Thursday, September 9, 2021

FALLEN LEAVES. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue VI)


The full PDF of Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle VI can be accessed here.

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century. As discomforting as it may be to many, the life of Padre Pio profoundly reflects the essential truth carried in the Christian understanding of human embodiment. As one who bore the wounds of the crucified Christ, he shares this witness with others such as St. Francis of Assisi and Therese Neumann, each of whose lives challenged the certainty of what had been considered to be the limits of the possible.

This edition of Fallen Leaves carries a short reflection on the life and work of Padre Pio, including an English-language translation of his "Prayer for Healers."

Fallen Leaves VI also offers a substantive essay detailing the lesser-known consequences of the US nuclear tests carried out in the Marshall Islands during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Particular attention is given to the experience of the inhabitants of Rongelap Island who endured massive radiation exposure after the "Castle Bravo" thermonuclear test in 1954.

This edition also carries a review of "Operation Protective Edge", the 7-week long assault on the people of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force in 2014 along with some reflections by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.

Fallen Leaves VI also includes a wide-ranging personal reflection on contemporary biomedicine prompted by a visit to a large Melbourne hospital, and two short poetic pieces.

Below is a listing of the contents of Fallen Leaves VI:

1.  Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Healer for a Broken Time
2.  In Search of Deeper Healing
3.  When Protectors Become Destroyers. On the Ruining of Rongelap
4.  Of Early Departures. Querying Padmasambhava
5.  Wasting Gaza Further
6. Haiku Trilogy  

The full text of Fallen Leaves V can be viewed or downloaded as a PDF from:

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

FALLEN LEAVES. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue V)

 The full PDF of Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle V can be accessed here.

The muses are presently poised between a Requiem for the Species and a Symphony for the Great Turning. The song that our children hear will be determined by decisions made and decisions avoided during the first two decades of the new millennium.

This fifth edition of Fallen Leaves carries substantive reflections on the life and work of two American teachers and activists, Wendell Berry and Sr. Miriam MacGillis. Both are committed to the work of recovering ways of living on the earth that are more attuned  to the needs, the sensitivities, and the limits of a planet whose biosphere has been seriously damaged. This edition also carries commentary on the abortive and largely inconsequential UN Climate Conference held in Durban ten years ago.

Fallen Leaves V also carries three poetic pieces that address several of the core themes that infuse the Fallen Leaves project.

 Below is a listing of the contents of Fallen Leaves V

1.  Wendell Berry. Gaining our Souls before we Lose the World
2.  Terra Calda. A Lament for Darkening Times
3.  Durban. The Supplication of a Dead Man's Hand
4.  Glowing Cores
5. Sister Miriam MacGillis. Sister of Earth
6.  Manjusri

The full text of Fallen Leaves V can be viewed or downloaded as a PDF from:

Sunday, June 27, 2021

FALLEN LEAVES. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue IV)

The full PDF of Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue IV) can be accessed here.

We tend as a society to remove from sight those realities that may disturb our sense of order, of control, of comfort, of civilised pleasantness. It is very tempting to arrange things so that one lives a predictable and well-cushioned life shielded from the human wreckage that lies just beneath the surface. Yet something as simple as spending an hour or two in a railway carriage outside of peak hour in any major city can reveal how wafer-thin the veneer of social order and civility can be. The surprising number of young people begging for food and money in and around the streets of central Melbourne reveals further what lies behind the façade of affluence and self-satisfaction that is everywhere projected. One does not need to walk the streets of Calcutta to know the faces of the dispossessed and the privation and deep need that everywhere burdens the life of so many. 

This fourth edition of Fallen Leaves begins with substantive reflections on two women who understood well the hidden pain below the surface of many lives: the founder of the Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa of Calcutta; and the philosopher/activist-turned mystic, Simone Weil.  

Fallen Leaves IV also carries a substantive review of the work and ideas of eco-theologian Thomas Berry, and a personal reflection on the role of the herbal medicine traditions during this time when biomedicine has effectively claimed all cultural authority in matters of health and disease. Fallen Leaves IV concludes with some thoughts triggered by the remembrance of a night spent some years ago in the ruins of the Temple of Zeus in Agrigento, Sicily. 

