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Land-Use Planning for Lake Baikal

Roused by the excited activities of the many returning birds to the woods and fields surrounding the Schumacher Center, Bob Swarm worked diligently to complete construction of the sixteen unit purple martin house.  It sits now in the orchard atop a fifteen-foot pole, overlooking the Berkshire Mountains, awaiting its first shiny-feathered tenants, a testament to a never flagging optimism—like Bob’s own spirit itself, ever hopeful of a community renewal of our cumbersome economic system.

To that end, Schumacher Center Board Chairman, John McClaughry, together with Bob Swann, is calling for the First Annual Decentralist Conference to be held in the early summer of 1996. Invitations are going out to organizations to participate in planning the conference program and schedule. The Center has reserved space at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, from June 27-30, 1996, to accommodate 450 attendees. To quote from the letter of invitation:

Events in the past six years are seemingly inexorably leading the world into an era of decentralization and devolution of power. . . . If we are indeed at the threshold of a new Age of Devolution, the Schumacher Center believes it to be extremely worthwhile for many interested individuals and groups, with widely varying perspectives and interests, to come together to explore this future. What are the implications of these many varieties of decentralization and devolution?  What will be the effect on the human community, and on our spiritual values?  What will it mean for minorities, for environmental quality, tor economic justice? How can local institutions be changed and strengthened to accept new responsibilities? How can the weakest be ensured fairness and opportunity in a time of rapid change?

We are excited by the possibilities of such a dialogue. Selected conference papers will be published in book form. Please request/suggest a letter of invitation for your organization or an organization which you believe should be represented in the discussion.

Sara Wilson Doyle recently moved from Kansas to join the staff of the Schumacher Center. Sara was an intern at the Land Institute and then staffed its Matfield Green project for two years.  Her bakery was a focal point of community life in Matfield and gave her the opportunity to begin “setting up the books for ecological accounting” as she traced the resources used to make a loaf of bread in that Prairie town.  Sara has degrees in Political Science and Russian Studies from the University of Utah.

Also joining the staff for the summer are Jason Judd and Dimitry Gershenson. Jason studied economics and Russian at Duke University and then spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Bulgaria. His background in populist economics is an important asset for the library. He will catalogue the new books in the library and will begin work on a Decentralist Reader. Dimitry is a native of the city of Irkutsk on the western shore of Lake Baikal. He is a graduate student in economics at Brown University. Dimitry will be responsible for communication with our co-workers at Lake Baikal, including translating the Community Land Trust legal documents and sections of Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful.

Farm delegation and Buryat interpreters at train station in Irkutsk, Russia.

The temperature was minus 10 degrees on the thermometer of the Great Barrington Savings Bank on the morning of February 6th as four brave Schumacher Center members drove by on their way to the airport to catch a plane to Siberia.  The four-person delegation was traveling to Lake Baikal to work with the staff of the Olkhon Center for Sustainable Agriculture established by the Schumacher Center.  Bundled warm in their new outfits donated by Patagonia as part of its program to support sustainable agriculture initiatives, they did not notice the cold. As a result of the trip, Nikolai Matoshkin, the governor of the Olkhon Raion on the west shore of the Lake included the community land trust concept in a decree for future land-use planning in the Raion. Much will depend on the Schumacher Center’s follow up work to provide the detailed documentation and legal support to implement the plan.

Sam Smith, who has farmed organically for the past twenty-five years, served as team leader for the group.  He and his wife Elizabeth run Caretaker Farm, a successful Community Supported Agriculture farm serving over 100 families. Sam has shared his small-scale farming techniques with villagers in India and the Philippines.  He was the ideal person to lead a Schumacher Center delegation to the remote villages on the western shore of Lake Baikal.

During the trip Elizabeth Smith focused on methods and technologies for food preservation, relying on her own extensive experience of home canning and storage of food. Based on her discussions with the Buryat families in the Raion, Elizabeth is recommending how to allocate the $40,000 of USAID funding for agricultural processing equipment for the Center.

Herb Goldstein of the School of Living in Lexington, Virginia, provided the delegation with a wealth of legal experience concerning land tenure and helped draft the community land trust reference in the Governor’s decree.    He prepared the ground for our future work there.

Marie Cirillo of the Woodland Community Land Trust in Clairfield, Tennessee, has worked patiently for over 25 years in a very poor mountain region of Appalachia organizing to build homes and create jobs based on renewable resources.  Marie recognized that a small additional income would make a significant difference to the economic viability of Olkhon households.  As a result, you will have the opportunity to pre-order socks and mittens made by Buryat women from the wool of sheep raised in the Olkhon Raion of Lake Baikal. Please request an order form if you are interested in a September delivery.  Cost is $10 per pair.  Samples are on display at the Schumacher Center.

The Schumacher Center’s Publication Program has been very active.  David Orr’s lecture Environmental Literacy: Education as if the Earth Mattered is available again in its second printing and David Ehrenfeld’s Lecture The Management Explosion and the Next Environmental Crisis is newly printed. Either may be ordered for $5. A new edition of the book Building Sustainable Communities, a collection of discussion papers from the Schumacher Center’s seminars, is in production with an anticipated June 15th publication date.  You may pre-order the $15 book at $12 per copy inclusive of postage. Bob Swann’s 1989 E. F. Schumacher Lecture Local Currencies: Catalysts for Sustainable Local Economies has been revised and updated to include practical examples of local currencies stalled since the lecture, with addresses of contact persons.  The booklet will be available the first week of June at $5 per copy. Gar Alperovitz and Ivan Illich are making final revisions to their 1994 E. F. Schumacher Lectures. Publication date will be announced in the Summer 1995 Publication List.  

If you have renewed your membership recently, our sincere thanks for your continued support. The Schumacher Center receives 80% of its operating budget through donations from its members.  Your support enables us to maintain full program activity.