E. F. Schumacher, Environmental Economist, born (1911)

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, author of the renowned environmental book, Small is Beautiful, was born on August 16, 1911 (died 1977).  Schumacher was born in Germany, but immigrated to England before World War II to avoid the scourge of Nazism in his homeland.  He lived in England throughout his life and became a British citizen in 1945.

Schumacher was a brilliant but unconventional thinker.  He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, studying economics.  When he later fled back to England, he lived in a cottage in a rural community, working as a farmer and growing his own vegetables.  During World War II, he was interned with Germans, Italians and others considered dangerous to the British war effort.  Later, serving as an economic consultant for three years in Burma, he further developed his ideas that society needed to be just, not just wealthy.  These experiences shaped Schumacher’s worldview that economics, and life, was about more than creating the highest GNP and the largest, most industrialized economy.  He wrote, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

From 1950-1970, he was the economist for the British Coal Board, a time when he realized that how we treat the environment was the fundamental issue for the future.  In 1966, he formed the organization Intermediate Technology Development Group, which sought to develop—and apply—practical ideas for improving the human condition in the developing world.  The group is now called Practical Action and continues to apply his principles around the world.

He wrote and spoke extensively throughout the post-war years, becoming a leading intellectual in England and throughout Europe.  His major contribution was the 1973 book, Small is Beautiful:  Economics as if People Mattered.  The book speaks to the need for “appropriate technology,” helping developing countries improve their quality of life by creating better small-scale technology that will work in their locales—not by importing industrial-scale technology that works in developed economies.  His ideas take the form of today’s mantra to “think globally, act locally.”  He also developed the idea of “natural capital,” understanding that over-use of renewable resources will lead to a lower quality of life in the future.  Nature, he has taught us, is not inexhaustible.

Schumacher is also inspirational for his indomitable spirit and cheerfulness.  Despite seeing the destruction of his beloved Germany and living as an enemy of his adopted England, he reveled in good humor and joy.  His wife remembered that “he was the easiest man to live with, incredibly even-tempered, who believed that the first Christian duty was cheerfulness.”

 

References:

 

McCrum, Robert.  2011.  EF Schumacher:  Cameron’s choice.  The Guardian, 26 March 2011.

 

Practical Action.  EF Schumacher—founder of Practical Action.  Available at:  https://practicalaction.org/ef-schumacher.  Accessed August 15, 2017.

 

Schumacher Center for a New Economics.  Honoring E. F. Schumacher.  Available at:  http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/Schumacher.  Accessed August 15, 2017.

 

 

World Wisdom.  E. F. Schumacher’s life and work.  Available at:  http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/authors/EF-Schumacher.aspx.  Accessed August 15, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

May 1
Linnaeus Publishes “Species Plantarum” (1753)
May 2
“Peter and The Wolf” Premieres (1936)
May 3
Vagn Walfrid Ekman, Swedish Oceanographer, Born (1874)
May 4
Eugenie Clark, The Shark Lady, Born (1922)
May 5
Frederick Lincoln, Pioneer of Bird Banding, Born (1892)
May 6
Lassen Volcanic National Park Created (1907)
May 7
Nature’s Best Moms
May 8
David Attenborough Born (1926)
May 9
Thames River Embankments Completed (1874)
May 10
Birute Galdikas, Orangutan Expert, Born (1946)
May 11
“HMS Beagle” Launched (1820)
May 12
Farley Mowat, Author of “Never Cry Wolf,” Born (1921)
May 13
St. Lawrence Seaway Authorized (1954)
May 14
Lewis and Clark Expedition Began (1804)
May 15
Declaration of the Conservation Conference (1908)
May 16
Ramon Margalef, Pioneering Ecologist, Born (1919)
May 17
Australian BioBanking for Biodiversity Implemented (2010)
May 18
Mount St. Helens Erupts (1980)
May 19
Carl Akeley, Father of Modern Taxidermy, Born (1864)
May 20
European Maritime Day
May 21
Rio Grande Water-Sharing Convention Signed (1906)
May 22
International Day for Biological Diversity
May 23
President Carter Delivers Environmental Message to Congress (1977)
May 24
Bison Again Roam Free in Canada’s Grasslands National Park (2006)
May 25
Lacey Act Created (1900)
May 26
Last Model T Rolls Off the Assembly Line (1927)
May 27
A Day for the birds
May 27
Rachel Carson, Author of “Silent Spring,” Born (1907)
May 28
Sierra Club Founded (1892)
May 29
Stephen Forbes, Pioneering Ecologist, Born (1844)
May 30
Everglades National Park Created (1934)
May 31
The Johnstown Flood (1889)
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