Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Long live gravity

March 27, 2009

By Matthew Ralph

“Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary
some in the wrong direction
Practice resurrection”

When I heard these familiar lines of poetry recited in the opening moments of a play celebrating the farmer, author, poet and activist Wendell Berry on Thursday, I felt a chill come over me like I have seldom experienced watching a stage production.

Practice resurrection. Two words of the 1973 poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” that, repeated while a hammer dulcimer played softly in the background, nearly moved me to tears as I pondered the deep meaning behind a simple, yet insightful turn of a phrase.

The poetry of Wendell Berry is full of moving moments like that, times where a simple phrase, a humorous anecdote or an observation of the natural world triggers the so-called light bulb of our minds to ever so gracefully turn on.

Wild Blessings, a new play based on Berry’s poetic works, is billed as a celebration of a faithful steward, a friendly neighbor, a loving husband and a kind of modern day prophet claimed by environmentalists, literature enthusiasts, Christians and conservatives alike. But the 75-minute play is as much a celebration of the things Berry has inspired readers for decades to appreciate, enjoy and protect. 

Aided by the lurid sounds of a hammer dulcimer and the striking photographic and video images visible through a large wall resembling a bay window in the middle of the stage and an even larger screen behind it, the play features four actors – an older couple and a younger one – dramatically reading Berry’s words. The actors march in circles, dance, play violin, guitar and percussion and sing. The hammer dulcimer player also sings, but the music mostly provides the soothing backdrop for the words that indirectly weave (using only words from Berry’s pen) a narrative of a slightly mad farmer, out of place in the city who falls in love, returns to the fields, raises a family and fights to hold onto the simple, beautiful things in life like family, friends and God’s creation.

Following along, even for someone familiar with many of his works, was somewhat dizzying at times. Unlike reading the words on a page, the combination of stunning visuals, soothing music and dramatic acting gives little time for you to completely digest. Breaks in the action do occur and the topically connected transitions are generally well played (he titles of poems flash on the screen as the images change), but as the play inches intermission-less toward the finish it does make you wish you could hit pause or maybe rewind on a few of the scenes.

An outline in the playbook might have been helpful as a guide, but in the end Wild Blessings succeeds in maintaining a lot of the subtlety, humor and vivid description that make reading Wendell Berry’s poetry such an enriching and life-giving experience. It doesn’t tell you how to think or lecture about why mountain top removal, conspicuous consumption or infidelity should be avoided. It shows you what you are missing when you trade in natural beauty, elegance and grace for artificial comfort, perceived safety and reckless convenience.

In other words, it shows you what it means to practice resurrection.

Wild Blessings is appearing until April 26 at The Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Click HERE for more information.


World Water Day

March 22, 2009

Since we take for granted the liquid that wakes us up in the morning, keeps us hydrated during the day and cleans our clothes every other day of the year, what do you say we celebrate World Water Day today by raising our own awareness and sparing a few dollars for international clean water initiatives?

Here’s a “good” place to start.

And here’s one place you can send money.

Still junk food, organic or not

March 22, 2009

It may feel better to eat an organic Oreo than a conventional Oreo, but, says Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health, ‘Organic junk food is still junk food.’

Mark Bittman

Woman stuck in recycling bucket

March 4, 2009

How embarrassing.

D.I.Y. Food

March 2, 2009


Hipster capitol Brooklyn is, according to the New York Times, starting to gain a reputation for more than just bearded indie-rock stars.

You can’t really tell from appearances, but instead of making records for Pitchfork to drool over, these bearded/spectacle-wearing hipsters are making edible goods like chocolate, pickles, cheese and bread from scratch.

Click HERE for the here’s-why-Brooklyn-is-still-way-cooler-than-your-hometown story.

Contentment in an age of excess

March 1, 2009

Lexington, Ky.-based authors Will and Lisa Samson, who last teamed up on an enlightening and challenging book called Justice in the Burbs, have a new book coming out this week called Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess.

Like the their previous collaboration, the title sounds pretty self-explanatory:

In an age of conspicuous consumption, where children worry more about their clothes than their grades, the world is being drained of its natural resources, and every universal temptation is dangled in front of us, is it possible to be content?

In Enough, Will and Lisa Samson address the idea of finding contentment in this age of excess. With a casual, accessible writing style, the Samsons discuss consumerism, contentment as a Christian discipline, and the notion of stewarding our resources. In four sections, they outline the ideas that drive a consumerist mindset; the effects those ideas have on ourselves, our communities, and the earth; conclusions about the situation; and practical solutions for negotiating everyday life once we understand that our abundant God is, in fact, enough.

You can order a copy HERE.

Bottled Watergate

February 24, 2009

The horror.

Our unique view of recycling

February 23, 2009

That we in the developed world view recycling as a moral responsibility with tangible environmental benefits is astounding, a PR effort whose success is on par with DeBeers and the global obsession with diamonds. And that’s a good thing (the recycling bit, not the diamond-craving)—we’ll never achieve any sort of long term environmental stability without fundamentally incorporating the principle of reuse into our lives. But it’s also unique. Other countries are primarily in this game for the money, and the money is bad right now. Our entire recycling effort is predicated on the fact that someone, somewhere, finds it valuable—nay, profitable—to sift through our waste in search of raw material. When that stops being true, it’s cause for alarm.

Zach Frechette

Alien life right here, right now

February 16, 2009

The search for alien life might not require a rocket ship, after all:

BBC News – “Alien life may ‘exist among us'”

Avatars leave large footprint

January 12, 2009

Maintaining a character (or avatar as they are known) on the virtual reality site Second Life requires about 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

That’s apparently about as much as the average Brazilian uses in a year.

This according to  author Nicholas Carr, who is cited in a London Times article about the carbon footprint of Google-searching the Web and other Internet-based activities.