Below is a listing of the contents of Fallen Leaves IV:

1.  Where Do We Take Our Instructions?
2.  Of Poverty and Potency. The Reluctant Mysticism of Simone Weil
3.  Forgetting Jung's Tree
4.  Thomas Berry and the Tragic Climax
5.  The Herbal Medicine Tradition. A Long-burning Torch for Darkening Times
6.  Learning to Shine Through the Ruins

The full text of Fallen Leaves IV can be viewed or downloaded as a PDF from:

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

FALLEN LEAVES. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue III)

The full PDF of Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue III) can be accessed here.

This third edition of Fallen Leaves offers commentary on a range of both contemporary and perennial issues that invite reflection on where we are and where we are going. 

A significant part of this edition is given over to a consideration of the different ways that the arts of healing can be exercised. These include a reflection on the remarkable diagnostic style and capabilities available to practitioners of Tibetan medicine, a revisitation of a number of critiques of biomedicine that were voiced during the time when the various modalities of natural medicine were gaining traction in the Western world both in terms of community support and institutional presence, and a phenomenological reflection on the experience of being admitted to the Emergency Department of a regional Victorian hospital.

Fallen Leaves III also carries reflective commentary on aspects of both the Copenhagen and Cancun climate conferences, a short review of the US style of political/economic/military engagement during the mid-term of Barack Obama's presidency, and musings on a number of other issues.


Below is a listing of the contents of Fallen Leaves III:

1.  The Poetics of Medicine
2.  On technology and Medicine in a Time of Troubles
3.  On the Eve of Cancun
4.  While the Hegemon Caves from Within
5.  Of Love and Medicine
6.  On the Cultivation of Discernment

The full text of Fallen Leaves III can be viewed and/or downloaded as a PDF from:

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

FALLEN LEAVES. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue II)

The full PDF of Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue II) can be accessed here.

We have been here long enough now to know that civilisations rise and civilisations fall. Yet it would seem that we have failed to understand the past sufficiently if our perceptions of the present are any indication. We were not here to experience the massive volcanic eruptions that caused the Permian mass extinction event on the earth some 250 million years ago, or the meteoric impact 65 million years ago that brought about a further mass extinction. But poised as we are on the edge of yet another massive extinction of species - this time humanly-caused - we would do well to recover the insights of every developed culture in recorded history regarding the nature of cyclical time, of flux and flow, of waxing and waning, of birthing and burying.

The convulsions that have wounded and displaced so many in so many ways in recent memory are both qualitatively and quantitatively different to the periodic upheavals that have historically been our human lot. Our expectations regarding future steadiness and the predictability of seasonal cycles are now challenged by the changes brought about by technological-industrial civilisation. We can no longer look to our children's future with the certainty that our parents looked to our own.  

Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle serves to provide considered and reflective commentary on both the practical and the philosophical dimensions of our present circumstances. These explorations may help to clarify the nature of the inner attributes and the outer forces that shape our experiences during this time of growing troubles. 

This second edition of Fallen Leaves includes a substantive critical review of Operation Cast Lead, the three-week long assault on the inhabitants of Gaza by the Israeli military during December 2008/January 2009, a review of the work of Leopold Kohr whose ideas were to have a strong influence on E.F. Schumacher, some reflections on the crooked corporate dealings associated with 2008 global financial crisis, and musings on a number of other issues.

Below is a listing of the contents of Fallen Leaves II:

1.  Must We Do This Every Time?
2.  Slouching Towards Gaza: Operation Cast Lead and the Dismembering of a People
3.  On the Folly of Transience
4.  Dressing Mammon's Wounds II. Feast of the Giants
5.  On Reconnecting
6.  Leopold Kohr. Gentle Messenger of Community, Fellowship and Celebration
7.  On the Need for Another Way

The full text of Fallen Leaves II can be viewed and/or downloaded as a PDF from:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

FALLEN LEAVES. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue I)

The full PDF of Autumn Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle (Issue I) can be accessed here.

Each of us carries particular gifts. Times of high civilisation offer a rare opportunity for us to develop and express those gifts. We take freedom of belief, freedom of choice, freedom of action and freedom of thought for granted. Yet historically, such freedoms are not givens, but have been available only to the few. The fruitful exercise of these freedoms turns on the degree to which we are informed in those areas from which we draw our sense of identity. True freedom presupposes a deep and intimate knowledge of the issues that are central to our lives, and the forces and influences to which they are subject.

Each edition of Fallen Leaves. An Autumn Chronicle will hopefully serve to provide a considered and reflective commentary on both the practical and the philosophical dimensions of our present circumstances. This and subsequent editions of Fallen Leaves will explore the idealisms, the cynicisms and the pragmatisms inherent in this time as our sense of certainty begins to fail. These explorations may help to clarify the nature of the inner attributes and the outer forces that shape our experience during this time of growing troubles. Between the lines, these explorations may help to broaden our perception of the nature of the influences that contribute to the creation of both harmony and of strife.

Fallen Leaves offers an ongoing extension of one of the primary principles underlying Holism and Complementary Medicine published in 2006. That principle was clearly stated by eco-theologian Thomas Berry in his Schumacher Society Lecture of 1991:

It should be especially clear in medicine that we cannot have well humans on a sick planet. Medicine must first turn its attention to protecting the health and well-being of the Earth before there can be any effective human health.

Contrary to the progressivist fantasy held by so many, it becomes increasingly obvious that we are not on the cusp of a bright and equitable age of universal peace, freedom and abundance for all. It is equally clear that we can no longer depend on a continuation of those rhythms and patterns that perennially sustained earlier civilisations.

This first edition of Fallen Leaves includes critical and interpretive reflections on the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder that caused the death of hundreds of billions of bees in the US and Europe between 2006 and 2008, the hidden human consequences of US and NATO air strikes in Afghanistan, and a number of other issues.

Fallen Leaves I concludes with a substantive review of the ideas presented by environmental historian Colin Duncan in his seminal 2007 essay, The Practical Equivalence of War? which addresses the approaching curtailment of taken-for-granted freedoms that we are collectively facing as climate change and its effects begin to gather momentum.

Below is a listing of the Contents of Fallen Leaves I:

1.  A Minor Manifesto
2.  Remembering Hiroshima
3.  The Slow Awakening
4.  The Rising Dragon
5.  By Hook or by Crook
6.  From Silent Spring to Seedless Summer
7.  Dressing Mammon's Wounds
8.  There Are No Good Wars
9.  The Great Bear Awakens
10. Wounding Further the Already Wounded
11. The Inevitable Fall
12. This Peculiar Moment

The full text of Fallen Leaves I can be viewed and/or downloaded as a PDF from:

Wednesday, June 3, 2020



In any given life, there are certain events that remain firmly imprinted in our memories. I carry an indelible memory of an evening in late May 1989. I had just returned home from a meeting and my wife excitedly called me into the television room. On the screen were images of tens of thousands of young people gathered at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The English-language commentator was talking about the pro-democracy movement that had been steadily growing in many Chinese provinces and that was finding its most dramatic expression among the students and their supporters gathered in Tiananmen Square. We understood that this was truly an historic moment and expressed to each other the hope that the Chinese Communist autocracy might actually be on the point of yielding to the great call for freedom of thought and action that was so clearly expressed among those gathered at the Square.

Everything changed in the late hours of June 3rd. Deng Xiaoping had commanded that his troops crush the movement using whatever force was necessary. And crushed it was. The event and its consequences have been detailed extensively since. The massacre at Tiananmen Square definitively demonstrated that the methods of State violence instituted by Mao Zedong remained firmly in place as Communist Party policy.

Soon after the events of June 3rd and 4th, Australian sociologist Jonathan Unger compiled a series of essays written by colleagues and friends detailing the movements throughout China that had led up to the Tiananmen Square protests and what followed. [1] Though published in 1991, these essays remain an ongoing testament to a time when the aspiration for human freedom throughout China took living form, only to be overturned by powerful forces controlled by the State and then erased as far as possible from the collective memory of the Chinese people.

One of the more important understandings to emerge from this collection of essays is that the young and idealistic students who gathered in the name of democratic reform were united in their calls for an end to corruption in government. They also called for the establishment of an independent press capable of reporting impartially on all aspects of Chinese life, the creation of an independent judiciary able to reign in government excesses, and the universal protection of both academic freedoms and the right to exercise critical thought.

