Cultural and Economic Self-Determination

Bob Swann.

With the rest of the world we have been following the dramatic events in Eastern Europe.Again it is an issue of scale: the failure of a large centralized economy. The peoples of Eastern Europe are demanding cultural and economic self-determination. But while the old is being thrown off, there is a desperate need for examples of workable, localized programs to take its place. This has given new urgency to Center’s work with the E. F. Schumacher Decentralist Library and Resource Facility.

Thanks to the generous help of you and other Center members the upstairs of the Library building is ready for use. Last week Bob finished and mounted the interior doors, insuring that the office area can be heated separately from the adjoining conference hall.

Proposals to support the costs of establishing and implementing a cataloguing system for the E. F. Schumacher Decentralist collection of books and periodicals are under review at several interested foundations. Significant material is already in hand so that cataloguing can begin as soon as funding is secured.

While gathering records of successful decentralist experiments in the past, we continue to implement these concepts in the Berkshire region today. Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes and the Deli Dollars that preceded them are the first small step towards independent issue of a regional currency based on production. The Farm Notes and the Deli Dollars have both received national and international coverage through the Associated Press, Cable Television and the Springer Foreign News Service. Such coverage is further demonstration to us of the enormous public interest in decentralist economic initiatives.

The latest publication of the Center, “A New Lease on Farmland,” is directed to members of conservation land trusts and highlights what will be required of these organizations if real progress is to be made in their stated task of farmland preservation. The publication is primarily the work of Jay Rossier whose experience with beginning farmers and with the lease agreements of the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires has reaffirmed his conviction that long term farm leases with ownership of improvements will be necessary to preserve farming in the Northeast. We would welcome your comments on this publication and suggestions for its distribution.

Jay designed and typeset the pamphlet on our in-house Macintosh computer. Other publications in process are the Ninth Annual Lectures of Hazel Henderson, Leopold Kohr and John McClaughry; an excellent pamphlet on interest free currency by German economist Margrit Kennedy; and previously unpublished papers by Ralph Borsodi.

It is in the context of the E. F. Schumacher Decentralist Library and Resource Facility that this publishing work can and must continue. More than a mere repository, the Library’s task is to seek and bring to print important decentralist works of the past as well as the most current initiatives inspired and informed by those works.

Although foundations have encouraged our application for support of cataloguing activities, few foundations are able to make grants for the building itself. We are therefore, again turning to Schumacher Center members for help with the cost of completing the building. Some exterior and grounds work has still to be done, but the major expense will be renovation of the lower level of the building. The lower level is designed to house the heart of the Library collection. This area will be humidity, temperature and light controlled, according to archival standards, in order to provide the best protection for the collected material.

Any additional donation to the Building Fund would be most welcome. Bob is hoping to schedule renovation work in the Spring. If you are unable to consider a grant but would be interested in making a three to five year building loan at 6% interest, please call or write Robert Swann.

One of our favorite writers, Wendell Berry, has made a generous contribution to the Schumacher Center for renovation of the Library building. He writes, “My wish to do this comes from my belief that your work in developing the means of local economic cooperation is sound and necessary. As a member of a dying rural community myself, I have found more hope in your work (because you have shown me things that can be done) than anywhere else.”

We hope that you will continue to join us in this important project.