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IN BRIEF

Environment

September 05, 1993|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

SEX, ECONOMY, FREEDOM & COMMUNITY by Wendell Berry. (Pantheon: $20.; 161 pp.) "We must learn to grow like a tree, not like a fire," writes Berry in one of his calmer moments in the book. "Fire destroys what nourishes it," plants "never exceed their natural limits, (a plant) produces no waste, and enriches and preserves itself by death and decay." Berry is a wise and straightforward man, but reader beware: He is also a professional curmudgeon; his sarcasm is searing and refined. Here is Berry on economic growth and the environment: "That unlimited economic growth can be accomplished within limited space, with limited materials and limited intelligence, only shows the unlimited courage and self-confidence of these great minds." He points right in your neighborhood, house and innards at your hypocrisy and your willing slavery to shallow commercial interests. While you're spluttering "but, but, but . . . " he tells you that the "name of our proper connection to the earth is 'good work,' " which is full of honor, modestly scaled and humble. He points to dumb cold words such as environment, which does not convey our "intimacy and responsibility" with and for what he refers to as "creation." He says you have to get more radical. He softens when he turns to the Bible in a chapter called "Christianity and the Survival of Creation" but not without letting Christianity know that it has "cut itself off from both nature and culture."

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