“What if Local and Diverse Is Better Than Networked and Global?” Damien Cave profiles Helena Norberg-Hodge and her work with Local Futures for the New York Times.
“Our Fractured Communities: Piecing together American Society in the Wake of Covid–19.” Emma Green writes about how her work as a religion journalist might help those seeking to foster small, vibrant communities:
My Jesuit professors did not just teach me to daydream. They hammered home how important it is to be a man or woman for others, that this is the point of education and a simple guideline for how to live out our lives. In my travels through American communities, the most joyful and peaceful people I have met are doing just that. Their lives are entwined with the lives of others, and they happily embrace their obligations to their community. But as a broader culture, I think we have lost our knack for building this kind of civic utopia. It is hard to be a man or woman for others in a culture that is dominated by us versus them.
“Stop Buying so Much from Amazon. Support your Local Businesses Instead.” Mark Mitchell reminds us that a centralized economy hollows out local communities: ”The loss of a small business is never merely economic; it is a loss for the community. A thriving local community is inseparable from a thriving local economy.”
“An Interview with Amit Majmudar.” Jacoba Clouse interviews poet—and radiologist—Amit Majmudar: “Those who think eternities will outlive those who think in five year plans.”
“Opposites Refract.” Sally Thomas reviews A.M. Juster’s new book of poetry, Wonder and Wrath, and finds it a serious yet wonderfully humorous meditation on human frailty and the glorious yet fallen creation we inhabit.
“San Francisco Birds Have Changed the Way they Sing in the Shutdown.” Andrew Chamings reports on a recent article published in Science that found birds sang more often and more quietly as ambient noise in San Francisco dropped during the early weeks of the pandemic. This story reminds me of the lovely motif of birdsong in Wendell Berry’s Remembering, which is mostly set in San Francisco.
“Michael Sandel on the Case Against Meritocracy.” David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk with Michael Sandel about the insidious effects meritocracy has on local communities. (Recommended by Stephen Kamm.)
”Government Of, By, and For the Elite.” Oren Cass has a wide-ranging conversation with J.D. Vance and Chris Arnade. As Vance says at one point, “I just find it a little disturbing how much American policymakers focus on this question of how much do we distribute to the losers and not enough on how do we build an economy where there aren’t so many losers in the first place.”
“Episode 20: With James Rebanks.” Patrick Holden, of Sustainable Food Trust, talks to James Rebanks about his new book. (Recommended by Mark Clavier.)
“Can the Climate-Friendly Grain Kernza Finally Hit the Big Time?” Dee Kim reports on efforts to increase the scale at which Kernza is grown: ”a coalition of 50 farmers, scientists, educators, policy experts, and food industry leaders across the U.S. have received $10 million to scale up production and commercialize Kernza.”
“Publishers’ Bind.” Joshua P. Hochschild draws attention to the uneven quality of book printing and binding; often, customers expect one kind of volume only to have one made in an inferior manner show up in the mail.
“Our Virgilian Civilization (Or, the Devil Was the First Whig).” James Matthew Wilson warns against the Whiggish view of history, which positions ourselves at the pinnacle of a narrative of moral evolution and growth.
“Can Whimsy Save the Small-Town Novel?” Matt Miller reviews Leif Enger’s Virgil Wander and praises its whimsical view of small-town life: “Whimsy will not be the salvation of small-town America… . But these small, playful, everyday occupations can be what preserves small-town literature from the twin pitfalls of nostalgia and despair, each of which carries its own tendentious stereotypes about the American village. “
“America 2020: Living in the Long Emergency.” Charles Marohn reviews James Howard Kunstler. That’s all you need to know about this essay to tell that it is well-worth reading.
“The Children’s Series You Should Start Reading in 2020.” Ginger Blomberg interviews Andrew Peterson about the Wingfeather Saga. For a longer conversation about this remarkable fantasy series, see this exchange between Peterson and Jake Meador.
“The Dictatorship of Lies.” Justin Lee writes a long, thoughtful review of Rod Dreher’s new book:
There is … always a temptation to hyperbolize our fight. I believe that no reasonable assessment of American culture can deny that the church in America is now facing the greatest material threat in its history on this land. But I also believe that undue focus on that threat can lead to idolatry. If the church derives meaning from the battle against soft totalitarianism, it is losing that battle. As Dreher notes, totalitarianism politicizes everything; all of life is interpreted through the lens of dialectical struggle. The church should resist at all costs the temptation to define itself through a negation of the political left. The church’s identity is in Christ and Christ alone.
“How Conservatives Really Feel About Amy Coney Barrett.” Emma Green talks with Senator Ben Sasse and others about the Supreme Court and conservatism after Trump.
“I See My Own Pro-life Feminism in Amy Coney Barrett.” Jane Sloan Peters wonders if Barrett can bring attention to a style of feminism that emphasizes not just equality, but also “radical hospitality and interdependence.”
“Peak Newsletter? That Was 80 Years Ago.” Michael Waters puts today’s shifts in journalism in their historical context. The current popularity of paid email newsletters is not unprecedented: “In the 1930s, as today, the shift to newsletters arose amidst a crisis of confidence in the newspaper industry and was enabled by the spread of new technology.”
“Mother of the Midwest.” Matthew Milliner gives a lecture that draws on an obscure poem by G.K. Chesterton to narrate the history of conquest in the American Midwest and ponder the significance of one particular portrayal of the Virgin Mary.
“Civility in War-Time.” Is “civility” just a cloak the powerful use to silence the oppressed? Elizabeth Corey makes a prudential case that remaining civil, that treating others as human persons, is a necessary part of tending the common good.
“Vote for President and the Senate. But Pay Attention to these Reforms on State Ballots, too.” Danielle Allen commends ballot proposals that might make for more responsive politicians. In particular, she highlights two states considering ranked-choice voting.