To Damage the Earth is to Damage our Children Reflections on Wendell Berry and the Trash Truck


The art of the commonplace, Wendell Berry. Liturgy of Life.


My daughter rushes to the porch.  The most exciting moment of the morning is here.


The trash truck is on its way down the road.  Soon its big metal arm will sweep up our can and take our scraps of food and soggy pull-ups, carting them off down the road.  The noise, the action, it is a delight to any three year old.


“Where to they take it Mama?” she turns to me and asks.


This is a new question and I hesitate to answer.  I had have just put down Wendell Berry which we are reading in our Liturgy of Life reading group.


“Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet.”


And I imagine the landfill outside of town, being topped off with my trash, my broken garden rake, my torn sweater.


“The mentality that exploits and destroys the natural environment is the same that abuses racial and economic minorities.”


And I think about the families, the kids, who live in the Reynosa dump.


The art of the commonplace, Wendell Berry. Liturgy of Life.
photo credit, my friend Kristy at Prone to Wander


“It is wrong to think that bodily health is compatible with spiritual confusion or cultural disorder, or with polluted air and water or impoverished soil.”


And I think about us drinking water from the Rio Grande River, where a few miles away all of the sewage from Reynosa, is being dumped.


“To damage the earth is to damage your children.”


The art of the commonplace. Wendell Berry. Liturgy of Life.


As the trash truck drives away I can’t find honest words to answer my daughter that don’t also leave me feeling ashamed.  And I wonder how I can love God and her and not do more to take care of the place where we live.



This post is part of a series of reflections on The Art of The Commonplace. For more Liturgy of Life, subscribe or follow on facebook. To learn more about our reading group, click here, or check out our facebook group. We would love to have you read and ponder along with us.


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  • Emily Reply

    This reminds me of Hidden Art a little bit, in the sense of caring for our home. Cultivating beauty in our home. Preserving our home and using it to bless and heal. I’m so into these concepts, but when do I consider that the earth is my home too? Should I not see to it that my role on earth works alongside God’s shalom process, the inklings of His kingdom coming? I want my whole life to work toward wholeness, to seek it, nurture it, share the wholeness. Share the shalom.

    Did anyone see that New York Times article ( about recycling and how it’s not worth it economically? Erica, this post coincided with that so I figured maybe you had read it. But anyway, I found it interesting. Of course there have been rebuttals (, but regardless, it has encouraged me to consider, along with ol’ Wendell, the creation of so much garbage, which we then buy, grow tired of, and finally agree that it is indeed garbage. 🙂 For me right now, I just feel called not to acquire so much of that shiny new garbage. That’s where I’m starting.

    • egjarrett Reply

      Thanks for sharing Emily, I actually hadn’t read that article but just did. I had heard before that recycling isn’t energy efficient but hadn’t looked into it much. Reading further on in Art of the Commonplace Berry talks about no matter how much we love the world, we can only love the world by loving the place where we are, acting out our love in our home, in our place. So I see the connection you make here, cultivating our homes in small ways is cultivating the earth. I also desire to create less trash, and sometimes I can do that by buying less stuff but then sometimes it is so hard, like I would gladly reuse my milk bottles but there isn’t an option for that here, so every week I cart them off to the recycling center, I guess what I’m saying is it hard to even know where to begin when taking on the challenge of how to live well in our world. Thanks for your thoughts and your energy that you put into the world.

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