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.