Greg Watson and John Todd in Conversation

The mission of the New Alchemy Institute was:

To restore the lands, protect the seas, and inform the Earth’s stewards.

Among our major tasks is the creation of ecologically derived human support systems – renewable energy, agriculture, aquaculture, housing and landscapes. The strategies we research emphasize a minimal reliance on fossil fuels and operate on a scale accessible to individuals, families and small groups. It is our belief that ecological and social transformations must take place at the lowest functional levels of society if humankind is to direct its course towards a greener, saner world.

Our programs are geared to produce not riches, but rich and stable lives, independent of world fashion and the vagaries of international economics. The New Alchemists work at the lowest functional level of society on the premise that society, like the planet itself, can be no healthier than the components of which it is constructed. The urgency of our efforts is based on our belief that the industrial societies which now dominate the world are in the process of destroying it.

John and Nancy Todd and a group of scientist friends established the New Alchemy Institute on a twelve-acre site in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Greg Watson joined the staff in 1980. He was inspired to apply New Alchemy’s strategies and solutions to urban areas. He and John Todd have remained life-long friends making it a point to lunch together each week whenever possible.

New Alchemy influenced a generation who “moved back to the land” with the vision of living more sustainably. Organic gardening, aquaculture, bioshelters, plant-filtered waste-water treatment, compost toilets, renewable energy systems were all modeled, and the designs shared, by New Alchemy. Fritz Schumacher and Buckminster Fuller were among those who made pilgrimages to witness and support the work done there.

Both Todd and Watson moved on to other projects, but the principles and systems thinking described in New Alchemy’s mission statement continue to direct their work as it evolves to solve emerging problems of the day.

In celebration of 40 years of the Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures, and in anticipation of the October 25, 2020 Lectures with Kali Akuno and George Monbiot, we are highlighting the work of past speakers, asking for updates of their earlier remarks, and inviting them to reflect on current conditions.

On August 6 at 2pm Eastern, Greg Watson and John Todd will engage in a live, virtual conversation on Zoom moderated by Natasha Hulst. They will reflect on their original talks given current political, economic, and social realities and will then comment on each other’s work. Registration is free. A question and answer period with participants will follow initial presentations. If you are unable to attend, a recording of the event will be available.


About our speakers:
Greg Watson is Director of Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. His work currently focuses on community food systems and the dynamics between local and geo-economic systems.

Watson has spent nearly 40 years learning to understand systems thinking as inspired by Buckminster Fuller and to apply that understanding to achieve a just and sustainable world.

In 1978 Watson organized a network of urban farmers’ markets in the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area. He served as the 19th Commissioner of Agriculture in Massachusetts under Governors Dukakis and Weld from 1990 to 1993 and under Governor Deval Patrick from 2012 to 2014. From 1984 to 1990 Watson served as Assistant Secretary in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Affairs, where he established and chaired the Massachusetts Office of Science and Technology.

Watson gained hands-on experience in organic farming, aquaculture, wind-energy technology, and passive solar design at the New Alchemy Institute on Cape Cod, first as Education Director and later as Executive Director. He served as the first Executive Director of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and was Executive Director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a multicultural grassroots organizing and planning organization for which he initiated one of the nation’s first urban agriculture programs.

In 2005 he coordinated the drafting of “A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development in the United States” and the following year founded the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative. He served on President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Department of Energy transition team in 2008. In 2015 he founded the Cuba-U.S. Agroecology Network (CUSAN) following a trip to Cuba to learn about its agroecology system. CUSAN links small farmers and sustainable farm organizations in both countries to share information and provide mutual support.

John Todd has been a pioneer in the field of ecological design and engineering for nearly five decades. He is the founder and president of John Todd Ecological Design. Dr. Todd has degrees in agriculture, parasitology and tropical medicine from McGill University, Montreal, and a doctorate in fisheries and ethology from the University of Michigan. He is professor emeritus and distinguished lecturer at University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School and a fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at UVM. He is also the founder and president of Ocean Arks International, a non-profit research and education organization; and co-founder of New Alchemy Institute, a research center that has done pioneering investigation into organic agriculture, aquaculture and bioshelters. He has been an assistant scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and assistant professor at San Diego State University.

His numerous honors include the 2008 Buckminster Fuller Award for the best idea/concept to help save the planet/humanity; the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chico Mendes Award and Environment Merit Award; a lifetime achievement award from the New York Open Center; Global Visionary Award from the City of Chicago; and many others.

In 2007 Dr. Todd was named one of top 100 visionaries of the 20th century by “Resurgence & Ecologist” magazine. He also received an E.P.A. Award for his restorer technology on Lake Punawai, Four Seasons Resort, Hualai, Hawaii, for the promotion of innovative ideas, addressing environmental problems and its ability to be widely replicated. His work was recognized in the “Genius Issue” of Esquire and he was profiled as one of top 35 inventors in “Inventing Modern America” by David Brown.


Past lectures by our speakers include: 


Upcoming Schumacher Conversations:

August 13 – Wes Jackson and David Orr
September 10 – Neva Goodwin and Stewart Wallis
August 20 – Nwamaka Agbo and Stacy Mitchell
September 24 – Juliet Schor and Hazel Henderson
August 27 – Mary Berry and Bill McKibben
October 8 – Winona LaDuke and Leah Penniman
September 3 – Otto Scharmer and Matt Stinchcomb

more events forthcoming

Previous Schumacher lectures and speaker biographies can be found here:

Please join us Thursdays at 2PM Eastern through October for the Schumacher Conversations.

Wishing all good health,
Staff of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics