion Magazine.

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