“Untempted by the Consequences.” John Schwenkler has a rich essay on G.E.M. Anscombe in Commonweal. Her fierce fidelity to “doing the truth” makes her a valuable exemplar.
“Motivated Reasoning, Part Gazillion.” Alan Jacobs shows why such fidelity to the truth is all too rare: humans are motivated reasoners. His examples in this post relate to religious liberty, but the principles apply broadly.
“Lefty Lingo.” Lionel Shriver writes in defense of using words to articulate meaning rather than to signal our adherence to some slate of ideological positions. (Recommended by Jason Peters.)
“The Case for Bernie.” Ross Douthat explains why he, as a conservative, hopes the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders: “despite technically preferring a moderate like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, I keep coming back to the conservative’s case for Bernie — which rests on the perhaps-wrong but still attractive supposition that he’s the liberal most likely to spend all his time trying to tax the rich and leave cultural conservatives alone.”
“Cry Me a Raccoon River.” Chris Jones writes about the compounding effects of more rain on farm fields in Iowa: “To cope with increased rainfall, farmers are not only using more nitrogen; they’re also installing more drainage tile to better dry out the soil. Tile is the getaway car for excess nitrogen wanting to bolt the scene.”
“‘They’re Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map.’ Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction.” Alana Semuels reports for Time on the farm crisis:
Farmers have always talked of looming disaster, but the duration and severity of the current crisis suggests an alarming and once unthinkable possibility — that independent farming is no longer a viable livelihood. Small farms, defined as those bringing in less than $350,000 a year before expenses, accounted for just a quarter of food production in 2017, down from nearly half in 1991. In the dairy industry, small farms accounted for just 10 percent of production. The disappearance of the small farm would further hasten the decline of rural America, which has been struggling to maintain an economic base for decades.
“After Climate Despair.” I largely agree with Matt Frost’s critique of the current climate discourse, but his solutions leave much to be desired. He claims, “The first step past our political impasse must be to reduce the moral content of our climate mitigation efforts, wherever possible replacing it with engineering challenges.” I would suggest that, instead of “ow[ing] our descendants progress toward the long-deferred dream of energy “‘too cheap to meter,’” we owe them a renewed, living tradition of moral virtues. Instead of dreaming of energy so abundant we couldn’t imagine wasting it, Wendell Berry offers this rigorous goal: “we must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do.”
“René Girard and the Present Moment.” Cynthia L. Haven’s speech on Girard offers some guidance regarding how we might work toward Berry’s daunting prescription:
Girard was meeting with theologians in Sonoma, sometime in the mid to late 1980’s. He had just outlined the implication of our cultural and historical predicament—how our mimetic crisis has led to escalating violence and conflict, with neither scapegoats or peace efforts able to resolve it. “What is to be done?” someone asked. Girard’s response was all the more shocking for needing to be said at all in a roomful of theologians: “We might begin with personal sanctity.”
“Time for GOP to Focus on the Family.” John A. Burtka IV argues we need policies to support families, including a robust paid family leave program.
“We Have Been Harmonised—A Review.” Andrew Spencer reviews Kai Strittmatter’s We Have Been Harmonised: Life in China’s Surveillance State, which “pulls back the curtain on the oppressive regime in China, how it has taken hold of many Chinese hearts and minds, and how China is working to expand its power throughout the world.”
“Peter Fonda: We Got ‘Easy Rider’ Wrong, Man.” Bill Kauffman suggests Easy Rider was “an audaciously wistful attempt to fix the back-to-the-land counterculture of the 1960s within the American agrarian tradition.”
“The Unoriginal Augustine.” Jessica Hooten Wilson commends Augustine’s method of imitation as a means to self-knowledge and, ultimately, conversion.
“Our 2019 Food and Farming Holiday Book Gift Guide.” Civil Eats’s book lists are always worth perusing.
“My Favorite Books of 2019.” Russell Moore begins his list with an anecdote about and a book by Wendell Berry.