Beautiful Legacy


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And he remained a maverick during 20 years as economic adviser to the National Coal Board, studying comparative religions while commuting to and from his home in Caterham journeying from Marxism, via Buddhism to Christianity. He was often called a crank, a description he came to relish, because, as he once told me, "a crank is a piece of simple technology that creates revolutions".

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It was only in his last four years, after the publication in of Small Is Beautiful - which sold 4 million copies worldwide - that his ideas became fashionable. But they laid the foundations for much of modern environmentalism. He was among the first to advocate organic farming and to caution that felling trees caused soil erosion.

He warned of the dangers of nuclear waste in the s and was denounced by the government , when many environmentalists welcomed the atom as a clean source of energy.


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He was an early opponent of "the throw-away society", one of the first economists to question unlimited growth for its own sake, and a pioneer of the "sustainable development" which the world's leaders solemnly endorsed at the Rio Earth Summit, but have failed to practise. He pointed out that the world is living off its capital of natural resources rather than its income , insisted on the importance of fighting global poverty, and inveighed against the Western obsession with quantity rather than with quality.

That is what put him off counting.


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  8. As a farm labourer, he had to tally the cattle each morning. One day a neighbouring farmer, watching him, said cryptically: "If you count them every day, they won't flourish. He dismissed this as the ramblings of a "country yokel" until his count revealed a cow missing, which he found dead under a bush. His daily totting up, he realised, had not saved the cow: it would have been better to have looked at every beast to check it was well.

    This led to his questioning the large and promoting "the virtues of smallness". That in turn led to his most enduring legacy - the concept of "intermediate technology". Developing countries need better technology. But Western techniques, mainly devised to save labour often do more harm than good: the number of people needing work in the Third World is growing four times faster than the number of jobs.

    Schumacher's answer was to seek labour-intensive technologies which are much more productive than traditional ones, but far cheaper and simpler than those in the West. Where farmers hoe by hand, for example, the appropriate technology might be draught animals rather than tractors which put people out of work and need expensive fuel and unobtainable spare parts.

    The theory caught on. Within ten years over organisations world-wide were committed to it. But the practice has lagged far behind - despite Schumacher's insistence that this technological revolution was "not a long, expensive or particularly difficult task". And the organisation he founded to implement it, Intermediate Technology, has, on its own admission, never taken off and is undergoing redundancies of which he, with strong views on the work- place, would have surely disapproved. And yet there have been some successes.

    Despite many false starts, improved cooking stoves which save precious wood fuel have spread rapidly, for example, in western Kenya and Sri Lanka. Small hydro-electric schemes have succeeded in Peru, Sri Lanka and Nepal, as have earthquake-proof houses in Peru. Intermediate Technology's offices in Third World countries, often staffed by local people, thrive. There are other, appropriately small, successes. More than 1, people from 70 countries have attended courses at Schumacher College in Devon.

    Up to 1, people attend the annual Schumacher lecture. On a larger scale, even giant aid organisations, such as the World Bank, now say that their most successful projects are those that are implemented on a small scale, fully involving local people. Micro-credit schemes for the Third World poor have proved stunningly successful. And Schumacher's insistence that the costs of environmental destruction and resource use should be taken on board by economists is showing the first signs of realisation.

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    Straws in the wind? Schumacher would have been sniffing the breeze. For he wrote: "I can't myself raise the winds that might blow us into a better world. But I can at least put up the sail, so that when the wind comes I can catch it. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Minds free for 1 month. Independent Minds Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Minds.

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    Steve Coogan. Rugby union. Motor racing. US sports. Rugby League. Geoffrey Macnab. Tech news. I really wish we could find the photo of that… stories of fun and wildness. Before this night I had no idea just how much I longed for these stories, longed longed longed for them. I was nourished so deeply. As I felt his impact living on in all the people who were gathered I also felt a growing and profound sense of pride in him.

    He acted like he was just a normal guy, but as I listened I kind of got it that he was spectacular in a humble way. I am feeling to inspired to be more like him- to help more people get outside, to find a way to make my home a home for others, to love others more and better. By the time I was a teenager, old enough to start appreciating these things about him he was already in his late 70s. But I still remember him coming to join us at the La Jolla cove on Sunday morning in his short wetsuit, putting on his mask and snorkel and swimming out to the quarter or half mile buoy.

    He was slow and used the snorkel so he could keep his face in the whole time he swam. It was our church. I learned that night that this was another tradition he started, dragging my Aunt Mary out with him to slap down the masses of kelp floating at the surface on that inaugural swim. I could see it in his eyes. I remember how he would always ask me to come over for dinner and a visit when I was in town and we would talk politics, school, and all of what had been going on in our lives. I will always remember that he asked and really listened.

    He asked questions. He engaged deeply. He was curious what other people thought about and were learning. Back at our last Happy Hour for him the stories continued right up until the day he died, with the caregivers getting up to share that the week before he passed he rose from his wheelchair to ask my grandma to help him get to the store and buy wine for happy hour. Ever the host, the welcomer of all, he wanted to provide something for whoever might show up. No one knew it would be his last happy hour, he stopped eating a few days later and passed almost a week later on Thursday, curled up on his bed holding hands with my grandma.

    11 Quotes About Leaving a Legacy

    My grandpa was both grand and humble, a badass and a sweetheart. And still the main thing he was concerned about especially as he approached his door was making sure his wife and daughters knew he loved them, and how much. God grant that we are forgiven our mistakes and can be remembered for the love we felt and wanted to share. God grant that the imperfections are less important than how we try. He told us frequently that he loved us, and he asked his caregivers if they thought we knew. We know grandpa. We know because your whole life was an expression of this. I will always remember that as his memory failed and he lost track of how old he was or what his physical capacities were he often spoke of taking up new sports, new hobbies, getting a dog, going backpacking with me… his identity never revised to someone who was tired of life or ready to be done.

    He was engaged until the last. And I really wish he was coming backpacking with me this summer. It feels like a message from the past, from rural Georgia maybe, or from that time of history. There are so many stories that live on in me, as the months go on I forget the last years of his life where we were already losing him and remember more of the tapestry of our history, the longer line of our lives together when he was still pouring wine, asking questions and engaging in politics, walking to the gym every day.

    I am feeling the loss more deeply. I miss him. I wish I had more time with him. Be on the look out for happy hours and hikes in In this new year may we all find ways small and large to live into what we desire, long for, and need.

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