Wendell Berry on Biodiversity

What we call nature is, in a sense, the sum of the changes made by all the various creatures and natural forces in their intricate actions and influences upon each other and upon their places. Because of woodpeckers, nature is different from what it would be without them. It is different also because of the borers and ants that live in tree trunks, and because of bacteria that live in the soil under the trees. The making of these differences is the making of the world.

This quote, from a letter Berry wrote to Wes Jackson that is published in Berry’s collection of essays titled “Home Economics,” is mega to me.

Mega-right, mega-true, mega-relevant.

In a 2012 interview, Berry talked to Sarah Leonard of the wonder associated with noticing the variation around you and how that variation can express ‘home,’ ‘place,’ ‘you.’

To live and work attentively in a diverse landscape such as this one — made up of native woodlands, pastures, croplands, ponds, and streams — is to live from one revelation to another, things unexpected, always of interest, often wonderful. After a while, you understand that there can be no end to this. The place is essentially interesting, inexhaustibly beautiful and wonderful. To know this is a defense against the incessant sales-talk that is always telling you that ‘what you have is not good enough; your life is not good enough.’ There aren’t many right answers to that. One of them, one of the best, comes from living watchfully and carefully the life uniquely granted to you by your place.

Different animals, different plants, different hills, a different river.

Different communities, different families, different people.

Different from where you are, it’s different from here.

I don’t mind different – I enjoy different. Relish it, even.

(Except different strains of influenza. That’s kind of lame.)

(And don’t even get me started about how each snowflake is different, because it’s snowing right now and that might just blow my mind.)

How about you, reader? How do you celebrate biodiversity? What’s different about your particular place, home or family? What differences make you proud?

Jenna Beaulieu

About Jenna Beaulieu

Jenna is a writer and fine art photographer who recently moved from the Saint John Valley region to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. She’s a fan of excellent music, homemade gravy, and colored pencils (also, short books and long books, good pens, flannel, and when the June bugs don’t really come out much that year). For more about Jenna and her work, visit her website at www.jennabeaulieu.com