It was October of 1981 when Kirkpatrick Sale, supported by the Schumacher Center’s 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, 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. We typed the texts on an old Selectric typewriter, photocopied the pages as needed, and hand sewed each pamphlet 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.
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.
Much has changed since those early years of hand-sewn pamphlets. Full texts can be read on the Schumacher Center’s website, or listened to on archive.org. And thanks to the good work of Schumacher Center’s staff, the lecture pamphlets are now also available in eBook format — both on Kobo and Kindle. Just search “Schumacher Center for New Economics” on either site. Many local independent bookstores can be linked with your Kobo account—with part of all future Kobo eBook purchase proceeds going to that local bookstore.
One thing has not changed throughout these years; the content of each new lecture remains revolutionary. Please help us continue the tradition of inciting revolutions through the fine art of pamphleteering.