With friends last year at The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival

Critical,
in learning to live sustainably,
is being around
and hearing those
who inspire.
Every year,
the last week of September
is our time of renewal.
We always go to the Prairie Festival
at the Land Institute
outside of Salina, Ks.
Along with hundreds of others
who care deeply
and work sacrificially
to learn nature’s processes
and how humanity can live
in an integrated,
sustainable way,
we listen to amazing scientists,
philosophers, writers, artists, farmers
as they share their learnings.
This year,
presenters include:
Brian Donahue, Brandeis University, author of “The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord”
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute, author of “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality”
Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”
David R. Montgomery, University of Washington and author of “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations”
As always, the final presentation (following the two days of presentations and contra dancing, art show, concert by our favorite Ann Zimmerman and local foods, including a desert made with Kanza flour, resulting from The Land Institute’s continuing work at developing perennial grains and seeds) is made by The Land’s founder, Wes Jackson, who always inspires our work for another year, at least.

There is a difference this year.
Ann will be attending the Prairie Festival,
as usual.
But I, Pat, will forgo this profound experience
(Ann will bring home stories, notes and recordings)
to attend another inspiring event
with another amazing gathering of people
who care about the planet
and a panel of inspiring and extremely knowledgeable presenters.
This conference is closer to home,
at Oklahoma City University—
Caring for our HOME:
Educating Moral Leaders for Ecological Sustainability.
Presenters include:
Mary Elizabeth Moore, dean of the Boston University School of Religion, and author of several books, including Ministering with the Earth
David W. Orr, Oberlin College Professor of Environmental Studies, and author of many books, including Ecological Literacy and Earth in Mind and Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse
Larry Ward, an ordained Christian minister and teacher of Engaged Buddhism. He is director of the Lotus Institute and adjunct faculty at Claremont Graduate University
Daniel Wallach, Executive Director and Founder, Greensburg GreenTown and Catherine Hart, Program Director, Greensburg GreenTown. They will speak about the rebuilding and greening of Greensburg, KS., following its devastation by a tornado.
I am very much looking forward
to this conference
and am glad to get to present
the work of Turtle Rock Farm
as one of the case studies
on how to educate the community
about sustainability.

We always eagerly anticipate
the last week of September.
And this year,
we’re doubly excited
to gather with caring, committed people,
to learn,
to be inspired
to keep up the good work
of living sustainably
within the great web of life.

To register for The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival,
click here.
To register for OCU’s conference,
Caring for Our Home:
Educating Moral Leaders for Ecological Sustainability,
click here.

 

 

Every year
upon returning from The Land Institute‘s
annual Prairie Festival
just outside Salina, Kansas,
I am re-energized
to do the great work
of learning to live as part of
an ecosystem.
This year
I needed the input of the speakers
at the prairie festival
more than ever before.
It’s always been inspiring to hear
the geniuses who are improving
the way we live as part of this ecosystem -
always Wes Jackson,
under whose leadership The Land Institute
is doing the profoundly significant work of
developing perennial grains in polycultures.
I’ve needed the inspiration more this year than ever
because the news about the impacts of Earth’s heating
has been hard to face.
Speakers at prairie festival
always give facts as they see them,
albeit with much good humor
and often with some underlying spiritual sense.
This year wouldn’t be any different.
The facts are grim.
Wes Jackson said it at the end of his talk,
“I think we’re in for bad times.
I’m not an optimist,
but I’m hopeful.”
And so it was the job of all speakers
to state the facts of the ecosystem’s need,
especially in the areas they each work,
and find the hope
in how we can respond.
I implore everyone to read about the work of
Josh Farley, professor and fellow
for the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics
at the University of Vermont;
Scott Russell Sanders,
Pulitzer-prize nominated author
whose latest book A Conservationist Manifesto
speaks to a vision of a cultural shift of consumption to caretaking;
Sandra Steingraber,
ecologist, author
and expert on environmental links to cancer and human health;
Kent Whealy,
co-founder and leader of the Seed Savers Exchange;
Wes Jackson
and Wendell Berry.
Here is the venerable Mr. Berry
on reasons for hope:

We can learn where we are.
We can look around us and see.
We have lost much,
and much remains.
We’re not helpless.
We have the ability to understand land health.
We can restore native perennials.

We can see what we need to do and do it.
Conservation is going on.
We can use land skillfully, frugally
and with affection.

We could benefit from leadership
and educational institutions
but we are learning from active groups,
from the bottom up.
Because of these efforts,
some things are changing
and they can continue to change.

We can have actual conversation,
discussion.
We should state the specifics of what we know
and admit what we don’t know.

We are working
at living a healthy vision
and aren’t doing it perfectly;
but we can achieve
a unity
of vision and work.

I came away from prairie festival
grateful once again
for great minds
and caring hearts
of the likes of Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson.
And I came away
able
to face the grim facts
and re-energized
to move forward
on a path
of hope
that we can
stand together
and care
for this beautiful,
beautiful
planet
and help it live.

The work that is done at The Land Institute
near Salina, Kansas,
is extraordinary.
With the prairie as his teacher,
founder Wes Jackson
is not only teaching the rest of us
how to live sustainably on Earth
but developing new agricultural systems.
For one thing,
he’s developing
perennial
edible
grasses.

Wes Jackson

Every September
The Land Institute
hosts a prairie festival
with outstanding lectures
by the country’s best scholars and practitioners.
This year,
to celebrate its 35th year,
Jackson has invited his old friend
Wendell Berry
to keynote the weekend.

Go.

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