One of Our Most Beloved Environmental Writers Has Taken a Surprising Turn.” I don’t think Berry’s new book is “seething with resentment,” but Daegan Miller’s thoughtful review of Need to Be Whole is definitely worth reading and pondering: “The Need to Be Whole once again considers the question that Berry has spent his entire life contemplating: How can we live among our fellow creatures in a way that is honorable, just, and as sustaining of our souls as of our material needs?” It’s hard to square Miller’s later account of Berry’s “resentment,” however, with the book itself. Miller points out, rightly, that Berry is deeply frustrated by the urban condescension of people like Paul Krugman, but Berry concludes that section of the book by inviting people who demean rural residents to come for a visit and a conversation (417). And when he describes James Duke, another person who epitomizes the exploitative mind, Berry forgives him and hopes he may find mercy at the final Judgment (180).

Nonetheless, Miller’s essay also demonstrates that much common ground remains between Berry and those of his readers who disagree with his way of narrating, for instance, the links between local and national histories or the complex meanings of some Civil War monuments. I spent an afternoon last weekend in Port Royal, and Mr. Berry was encouraged by the conversation that he and Crystal Wilkinson had a week prior at the Kentucky book fair. It sounds like, for the most part, Berry’s book is provoking the kinds of conversations that he hoped it would. I then drove down to the University of Kentucky, and being there reminded me of the long and still ongoing dispute regarding the O’Hanlon fresco. Berry doesn’t discuss this fresco in his new book, but that controversy has surely fed his frustrations with the reductive terms on which these public, nationalized debates are often carried out. Essays like Miller’s show that the possibility for a more careful, charitable conversation remains.

Media-Friendly Sins of Other People.” I reflect on Berry’s theology of sin and forgiveness that forms the core of his argument in Need to Be Whole: “Berry wants us to see sin as common rather than exceptional. It is trivial in the etymological sense of that word: not insignificant, but something that lies at the crossroads, the “three ways,” and hence is well-traveled. We have all sinned. Rather than taking comfort in our abstention from a limited set of publicly denounced sins, then, Berry would have us reckon with our own complicity.”

Change & Challenge: A Wandering Review of Wendell Berry’s How it Went.” Ryan Hanning reviews and commends Berry’s new collection of short stories: “With a mix of good humor and piercing insight into the human condition, Berry examines the inner life of Andy Catlett — and a great deal more. Never forceful, Berry makes his points nonetheless. Andy is learning to navigate the challenges of a changing world, some times with more grace than others. Along the way, we can learn something too.”

Do Universities Educate?” Sarah Soltis ponders the conditions that are necessary for a genuine education: “Absent an underlying unity – absent the good conversations that acknowledging a higher good allows – how far can the “great conversation” reach? What can greatness, absent goodness, accomplish?”

Oat Milk is Killing the Planet.” John Lewis-Stempel pens a delightful essay on the fad of nondairy “milk”: “Despite its we-save-the-world advertising, alt-milk is implicated in enough environmental destruction to turn you green, but only with sickness at the hypocrisy.” (https://unherd.com/2022/11/oat-milk-is-killing-the-planet/).” (Recommended by Martin Schell.)

Want to Reduce ‘Deaths of Despair’? Try Antitrust Enforcement.” Anthony M. Barr links together two seemingly separate problems: despair and monopolies. “We can begin to discern a political approach to many of the problems that have fueled the epidemic of deaths of despair. That’s because every part of the second, more personal narrative is the result of a lack of antitrust enforcement.”

Making Squirrel Cassoulet: Part Two.” Brian Miller concludes his cooking reflections: “Just as the French settlers in Louisiana made their beloved boudin with ingredients found at hand, good cooking in East Tennessee also reflects place. Food should never be confined to a straightjacket, with one exception … my chicken sausage gumbo. (Perfection is not to be trifled with.) But truly, all that really matters in the end is that you cook your meals with love for friends and family.”

Ronald Blythe at 100: ‘A watchful, curious and gratefully amazed vision of life.’” Patrick Barkham honors Blyth’s long and fruitful life of writing: “Of night-walking, Blythe wrote that everywhere was ‘all so perfectly interesting that one might never go to bed.’ According to Macfarlane, this captures Blythe’s sensibility in a sentence: ‘inquisitive, wandering, democratic, giving us the truth on the ground.’” (Recommended by Khalid Mir.)

What Happens When Everything Becomes TikTok.” Arthur Holland Michel explores the privacy and moderation challenges posed by the myriad videos now playing on social media feeds: “Even the most cutting-edge AI is not always as smart or all-seeing as it’s chalked up to be. These shortcomings could become more painfully evident in the years ahead. And if there were a way for AI to execute moderation tasks faithfully and accurately on the endless feed, it could come at a heavy price, drawn directly from our scant remaining balance of privacy and autonomy.”

We’re Witnessing the End of Social Media.” Ian Bogost reflects on the deeply inhumane premise at the core of large-scale social media: “To win the soul of social life, we must learn to muzzle it again, across the globe, among billions of people. To speak less, to fewer people and less often–and for them to do the same to you, and everyone else as well. We cannot make social media good, because it is fundamentally bad, deep in its very structure. All we can do is hope that it withers away, and play our small part in helping abandon it.”

Who Decides What Books Your Child Should Read?” Jeffrey Polet looks at the broader political questions at stake in current debates over banning books and proposes a process that might temper the partisan heat: “‘Book banning’ is apparently what the other side does, while one’s own side ‘protects children’ from ‘unsafe material.’ Thus we get those who ban Huck Finn apoplectic over the removal of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, while those who don’t want children reading My Two Dads and Me will make fun of the pearl clutching induced by Dr. Seuss. Given the intensity of our culture wars, we shouldn’t wonder that it has resulted in debates over which books are acceptable and which aren’t.”

Chess Among the Posthumans.” In this discussion of the Carlsen-Niemann controversy, Federico Perelmuter comes to a sober conclusion: “To resolve, or at least come closer to resolving, humanity’s eternally problematic relationship to the machine, perhaps it’s time to admit: chess is no longer human. Then again, neither are we.”

Urban Farms Are Stepping Up Their Roles in Communities Nationwide.” It’s hard to quantify urban farmings, but Rachel Surls visits three and tells their stories: “By all appearances, it seems that there are a growing number of urban farms, from market gardens in once-vacant lots to rooftop farms, sprouting amidst concrete cityscapes. However, quantifying this apparent growth is another thing entirely: In fact, it’s unclear how many farms exist within U.S. cities.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. ““Want to Reduce ‘Deaths of Despair’? Try Antitrust Enforcement.” ”
    I’ve never read a Bulwark article before, and if that’s the sort of thing they produce, I never will intentionally again.
    Not a single word in there even slightly addressing the fact that the massive consolidation, even monopolization, of so many industries today is *because* of government policies. Intentional policies, even, not just accidental outcomes.
    But the only answer he proposes is more government action. What sort of “conservative” is this? Chesteron was right, as always. Yet I wonder if this “master’s degree in public policy” ever has read a single word of his.

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