The mid-20th-century environmental crisis that led to important protective legislation in the 1970s, is, to poet/farmer Wendell Berry's mind, also a crisis of character, agriculture, and culture. Because Americans are divorced from the land, they mistreat it; because they are divorced from each other, they mistreat those around them. Berry, writing in a prophetic mode, argues that if Americans are to heal the environmental wounds their land has suffered, they will also need to create more meaningful work, sustain happier and healthier lives, and return to what conservatives call "family values." The Unsettling of America is a quarter century old now, but most of its arguments remain current.
Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in 1977, The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the land—from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it. Sadly, as Berry notes in his Afterword to this third edition, his arguments and observations are more relevant than ever. We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits. Although “this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong,” Berry writes, there are good people working “to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth.” Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction.
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