Our Only World

I went to Book Club last Friday night.

So–”why should we care? “ you say.

It is an Environmental Book Club and I encourage all of you to begin or join one.

Invite like-minded friends to create one in your area–there is no end of books to read concerning the environment.

Ours  takes place on the 3rd Friday of every month beginning at 6:30 pm with a covered dish supper.  We start in with our topic immediately when we begin to eat.

If you have ever belonged to a book club, you may have noticed that the conversation may be dominated by just 3 or 4 people.   To avoid that and to give everyone a  chance to speak, we go around the circle, starting with the person who chose the book.    You may ask each person to choose a  particular chapter to focus on or what part spoke to them in particular.

What books to read?  There are old ones:  Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher, 1973; new ones:Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (2010) and Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, 2013, Bill McKibbon; This Changes Everything, Naomi Kline, 2015; novels, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver, 2012; overlooked:Grassland, 1995, and all Richard Manning’s other books; 10-15 years ago: Collapse:How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond, 2005; Ishmael and its sequels, Daniel Quinn, 1992, 1997;  these are my favorites, but the list can go on and on.  The problems brought up in these books have yet to be solved, so, in spite of their age, they are still relevant.

And then there is Wendell Berry.  Nearly every contemporary book about the environment mentions Wendell Berry in one capacity or another.  Our group became curious about him and decided to read one of his books.  Upon checking  further we found out he has authored  dozens of novels, short stories, poems,  and essays. Which one should we choose?

It was suggested that we each choose a book that especially appealed to each of us (and was available at the library) and at the next meeting each person would make a brief report on their choice.  Amazingly, no two chose the same book.  It has been the consensus that that was the best meeting we have ever held.

Until maybe last Friday.  We had chosen Mr. Berry’s latest book, just released in February, Our Only World, a collection of 10 essays.  Each person was asked to choose their favorite essay and speak to it at the meeting.

My choice was the last chapter, “On Being Asked for a Narrative for the Future.”   Mr Berry laments that  while the theme of climate change grows ever more famous and fearful, land abuse is growing worse, noticed by almost nobody.

What is land abuse?  Go back to the previous chapter, “For the 50-Year Farm Bill.”  Land abuse is soil erosion, toxic pollution of soil and water, loss of biodiversity, the destruction of farming communities and cultures.  The solution to erosion is to keep the ground covered all year with perennial plants.  Sounds simple, sounds easy, but at present, Mr. Berry goes on, 80% of our farmable acreage is planted in annual crops.  So how do we fix this?

It’s possible–read the book to learn more.  Mr. Berry is an excellent writer, easy to read and understand.

The first eight  chapters are named:

  1. Paragraphs from a Notebook

2. The Commerce of Violence

3.  A Forest Conversation  (This chapter was chosen by the most people at our meeting.)

4.  Local Economies to Save the Land and the People

5.  Less Energy, More Life

6.  Caught in the Middle

7.  On Receiving One of the Dayton Literary Peace Prizes

8.  Our Deserted Country



Our Only World


5 Responses to Our Only World

  1. Sue Harney September 22, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    So true, Wendell Berry’s latest book provides a lot of food for thought. Not the least of which is how we will have food to eat if we continue to wreck our soil. We need a new paradigm, one that requires first we not only do no harm to the soil on which our lives depend but we that improve it as we grow our food. Secondly, we do no harm to the community in which we live or operate. We create a reasonably level playing field for people and commerce so that everyone has enough to eat and a place to stay with opportunities to thrive (or not) and better themselves.

    • PatHill September 22, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

      Sue Harney for President! Who’s on Board?

  2. Suzanne Massion September 22, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    I’ll add one to the mix. I read it years’ ago; “Noah’s Garden” by Sara Stein. Ashamed to say the only Barbara Kingsolver book I’ve read is “Prodigal Summer.” That was a few years back also. I loved them both. Book club sounds wonderful.

    • PatHill September 22, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      I’ve read all of Barbara Kingsolver’s books; my favorite, however, is Prodigal Summer.

  3. Jason September 24, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

    I have to confess I had never heard of Wendell Berry until now. I will have to check him out.

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