Patience in an Emergency
Why our we titled our podcast's first season after something Wendell Berry said.
Last time, I introduced this project, a podcast profiling the environmental optimism of recent Architecture student graduates in the face of the interlinked crises of climate change and social injustice. Their visionary master’s thesis projects demonstrate integrative, practical approaches fueled by radical imagination.
Before I share highlights from our recording sessions, I want to address the title of Season 1 of “Building Hope,” which we’re calling, “Patience in an Emergency.” Wendell Berry coined the phrase in this wide-ranging interview with Bill Moyers recorded nine years ago. It’s a beautiful conversation that includes Berry reading some of his luminous, cantankerous poems and palate-cleansing B-roll of organic farms and land-healing practices.
In response to Moyers reading (at 24:34) from one of Berry’s essays about capitalism’s failure to conserve the wealth and health of nature, Berry notes, at 26:06: “When you ask the question what is the big answer, then you’re implying that we can impose the answer. But that’s the problem we’re in to start with, we’ve tried to impose the answers. The answers will come not from walking up to your farm and saying this is what I want and this is what I expect from you. You walk up and you say, what do you need?”
The power of this humble question is exactly what Christian, one of our profiled alumni, discovered during the course of his project. (We’ll share some gems next time.)
Berry’s answer continues: “This can’t be hurried. This is the dreadful situation that young people are in. I think of them and I say well, the situation you’re in now is a situation that’s going to call for a lot of patience. And to be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial.” (at 26:46)
In conceiving this podcast, I thought back to my own experience, fresh out of grad school, just starting my career. I had big ideas but was often forced into small roles—because the work needed doing. And, let’s be honest, I had very little practical experience and a lot to learn. I had to be patient. Some days, I even managed it.
But today is so different! The disruptions of social crises and environmental degradation and rampant greed threaten our very existence, not to mention the non-human beings who live here with us. Patience and hope seem not just misguided, but irresponsible.
On that note, Moyers asks: “What have you seen over a long life that prevents you from being fatally pessimistic?” (at [35:34]) And Berry answers: “Well, hope. And, in my work, especially in the essays, I’ve always been trying to map out the grounds of a legitimate, authentic hope. And if you can find one good example, then you’ve got the grounds for hope.”
Fortunately, our graduates and their projects provide many brilliant examples, many grounds for hope. In our next series of posts, we’ll share some highlights from their interviews. What thoughts or questions do you have for us and our podcast guests?
This project is supported by a Faculty-Student Research Award from the Graduate School, University of Maryland, as well as grants from the University’s Sustainability Fund and the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation.