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Wendel Berry’s Lesson from the Hummingbird

Posted: 5:06PM February 23rd, 2012 | Comments

Last week at the Peak Oil Debate, Dr. Tadeus Patzek, Chair of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, referred to a speech given by Wendel Berry on humankind's ecological footprint. Unfamiliar with this particular essay, I was motivated to look it up and reflect on the actions Mr. Berry calls on humanity to take. Using the example of the hummingbird, Mr. Berry stresses the need for people to live within ecological and physical limits and with compassion and consideration for all living things.

Within the beauty of his words, Wendel Berry outlines the need for us to understand the interconnectedness of our social, ecological and economic systems. He asks us to redefine heroic work and calls each of us to action, imploring us to recreate our local economies drawing on local resources, knowledge, skills, and perspectives and with respect for the limits of our immediate ecological systems. Berry stresses that we are responsible for our future as well as our past. We cannot rely on others to do the work of cleaning up our mistakes or expect other will put us on the path to a sustainable future. This is our work.

Are we capable of these actions? Do we have the skills, knowledge and ways of thinking needed to solve our problems and create sustainable, resilient and vibrant communities? If so, how come we still have so far to go? If not, how do we develop these skills within ourselves and our fellow citizens?


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