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The Art of Pamphleteering

It was October of 1981 when Schumacher Center Director David Ehrenfeld recommended that we revive the fine art of “pamphleteering.” Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson had just delivered prophetic talks at the First Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures at Mount Holyoke College. In “A Call for a Revolution in Agriculture,” Wes argued for an agriculture based on perennial grains, leaving the fragile prairie soils rich and untilled. It was a bold plan with nothing less than the future health of our heartland at stake. Wendell spoke of the connections that join “People, Land, and Community,” reflecting on the entwined destinies of agriculture and human culture, and calling for a resettlement of the land—a commitment to stay in, know, and love a particular place which is the making of community. Hazel Henderson, Robert Rodale, John McClaughry, Robert Swann, Ian Baldwin, Hildegarde Hannum, Kirkpatrick Sale, and John and Nancy Todd, were all present at that inaugural program. Even then we knew that gathering was a unique moment in time, a cultural revolution in the making. David Ehrenfeld wanted to capture that moment in pamphlets.

The first lecture pamphlets were typed on a Selectric typewriter. Every time we made a change in the text, the whole lecture had to be retyped. There were many editing errors, signs of white-out, and crooked spacing. We printed the covers on donated pale blue paper with Martha Shaw’s now familiar drawing in the center. The text was photocopied as needed, then collated. Each pamphlet was hand sewn using the linen thread and beeswax technique of bookbinders. In those early years not every lecture was transcribed and printed. But every lecture did remain true to a revolutionary new spirit sweeping the cultural landscape—a revolution which applies the criteria of “scale” to our thinking on economics, education, agriculture, technology, social services, architecture, and politics. We learned to reshape policies as if people, land, and community mattered.

In 1991 Thomas Berry delivered his Schumacher Lecture, “The Ecozoic Era,” at Searles Castle in Great Barrington. The magic of Berry’s vision, the rapport between speaker and audience, left all breathless. One of the Schumacher Center’s directors, Hildegarde Hannum, a professional translator and editor, volunteered to edit Berry’s talk in an attempt to capture the transcendence of the event. Since then Hildegarde has edited all the Schumacher Lectures, setting a standard of excellence that led to the 1997 publication by Yale University Press of People, Land, and Community: Collected E. F. Schumacher Society Lectures.

Much has changed since the early years; today those with Internet access can read most all of the lectures on the Schumacher Center’s website. The Selectric has been replaced by an iMac computer that allows us to view and adjust text of a pamphlet before printing. The old pale blue covers have been replaced with recycled covers in earth-toned hues and our local printer collates and staples the final booklet. One thing has not changed; the content of each new lecture remains revolutionary.

Online is a Publications List with short descriptions of individual lectures and an order form listing pamphlets currently in stock. Note the gift section on the order form should you wish to share a favorite lecture with family and friends. You may want to send a set of pamphlets to your public library, the book shelf of your favorite organization, someone incarcerated (as some members have done), or your neighborhood school. It is membership support that has built the Schumacher Center and its lecture program. It is you who have voted with your donations for a revolution in thinking about the way we conduct ourselves on the earth and with each other. The pamphlets are a tool for spreading these ideas. Please help us “pamphleteer.”