Beginning October 4, PBS will air a special conversation between two of the people I admire most in the world - Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry, and journalist Bill Moyers. Among many other topics, these two giants of American culture will discuss issues very close to my heart: coal, climate change, and the future of Appalachia and the planet. I can't wait to tune in to Wendell Berry: Poet & Prophet. I hope you will, too.
I've been a reader of Wendell Berry since I was a young woman, because he was a beloved author of two of my most important teachers and mentors - Jack Reese, a former chancellor who took me under his wing when I was an undergraduate in his Southern literature course at the University of Tennessee, and my high school English teacher Dale Gilmore, who was the kind of Dead-Poets-Society teacher that every smart kid in a small town wishes they had, and who helped set me on a path of living a life that matters, a path I still walk today.
Wendell Berry spoke to us, and so many others, because his essays, poems, and novels told a deep, clear truth about the place where we lived, about Appalachia and the South, with some of the most beautiful language I've ever encountered. That included telling the truth about coal, and the legacy of social, environmental, and economic unraveling it created across Appalachia, which stills plagues the region today. Wendell Berry brings this same lucidity and power to the topic of climate change, and the urgency to act now, before it's too late.
Another amazing thing about Wendell Berry is that he matches his words with action. He has protested and risked arrest in opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining, and to call for action on climate change. For those of us who have been working for many years to end mountaintop removal coal mining, Wendell Berry has been a prophet, a sage, and an inspiration.