Solving for Pattern in Government

In the last post, I ended by invoking reverence for nature. At least one candidate for township manager at last night’s League of Women Voters event alluded to “our natural resources.” The environment in which we live is more than “natural resources.”

Nature–the creation–is a living and breathing thing, a being to whom we owe respect and dignity. As Pope Francis might say, we must live through an understanding of and respect for integrated ecology. In Ferguson Township, our Community and Environmental Bill of Rights (CEBR) makes the rights of nature explicit. I understand that the CEBR document may represent will and not legal leverage. But the people voted for it and I take it to heart as one of our guides. Our human and natural community and the work–the labor–we perform in it must be for the health of the entire living community. This is not squishy or hippie-dippie. It is hard work and a genuine challenge that we are called to take on.

In The Gift of Good Land chapter “Solving for Pattern,” Wendell Berry wrote,

It is the nature of any organic pattern to be contained within a larger one. And so a good solution in one pattern preserves the integrity of the pattern that contains it. A good agricultural solution, for example, would not pollute or erode a watershed. What is good for the water is good for the ground, what is good for the ground is good for the plants, what is good for the plants is good for animals, what is good for animals is good for people, what is good for people is good for the air, what is good for the air is good for the water. And vice versa.

Berry was writing about farming. The same is true of all human endeavors. When we make policies in government–zoning, storm water regulations, incentivize some kind of agriculture, change transportation infrastructure, or support libraries–how are we recognizing, respecting and being responsible to the fact that what is good for the land is good for the people and vice versa?

All this is talk right now. The rubber will hit the road for me when I serve on the Ferguson board and we have to work through issues. As I think my writing and statements on growth make clear and my actions in the community and at work have shown, I will work to solve for the health of the pattern.


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