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

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

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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