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Notes from THE SCHUMACHER CENTENARY FESTIVAL

A weekend of celebrating the life and vision of E.F.Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful and pioneer of green economics

E. F. Schumacher was a leading environmental thinker who helped to set the global agenda on sustainable development. He founded the international development charity ITDG, now called Practical Action, and also inspired people from India to America to establish organizations based on his ideas. To find out more of his work please visit http://www.ef-schumacher.org and http://www.practicalaction.org . In these notes, quotes from E.F Schumacher’s book “Small is Beautiful” are highlighted in yellow:

“To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now.”

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Besides celebrating the life and teachings of E.F Schumacher, the Centenery Festival had many positive goals it managed to achieve:  Finding and communicating Cultural Values that can transform the sustainability debate; a hands-on approach to exploring the importance of the values that underpin concern about many social and environmental issues  Building a network of those who have a barefoot understanding of how local economies work, a sensitivity to the needs of a sustainable economy and a desire to rebuild an economy in connection with the local environment  Equipping people with the skills they need to “be the change they want to see in the world”. Our mindsets, attitudes and principles are the things which determine everything else. Change these and systems, structures, actions and behavior all change with them. The Festival was a wonderful opportunity to explore how, at a personal level, we are affected by the changes occurring on our planet. To wake up to a whole new relationship with our world, explore how we can reconnect with ourselves, each other and the natural world with an intention of becoming more inspired to take positive action. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Festival started with Mr Satish Kumar, who shared simple yet thought provoking ideas:  Knowledge of harmony is science, expression of harmony is art  Without spirituality, the green movement is bound to fail  We need to create a harmonious movement and we need to take a holistic approach Speaking about E.F. Schumacher as the pioneering green economist, Mr Satish Kumar reminded us that both ecology and economy come from the same root – ecos (Greek for “house”, “home”), explaining hence ecology as “a study of home (earth)” (logos – Greek for study, learning) and economy as “managing a house/home” (nomos – Greek for distribute, manage). True economy should, therefore, always be in the service of nature.

“Modern man…talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.” -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Satish Kumar is an Indian, currently living in England, who has been a Jain monk and a nuclear disarmament advocate, and is the current editor of Resurgence, founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies and of The Small School. His most notable accomplishment is a "peace walk" with a companion to the capitals of four of the nucleararmed countries - Washington, London, Paris and Moscow, a trip of over 8,000 miles. He insists that reverence for nature should be at the heart of every political and social debate. Defending criticism that his goals are unrealistic, he has said, “

"Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me 'unrealistic' to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept."

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The next speaker, Ms Polly Higgins, an environmental lawyer, asked the following question: How do we move away from the world where we create war to the world where we create art?

Ms Higgins proposed to the United Nations that Ecocide be recognised as an international Crime Against Peace alongside Genocide, Crimes of Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes of Aggression, triable at the International Criminal Court. The definition proposed is: Ecocide: the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.

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------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

Ms Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and a member of The British Parliament, was speaking next. In her brilliant and uplifting presentation, Ms Lucas talked about the need to better highlight the benefits of going green. She also spoke about fairness and equality, saying that “true equality is the main challenge of progressive politics.” Caroline Lucas also said that economic growth is becoming un-economic. Bravely, she introduced the issue of population to the discussion, pointing out the obvious links between growth, population and sustainability. “Population will be a major theme in 2012. Avoiding the debate on this is not an option.”, said Ms Lucas.

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Next on was Mr Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos Bank and Chair of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. “Follow your heart, use your head”, the tag line of Triodos Bank, was also the main message Mr Blom conveyed during his presentation: “Today, all warning lights are red in the financial system. ..… Linear thinking/modeling became very popular – banks become businesses and at the same time businesses become banks. …… Organic and holistic thinking is needed today. Banks need to look at their role in the whole picture. The question becomes: how can I work properly vs how can I make the most money. …. What should be the basis of creation of money? It should be the economy, and not the situations where there is a creation of debt and playing with interest rates. …. The most important thing is to have a span of control. …. Small is the new big, and it is important to get, be and stay connected within your network.

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Transparency is very important in banking and in business. The financial sector needs to be re-created – it needs to be smaller and less complex. In nature there is no efficiency – only effectiveness (this is similar to the thinking of great Peter Drucker). In nature the time is the factor of development. Business schools and their teachings need to change accordingly.

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The following speaker (via video) needed no introduction, but let me just share some info on him (taken from Wikipedia): Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. In 2010, the Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist" and Time magazine described him as "the world's best green journalist." Bill McKibben is doing an amazing work through 350.org, but for the purpose of this paper I will focus on his writing, and share one more excerpt from Wikipedia: McKibben is a frequent contributor to various publications, and his first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in the New Yorker. It is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. His next book, The Age of Missing Information, was published in 1992. It is an account of an experiment in which McKibben collected everything that came across the 100 channels of cable TV on the Fairfax, Virginia, system (at the time among the nation's largest) for a single day. He spent a year watching the 2,400 hours of videotape, and then compared it to a day spent on the mountaintop near his home. This book has been widely used in colleges and high schools and was reissued in a new edition in 2006. His book, Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, published in March 2007, was a national bestseller. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise.

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In the fall of 2007 he published, with the other members of his Step It Up team, Fight Global Warming Now, a handbook for activists trying to organize their local communities. In 2010 he published another national bestseller, Eaarth:Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, an account of the rapid onset of climate change. Bill McKibben spoke about the importance of linking local and global in the fight for a working planet. “Small is beautiful, and big is necessary”, he said. One sentence from his speech is a real thought-provoker: “There are still twice as much prisoners than farmers.”

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Plenary session wrapped up Day 1 with three great thoughts:  Go slower by design, not by disaster  Zero growth requires sharing  Abandon selective perception – the secret is to look at the world and see it whole

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The second day of The Schumacher Centenary Festival begun with the lecture from Stephan Harding, who spoke about deep ecology and learning how to live in accordance with the facts. The cycle of what he called ecosophy involved deep experience, deep questioning and deep commitment. “Deep experiences don’t have to be dramatic.”, he explained, and added (with regards to deep questioning): “All life has value in itself, independent of its usefulness to humans.”

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The last lecture we attended was given by amazing Michael Wadleigh, who, besides being a film maker is also a renowned physicist. Here are some excerpts from his brilliant lecture: “While the sun and the wind may be free and renewable, the materials used to make wind turbines and solar panels are not – that fact should be taken into consideration when we talk about renewable and alternative energy.” “Earth is a closed mass system – the amount of land is not increasing. What is increasing is the number of people.” (analogy with the space ship). How might a desirable future be achieved? Michael Wadleigh’s lecture covered all major characteristics and institutions. He used science through experiments and symbolic graphics to help us understand where Homo Sapiens have been, what they are all about and where they’re likely going.

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The Schumacher Centenary Festival took place in Bristol UK, October 8-9 2011. Our visit was sponsored in full by Reflex Marine Ltd from UK. A huge thank you to our sponsor and to the Schumacher Society.

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Notes from The Schumacher Centenary Festival  

Notes from The Schumacher Centenary Festival

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