For Serenity: Think Small

I am a 'Small is Beautiful' devotee.

I once attended a talk by the great E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977). I never forgot it. He spoke the truth so eloquently...but this was in the 1970s and look at where we are now. No one was listening.

Schumacher is widely acknowledged as the originator of many concepts on the theory and practice of sustainable development.  He explained that we must get back to a more manageable way of doing things...:

"I have no doubt that it is possible to give a new direction to technological development, a direction that shall lead it back to the real needs of man, and that also means: to the actual size of man. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.”   
- E. F. Schumacher

Schumacher  put human wellbeing as the central concern of development.  Not growth! And he urged that we rebalance our efforts at technological innovation away from the 'wants' and more towards the needs of the two billion people in this world. He also asked that we recognize the future generations alongside our own.

This thinking flies into the face of today's ever increasing size of institutions: McDonald's billions of hamburgers, Monsanto's control over the world's seeds, farms managed like auto factories, chickens grown in boxes, garments made in Bangladesh.....

Schumacher's story is an interesting one.  He was an internationally influential economic thinker.  He went to Burma in 1955 as an economic adviser with the UN. He was to advise them on creating a western economy. But he saw that the Burmese seemed to be so happy. (It was a very different place from the Burma of today). And he saw that western economics was not adding to the happiness of the Burmese, but rather the reverse!

It was making them want things they did not need. It dawned upon him that economics can destroy the meaning of life if not applied properly. He wrote: 'I came to Burma a thirsty wanderer and there I found living water.'

While there, he developed the set of principles he called "Buddhist economics," based on the belief that individuals needed good work for proper human development.

He saw that soil was key to it all and became very involved with the UK Soil Association. Schumacher was President of the Soil Association from 1970–77. During this time he wrote an article for the Association’s Living Earth magazine lauding the practical application of economic and organic thinking into practice. ‘Let us not defend a type of pristine virginity’, he noted in 1971, ‘to remain a little, esoteric splinter group, at a time when the whole world is crying out for precisely the kind of thinking the Soil Association has been engaged in for the past 25 years’.



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