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TELL US: What Would Henry Do?

Thoreauly exploring not-so-transcendental questions about HDT in today's world. Expert opinions to be taken with a teaspoon of salt.


Just a few yards from the citybound lanes of a sometimes bustling highway through suburbia, a resilient yellow Pacer parks in the middle ground between a white sign with green letters and a green sign with white letters.

The green sign is attached to a white building. Both signs introduce "The Farm at Walden Woods."

These signs are the attention-grabbers for a farmstand that's maybe a touchback removed from Route 2's eastbound lanes in Concord. And this farmstand is the face of a nonprofit farming operation that doubles as a buffer between suburban SmartGrowth and the sanctity of Walden Woods.

A handful of idealistic young farmers reverse-commute to Concord and bring their organic touch to harvest heirloom tomatoes, beets and radishes to sell here. Presumably, the Pacer belongs to one of them.

And, somehow, it all feels fitting. At least for me.

Flip through the photos above for a look at a day in the life at the Farm at Walden Woods.

Before the two most recent visits, I had last stopped by the Farm at Walden Woods when the final Ammendolia still farmed here and visions for the land were still uncertain. If you'll forgive a moment of editorializing, returning to the area and finding a socially-conscious, quasi-conservationist farmstand here struck me as pretty appropriate.

The Thoreau that Concord protects and preserves is a writer, thinker, wanderer and conservationist. The Farm at Walden Woods stands as a soft entrance to the woods and winding pathways between the highway and the treasured Nature around Walden Pond. One might think, or at least hope, that a modern-day Thoreau would also endeavor to protect the valued landscape and attemept to farm here.

But, hey, I'm no Thoreau scholar. So I thought I'd put the question to a few who'd definitely know Thoreau better than me.

We kicked the question of "What Would Henry Do?" to a couple of experts, and now we're asking the same of you. Check out our experts' answers, and then add your own to the comment section below.

From Kathi Anderson, executive director of the Walden Woods Project:

Speculating on how Thoreau would occupy himself in the 21st century is challenging because he wore many different hats during his lifetime – writer, philosopher, scientist, naturalist, social reformer, teacher, surveyor, pencil maker, etc. I typically harbor a sense of skepticism when I hear someone profess to know how Thoreau would act or behave in our contemporary world – one that is radically different from the mid-19th century. That said, I can’t imagine that Thoreau would not be a writer and would use whatever means were available to him– publishing, blogging, newspaper editorializing, etc. – to convey his beliefs, particularly as they relate to the compelling environmental and social issues of our time. 

From David Wood, curator, Concord Museum:

It is easy to picture the journal as a blog, and Thoreau’s penchant for pentameter and aphorisms suggest Twitter, but I actually think he would have made better use of his time. With his interest in mathematics, language, and a priori knowledge, I could imagine him taking an interest in artificial intelligence. The question may be whether his interest in the wild would make him a good hacker.

Now you answer:

Assuming he would be in some form a writer, and thinking of his nature as a keen observer, what would be your best guesses as to Henry David Thoreau's platform and profession were he around today? In short, What Would Henry Do?

Share your thoughts in the comment secton below.

Bill Montague September 18, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Well I think Henry David Thoreau would have his own laptop computer - so he could continue writing for the world be live in today. He would have his own web site, and of course a digital video camera so he could up-load onto Youtube for the world today. He would still stress the Love in Nature that he found and made us aware of. He would still be raising his own consciousness and by his writings helping us to raise our own. He would be very involved in Civil Disobedience! For now he could promot it - by the World Wide Web. His influence would reach the young people around the world - that is so well needed today. Yes we all could do with a good dose of Henry David Thoreau today!! Cheers! Bill Montague
x September 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thoreau was an independent soul and would be unhappy with our current level of dependency on government. He would vote for Brown and Romney. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
x September 20, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Thoreau would be fined as an uninsured under ObamaCare. What would he write about that? Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III

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