Goodby, Barry Commoner

Goodby, Barry Commoner

Not long after I graduated and began teaching, Barry Commoner invited me to Washington University because of my work on energy use in Agriculture.  He also published my article in his magazine, Ecology, and even wrote a forward to my first book, Farming for Profit in a Hungry World: Capital and the Crisis in Agriculture.

I only ran into him a few times after that.  We would only exchange a few words.  He was always engaged with other people and I did not want to disturb him.  I wish that I had been able to spend enough time with Barry Commoner to call him a friend.  Nonetheless, I am grateful for our brief time together and even more grateful for the wonderful work he did.

His obituaries cover some of his most important work, but they neglected something that impressed me.  Many of the people who worked for him were “unqualified,” in the sense that they lacked the credentials normally required for their jobs.   I believe that they did a better job appreciating that Barry Commoner gave them a chance that others would deny them.

We many more Barry Commoners.  Thank you Barry.

2 comments so far

  1. mark hansen on

    It seems i have been not paying attention.
    this is the first i have heard of Barry Commoner’s death.
    other than having voted for him in the 1980 election, i had little connection with him, or “Common Cause”.
    still tilting at windmills, i plan to vote for Jill Stein the Green party candidate for president this year.

  2. […] There two aspects of Michael’s scholarship that stood out for me. Back in the early 90s, I was becoming more and more committed to ecosocialism and saw Michael’s focus on agriculture as essential. It is worth noting that earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of California, Berkeley. I strongly suspect that his first book “Farming for Profit in a Hungry World” was based on his dissertation. With a forward by Barry Commoner, you can assume that it took up questions that are at the heart of our crisis today, with large-scale capitalist farming undermining our survival. Michael did not just theorize these questions. Long ago, when I learned that he owned a tractor and grew his own food, he struck me as a Marxist version of Wendell Berry. Nothing captures Michael’s humanity better than the farewell he wrote for Barry Commoner on his blog: […]


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