Listening Lately, 11/16/2019

When I hear from the same guest on more than one of my favorite pods, I take some notice. Not so much that I rush right out and buy the book–I’m too stingy for that much of the time. But such folks are certainly worth a mention here.

Andrew Marantz appeared on The Ezra Klein Show on November 11 and on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on November 13. Marantz is the author of the new book, Antisocial, and of the New York Times op-ed, “Free Speech is Killing Us.” He spent a great amount of time “embedded” with alt-right internet mavens and uncovers the frightening world of how they use social media to create “news.” I may need to get the book after all.

I am thinking about this especially in light of events in the twitterverse yesterday. On Twitter President Trump attacked a witness during the impeachment hearing. He later defended the action as a simple exercise of his right to freedom of speech. In what ways must that right be conditioned and even limited by taking into account the power differentials between speaker and subject? The founders didn’t talk about that in the Bill of Rights.

On Point re-ran an episode from July, and I’m so glad they did. The episode was called “Climate Change is Transforming How Our Food Gets from Farm to Table” (#570, 11/13/2019, 47:12). I knew it sounded familiar, I then realized I had listened to parts of it on broadcast while driving somewhere in July. But it deserves a full listen and perhaps a second listen.

Guests were Marc Heller and Daniel Cusick, reporters for E&E News. They reported a multi-story series on the topic. Most interesting to me was the conversation regarding “Kernza”, a perennial intermediate wheatgrass being developed at the Land Institute of Salina, Kansas.

This perennial will require fewer inputs, less water and much less tillage. In addition it will build topsoil depth and increase the soil capacity as a carbon sink. Yields are lower than conventional wheat because of its perennial nature, but I think the trade-offs will make both economic and environmental sense.

I was taken by this episode because I started reading about the work of Wes Jackson and the Land Institute in the early 1980’s. I still think his book New Roots for Agriculture should be required reading for any informed person (and it’s pretty short besides).

In those earlier years the focus was on producing corn in perennial polycultures, and I’m sure that work continues. Regardless, this is one of the healthy agricultural responses to climate change–perennial food grains. Our most helpful response in this area is to eat lower on the food chain as often as possible.

The other part of the pod that grabbed me was the interview with Becky Weed, scientist, sheep farmer, activist, philosopher and writer from Montana. I’d like to hear a pod dedicated to an hour of her talking.

The whole thing gave me a gratitude moment as well. In 1973, this fifty year trajectory toward industrial farming and rural carnage was launched during the reign of Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz. His motto for farmers was “Get big or get out!”

My dad heard and understood the motto. I was fifteen. He took me aside and asked me if I wanted to farm. If I did, he said he would try to rent more land. If not, he said he was going to downsize and prepare for a town job. I know he longed for me to take up the family business. But it was too much work and pain for too little return as far as I was concerned. We didn’t get big, We got out. Thanks, Dad, for your clarity and generosity! Of course, industrial agriculture landed on its Butz, and we are now reaping the consequences–many of which are killing us.

I want to briefly note one more frequent flier on the recent pods. David Owen, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has written a book called Volume Control. I mentioned his work in a previous post. Owen appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross a week and a half ago. He was featured on Science Friday with Ira Flatow on November 15. It was much the same information in each interiew, but this guy is winsome and a truth teller. As soon as is practical, I’m getting my ears checked.

I want to say a very good word about the Sermon Brainwave podcasts from the Working Preacher site. Even though I don’t preach reguarly now, I listen to the pods each week to keep my head in the game. When I was preaching reguarly, I depended on our friends from Luther Seminary to jump start my preaching process. I hope my preacher friends benefit from the podcasts as much as I do. And nothing would please me more than if you would go to the Working Preacher site (workingpreacher.org) and click on “Support This Site.”

Happy weekend and happy listening!

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