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Wendell Berry’s Earth Day Speech: ‘People Who Own The World Outright For Profit Will Have To Be Stopped’

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"Wendell Berry’s Earth Day Speech: ‘People Who Own The World Outright For Profit Will Have To Be Stopped’"

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by Catherine Woodiwiss

Speaking at the National Cathedral yesterday, famed environmental writer Wendell Berry delivered a clear message for Earth Day: We have a moral obligation to protect the environment.

Berry, a living legend in the environmental movement, addressed a crowd of nearly 200 faith leaders, community organizers, farmers and environmentalists at the Cathedral yesterday.

“The idea of the intractability of problems is wrong. Don’t get into this with a goal or a schedule. You must do it because it is right – because it is right, or it [your fight] will never last,” said Berry.

Author of over 80 novels, short stories, and essays, and poems, Wendell Berry has been a tireless advocate for localism and environmental stewardship for nearly 50 years.

He famously coined this brilliant twist on the Golden Rule: “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”

On Sunday, Berry was honored as a “Steward of God’s Creation” from the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (NRCCC). Several major players working to elevate the interfaith-energy movements were on hand to help celebrate Berry’s work, including climate activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Earth Day Network board member Gerald Torres.

“To measure the power of [Berry’s] words, look what they have wrought,” said McKibben. “He raised the gospel of things like local food – [how special it must be] to see signs that that world is now taking shape.”

Torres agreed, also tipping his hat to the long tradition of faith-based environmentalism. “We can say that the best way to celebrate faith, and faith in our future, is to protect the Earth.”

Earlier Sunday morning, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, Executive Director of the Christian environmental education organization Blessed Earth, hosted a conversation with Berry in the Cathedral sanctuary. Berry pulled no punches for destructive environmental practices like mountain top removal. “People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped,” he warned. “By influence, by power, by us.”

Sunday’s activities at the National Cathedral were coordinated by NRCCC and Blessed Earth. This was the first of several events on environmental issues organized by the faith community during Earth Week.

Catherine Woodiwiss is a Special Assistant with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

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10 Responses to Wendell Berry’s Earth Day Speech: ‘People Who Own The World Outright For Profit Will Have To Be Stopped’

  1. Eduardo Vargas says:

    Inspirational. With God in our side, we can stop this menace from destroying us.

    • Mark Shapiro says:

      Stop it? No, too late for that.

      But we can slow it down. That’s what we are working for now.

  2. Mark Shapiro says:

    What a great man.

    “The idea of the intractability of problems is wrong. Don’t get into this with a goal or a schedule. You must do it because it is right – because it is right, or it [your fight] will never last,” said Berry. . . .

    He famously coined this brilliant twist on the Golden Rule: “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”

    This is a man to heed and to follow.

  3. Peggy Trivilino says:

    Of only there were a way to bring the public’s attention to the stunning contrast, in both substance and style, between this great man and Sen. James Inhofe et al.

  4. Spike says:

    The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.

    Wendell Berry

  5. Raul M. says:

    Concern happens in the National Cathedral on a Sunday.

    • Raul M. says:

      The National Cathedral brings guest pastor and an environmentalist to speak on that Sunday. Nice that voices for the Earth’s wellbeing are heard in the National Cathedral. Could it be that similar Events could be organized for local churches around the country to strengthen Americans concerns for our behaviors relation to the Earth’s wellbeing.

  6. Mark Corbett Wilson says:

    “Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.” – Aldo Leopold from forward to Sand County Almanac 1949

    • Raul M. says:

      In that usage of the word belong, there is a distinction between the impacts accumulated. In ’49 there were large areas that did not have great accumulations of impact. Many people still do not want to take credit for the impacts; though, they realize the impacts may well survive them. Such is the spirit of mankind and diversity of influence.