Small Means | Extraordinary Results

The cover story for the current issue of Time magazine (April 9, 2007) presents a fifty-one point “Global Warming Survival Guide.” Contributing authors outline steps that range from the simple act of using compact fluorescent light bulbs to the emerging science of geoengineering (earth-system-altering technology). All these steps make clear that a new vision of stewardship for the planet is arising.

In the midst of astounding advances in environmental policy and science, the message presented in step 51 stands out.

The chance to buy a carbon offset—in essence, an emissions indulgence—appeals to the environmental sinner in all of us. But there is an older path to reducing our impact on the planet that will feel familiar to Evangelical Christians and Buddhists alike. Live simply. Meditate. Consume less. Think more. Get to know your neighbors. Borrow when you need to and lend when asked. E. F. Schumacher praised that philosophy this way in Small Is Beautiful: ‘Amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfying results.’

-“51. Consume Less, Share More, Live Simply” by Coco Masters

This final point serves as a summary of the actions that preceded it in the article. Changing your light bulbs, using public transportation, and creating limits to carbon dioxide emissions represent efforts to consume less and put less burden on our neighbors. The statement “Small is beautiful,” as used by E. F. Schumacher, is acknowledged in all these actions. Small is beautiful in our use of non-renewable resources. Small is beautiful in the emission of gases contributing to global climate change. Small is beautiful in the use of pesticides on crops. Small is beautiful in the number of car trips we make per week. Small is beautiful in the amount of waste brought to the landfill. Small is beautiful in the productive capacity of a farmer. And small is beautiful in our relationships with others. Schumacher wrote, “Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful. To go for giantism is to go for self-destruction.”

The Schumacher Center continues to herald Schumacher’s message by stewarding his personal library and unpublished papers, by conducting an annual lecture series in his honor, and by creating model economic programs that place his theories into practice—such as the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires and BerkShares local currency.

Schumacher’s voice remains a vital force in the dialogue about our relationship with the Earth, in part because of generous membership support for the Schumacher Center. Your tax-deductible donation will help us ever better champion his message of hope and possibility in a desperate time.