We are mostly all guilty in the ills overconsumption of energy and living through a “Specialized lens”, especially if you are an American citizen. Simply being aware of it and sympathetic to the problem does not cause an affect. It is apparent we are out of tune with the world from tangibles such as the environment, to intangibles such as our being.
In Wendell Berry’s “The Unsettling of America”, we are introduced with an essential question of what ecological crisis has to do in correlation to character. For starters, Berry explains how the human mentality is quite contradictory in terms of what we say and do, more specifically, corporations, lobbyists, politicians and doctors. There are countless instances of groups who politically stand for something such as environmental preservation, yet would for example be in business partnership with a company who drills oil holes to contract fossil fuels. This is undoubtedly a bad look, but since we live in a capitalistic government with a free economy and private business, it is still legal. Berry states “…the possibility of the world’s health will have to be defined in the characters of persons as clearly and as urgently as the possibility of personal “success’ is now so defined. Organizations may promote this sort of forebearance and care but they cannot provide it.” (Berry 29).
Furthermore, we as a society tend to see places outside of consistent human visitation that have no economical value and as “scenic” areas. This whole concept is skewed in the sense that these places are part of us as for all the land we may seek out to explore. Our wholeness and connectedness with the land is lacking at best. When we see that we are all interdependent among one another in this habitat, more respect, care, and caution should naturally follow. Being mindful of this is very important and is an essential way of looking at the world as a living and breathing interconnected ecosystem.
Part of the whole problem with our lack of interconnectedness as a whole has part to do with specialization. I found Berry’s social commentary on specialization in our society quite fascinating. Basically, he says how people are raised in society to be a specialized component, competent to do one thing. This will occupy much of a persons time thus having them depend on other specialists such as farmers for food, or actors for entertainment. Everyone is interdependent on each other, yet ironically this creates a bigger gap between us and ourselves as a person. Subconsciously, this process enables us to be dependent, which causes a sense of hopelessness. Even though living standards are phenomenal, happiness seems to be lacking. Berry states, “The specialist system fails from a personal point of view because a person who can do only one thing can do virtually nothing for himself. In living in the word by his own will and skill, the stupidest peasant or tribesman is more intelligent than the most competent worker or technician or intellectual in a society of specialists. What happens under the rule of specialization is that, though society becomes more and more intricate, it has less and less structure. It becomes more and more organized, but less and less orderly” (Berry 23). Along with this, it can be especially dangerous when specialists have no interest in human advancement, yet just want job security and do bare minimum. Or even more terrifying is when specialists are involved with interest groups to make profit and regress advancement such as doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
The world has come to an interesting place and it is easy to dismiss or refrain from the fact that there are ills in our society. As far as specialization and how we think about the habitat we live in, it can be dangerous to be ignorant and passive. There is an ecological crisis in our environment for it is apparent we are not fully connected with the natural world, each other, or even ourselves. When this happens, it is particularly easy to be passive about these things. But in order to live in a more orderly and connected world; knowledge, understanding, and action to better our environment and ourselves is essential.