Archives For Commonwealth

 

Last Saturday was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of The East Washington Street branch of the Indianapolis Public Library (the library located just south of Englewood Christian Church).

One of the treats of this celebration was a brief talk by renowned Indiana author Scott Russell Sanders on the importance of public libraries for common good.  Scott’s most recent book A Conservationist Manifesto was selected as a 2009 Englewood Honor Book, as one of the best books of that year (Read our review here).  He also has a large retrospective collection of his essays (that includes nine previously unpublished pieces) entitled Earth Works that will be released by Indiana University Press in early 2012 (and is available for pre-order).

Listen to or download this talk:

Scott Russell Sanders on Public Libraries

Recording posted with the permission of the speaker.
IMAGE CREDIT: ScottRussellSanders.com

 

“Landscapes and Communities Defined
By Their Mutual Relationships

A review of
Nobody’s Property:
Art, Land, Space
.
By Kelly Baum.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Nobody’s Property: Art, Land, Space.
Kelly Baum.

Paperback:  Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Kelly Baum begins the new book Nobody’s Property: Art, Land, Space, 2000 – 2010, which includes essays and art from a current exhibition, with a quote, which is where I’d like to begin as well: “I am my relation to you.”[1] Thus Baum introduces the notion of the commons as an underwriting theme in these gathered art practices. Baum continues, “to invoke the commons… is to immediately raise the issue of human relations and their attendant social, political, economic, and spatial peculiarities. Generally speaking, the commons refers to places that prioritize accessibility and intersubjective exchange, as well as materials that belong to everyone and thus to no one in particular.”

The commons – and its wealth – is a beautiful model in our fragmented age, as any readers of Scott Russell Sanders or Wendell Berry is surely familiar. Of course, with the commons also comes its tragedy – an all to familiar reminder that in global capitalism, any land or even space has taken on commodity status.

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“Uncovering a Common Wealth

A Review of
What Matters?:
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth.

by Wendell Berry

Reviewed by Joe Bowling.


What Matters?:
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth.

Wendell Berry

Paperback: Counterpoint Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

What Matters? Wendell BerryTo paraphrase from memory something I believe Norman Wirzba once wrote, “For a growing number of us, reading Wendell Berry is perhaps the most important thing that we do.” For quite some time now, I have believed this statement to be true. If you are reading this review and have not yet read from Wendell Berry’s works, please allow me to play a small role in helping to change your life for the better. If you are reading this review and are familiar with Wendell’s poetry, novels, or non-fiction, you are almost undoubtedly nodding in agreement.

Providing a review for something that Wendell Berry has written is a difficult task. There is little chance of either providing a meaningful critique or of helping to better communicate his ideas. Few authors write with such clarity, economy and imagination. Each of Berry’s ideas is part of a comprehensive whole, a finely-attended garden if you will, which he has cultivated, and — as he would likely say — has been cultivated in him, for many decades.

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“Equitable, Convivial and Communal”


A Review of
Two New Books on Food and Agriculture.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.


Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud,
from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee
.
Bee Wilson.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2008.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture.
Darrin Nordahl.
Paperback: Island Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

SWINDLED - Bee WilsonI remember reading, just a couple years ago, Liberty Hyde Bailey’s 1916 list of food adulterations: “Bottled ketchup usually contains benzoate of soda… Japanese tea is colored with a cyanide of potassium and iron. Prepared mustard usually contains a large amount of added starch and is colored yellow with tumeric.” He continues on, adding to the lament that “I wonder whether in time the perfection of fabrication will not reach such a point that some fruits will be known to the great public only by the picture on the package or on the bottle.” Reading this, I was surprised to find that what I had understood as a particularly modern problem actually dated back at least to the turn of the last century, and the growth of industrialized processing and agriculture. Bee Wilson’s book Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, From Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee makes it clear that food adulteration has a much longer history that I had suspected possible; so long as there has been food for sale, there seems to be adulterated food alongside.

PUBLIC PRODUCE - Darrin NordahlWilson narrates a history of adulteration in food that begins in the middle ages, through the industrial revolution, and encompassing everything on Bailey’s list: the ketchup, tea, mustard, wheat flour, jams, coffee and more, and then continues through the mess of additives, flavorings, and nutrient fortifications that still loom large over our processed food system. So as it turns out, the manufacture of food that is bad for us is not a new problem; Swindled puts our current food economy in a long history of food manipulation, and draws helpful parallels between early food adulterators – replacing some coffee bean with some chicory, for instance – with the contemporary swindlers – empty-caloried sweeteners for sugar or roaster chickens with whole new physiognomies. One of the foods discussed time and again is bread, and the reasons are obvious: “The modern supermarket loaf is almost completely anonymous…Effectively, this is food with no person behind it. By contrast, bread in the Middle Ages was personal. Bakers were obliged to indent the bread with their seal, so that if they did break the assize, it would be easy to track them down and hold them accountable…Bakers were obliged to sell bread by their own hand” (69-70).

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