Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice For Local Farming and the Land

Interview with Wendell Berry by Yale Environment 360:

e360: I’ve heard you describing the difference between optimism and hope, and you said that in terms of the issues you really care about, you would not describe yourself as optimistic but as hopeful. Can you explain that?

Berry: The issue of hope is complex and the sources of hope are complex. The things hoped for tend to be specific and to imply an agenda of work, things that can be done. Optimism is a general program that suggests that things are going to come out swell, pretty much whether we help out or not. This is largely unjustified by circumstances and history. One of the things that I think people on my side of these issues are always worried about is the ready availability of cynicism, despair, nihilism — those things that really are luxuries that permit people to give up, relax about the problems. Relax and let them happen. Another thing that can bring that about is so-called objectivity — the idea that this way might be right but on the other hand the opposite way might be right. We find this among academic people pretty frequently — the idea that you don’t take a stand, you just talk about the various possibilities.

But our side requires commitment, it requires effort, it requires a continual effort to define and understand what is possible — not only what is desirable, but what is possible in the immediate circumstances.
Photo by David Marshall

Photo by David Marshall

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