“The College Board’s Hollow Vision.” Annie Abrams draws attention to the College Board’s self-serving tactics and bureaucratic approach to pedagogy. AP classes really aren’t equivalent to a good college course: “Students, parents, and our K-12 and higher-ed systems have empowered the College Board to be a key arbiter of both inclusion and achievement. Without anyone seeming to have noticed, the College Board has also become, through AP, the institution with the largest impact on the student perception of the liberal arts in the United States.”
“The House was Supposed to Grow with Population. It Didn’t. Let’s Fix That.” Danielle Allen outlines her case for why the US House needs to include more members: “The Federalist Papers, a set of essays written to advocate for the new Constitution, explain its features via a set of key design principles: ‘energy,’ ‘republican safety,’ ‘due dependence on the people’ and a need to fuse the principle of popular sovereignty with a union of states. A growing House of Representatives was meant to advance all these principles.”
“The Vertical Farming Bubble is Finally Popping.” Adele Peters reports on the economics of spending millions of dollars for an automated, high-tech warehouse that uses LEDs to grow lettuce. At those input costs, it’s pretty hard to turn a profit: “A 2020 study from Cornell University estimated that lettuce from indoor farms in Chicago or New York was more than twice as expensive to produce as lettuce grown and delivered from the West Coast.”
“Vegetable Shortages in UK Could be ‘tip of iceberg’, Says Farming Union.” Tom Ambrose reports on the different factors leading to empty grocery story shelves in the UK.
“How Light Pollution Disrupts Plants’ Senses.” Ally Hirschlag describes the negative effects that light pollution has on plants and pollinators: “Imagine you’re a tree on the side of a city street constantly being exposed to artificial lights from street lamps, cars, and buildings. If your internal system always thinks it’s daytime, it can turn your life upside down.”
“Who Will Stand against Progress?” Paul Kingsnorth describes the reactionary radicals who defend home-based economies against the onward march of Progress. “when Teddy told me one day, with some relish, that he was writing a book called Against Progress, I found myself spitting nails. What was the silly old sod doing that for? Did he want to alienate everybody? Didn’t he realise that this was the equivalent of insulting somebody’s religion in public? Why couldn’t he at least try to reach the mainstream with his important arguments? People needed to hear them urgently, so that we could change course! Couldn’t he at least, if only in the cause of saving the planet, try to be more… accessible? Teddy never wrote that book, but I’ve purloined the title and used it here in his honour, and in acknowledgement of my wrongness.” (Recommended by Martin Schell.)
“Get Serious: About Suffering.” Katherine Boyle ponders why so many Americans seem fragile rather than resilient and wonders if part of the problem is a shared fear of suffering: “I’ve since come to realize that the techno-futurists are not at all unique in their view, but reflect a broader shift in American culture. Left and right can’t seem to agree on anything these days, but on the subject of suffering there is near consensus: eradicating it in full is the common goal of government, technology, medicine, and science.”
“The Moral Case Against Equity Language.” George Packer pens a brilliant evisceration of “equity language” for the Atlantic and calls for a commitment to telling the painful, offensive truths that we most need to hear: “What are diversity, equity, and inclusion but abstractions with uncertain meanings whose repetition creates an artificial consensus and muddies clear thought? When a university administrator refers to an individual student as “diverse,” the word has lost contact with anything tangible—which is the point. The whole tendency of equity language is to blur the contours of hard, often unpleasant facts. This aversion to reality is its main appeal. Once you acquire the vocabulary, it’s actually easier to say people with limited financial resources than the poor. The first rolls off your tongue without interruption, leaves no aftertaste, arouses no emotion. The second is rudely blunt and bitter, and it might make someone angry or sad.”
“What Wendell Berry Taught Me.” Nick Offerman describes what he learned from recording the audio version of The Need to Be Whole: “Reading [Wendell Berry] has long offered me a therapeutic shortcut past a lot of wasteful, distracting consumerism, and to the wisdom of agrarianism, as well as the importance of fidelity to one’s household and community. Then came The Need to Be Whole, which, in purely technical terms, rocked my fucking socks off. Berry examines our nation’s foundational race problem, which led Americans to increasingly view farming as beneath them—the labor of enslaved people. That persistent ethos, that we should strive to avoid the “dirty” work, has destroyed rural culture, fueled industrial farms, and divided the country.”
“Ideas in Progress: Eric Miller on Wendell Berry and Localism.” Eric Miller shares a bit about his current book project: “My book’s working title is ‘A Strange and Abiding Hope: Wendell Berry and the Rise of the New Localism.’ It seeks to understand the rise of localist movements over the past sixty years in relation to the life and writing of Wendell Berry, who during this time became, arguably, the central figure of this general phenomenon, and even a symbol for it.”
“The United States has a Debt Problem. Biden’s Budget Won’t Solve It.” The Editorial Board at the Washington Post calls for a serious reckoning with the growing national debt and criticizes a “willful blindness to reality on the part of policymakers [that] has allowed the national debt to rise to more than $31 trillion. The nation has reached a hazardous moment where what it owes, as a percentage of the total size of the economy, is the highest since World War II.”
“Under New Ruling, California Cities Could be Liable for Local Surfers’ Bullying of Outsiders.” At a conference at Westmont College last week, I met Ben Cater and heard from him about the class he teaches on surfing at Point Loma Nazarene. As a localist himself, he introduced me to a form of exclusionary “surf localism” that mars some beaches. Jason Henry reports on a current example: “The original lawsuit alleges Palos Verdes Estates failed to stop the Bay Boys’ intimidation and violence against outsiders for years and tacitly allowed the group to build an unpermitted rock fort into the cliffside of the publicly owned Lunada Bay.”
“‘I Don’t Know Why He’s Not More Famous.’ Meet the Man Republicans Can’t Get Enough Of.” James Pogue profiles Thomas Massie and the crunchy-con-style politics he represents: “Mr. Massie is not just another loony G.O.P. backbencher. Outside the public eye, he has been quietly advancing what for a Republican politician are an unusual set of stances: evincing deep opposition to the national security state, resistance to the influence wielded by corporations and interest groups over our policymaking, and a sense that Americans need a better, more sustainable relationship to the land. It is a politics almost always built around the idea of scaling back, making systems smaller, simpler and more local.” Of course the really interesting work being done in this regard is not primarily political but relentlessly practical. We don’t need some kind of national political movement built around the idea of scaling back and inhabiting more local systems as much as we need ways of life and community that are built around this vision.