Another of the central messages delivered by the essays is that the protests were not confined to Beijing, but were part of a broad-based awakening. They represented a collective reaction to perceived corruption and incompetence in government, and were a response to the disregard of the Chinese Communist Party to the aspirations of Chinese citizens for both economic and political reform. The demonstrations at Tiananmen Square were a living manifestation of the will of the people of China, emboldened by the courage of university students and community leaders, to bring an end to the nepotism that permeated all levels of government and the tight control of individual freedoms exercised by the Communist Party.

The immediate trigger for the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square was the unexpected death of Hu Yaobang, Party General Secretary and former revolutionary leader. Hu Yaobang had long supported an easing of the tight controls that constricted many freedoms in China, and supported the free expression of political, philosophical, and intellectual thought. He was also a strong advocate of the right of students to gather and to demonstrate peacefully in public spaces. His death on April 15th 1989 generated protests throughout China against the regime of Deng Xiaoping. These protests were actively supported by both officials and by workers – often in the tens of thousands – in many provinces. But they did not all prove to be peaceful. One of the essays describes how the student protests in the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province soon after Hu Yaobang’s death in April resulted in clashes with police in which a number of student protesters were killed. [2] The violence exercised by the police in the Xi’an protests was but a prelude to what was soon after to erupt at the hands of the Chinese military in Tiananmen Square.

Unger’s collection reveals that, contrary to appearances, China at the time of the pro-democracy demonstrations was not a unified entity under the Central State. The essays make it clear that local leaders and many within the general population throughout China were in full sympathy with the spirit of the protesters. But the support and goodwill of Chinese citizens was no match for the power of armoured tanks and the ruthless compliance of heavily armed soldiers.

The spirit of hope and freedom expressed in the pro-democracy protests in China in 1989 was brutally stilled before it had the opportunity to do its work.


One of the more powerful retrospective analyses of the massacre at Tiananmen Square and its consequences is that produced by the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent for the 25th anniversary of the event in 2014. [3] In this superbly produced documentary, members of the Australian Embassy in Beijing at the time were brought back together 25 years later to reflect on their experiences in May and June 1989. Their individual accounts help provide a detailed mosaic of what went down at that time. Those interviewed included the Ambassador David Sadleir, the Defence Attaché Peter Everett, the Economic Counsellor Geoff Raby, and the Embassy Media Officer Gregson Edwards among others. Their accounts leave no doubt about the ferocity of the Chinese response to the protests, a response that has been completely stripped from the historical records in China. Mention of the event remains absolutely forbidden in all Chinese media. Any reference to it on the internet is immediately taken down, while harsh punitive measures are meted out to any in China who would dare to raise the issue.

Those interviewed describe how hundreds of thousands of PLA members were trucked into Beijing from other provinces in the days leading up to the massacre. According to Greg Edwards, the soldiers started shooting indiscriminately into the crowd at around 11 pm on June 3rd. Many were killed and injured in that first volley. Soon after, armoured personnel carriers “came tearing into the square.” One of them stalled at a barrier and the crowd descended on it. It was “stopped by a crow-bar in the spokes, and then set alight.” The soldiers inside were incinerated.

Soldiers in huge numbers then descended into Tiananmen Square. Their trucks and tanks simply ran over protestors and the crowd was subjected to indiscriminate machine-gun fire. Edwards recalled: “It’s not known how many protesters were shot or crushed that night.” The bullets used at Tiananmen Square were not ordinary bullets, but were designed to shred flesh when they entered the body. Many who fell were not fatally wounded, but bled to death within a short time.

By the morning of June 5th, the army had complete control of Beijing. Troops used bulldozers to push bodies into heaps, doused them in petrol, and then burned them up. According to Peter Everett, most of the students killed did not die in the actual assault on Tiananmen Square, but were systematically rounded up by the military and killed in the weeks following June 4th. Many were forcibly removed from their parents’ houses, taken elsewhere, and executed. The parents received notices that their children had been “shot while trying to escape” or that they “fell down the stairs.”

The precise number of those killed as a result of the Tiananmen Square massacre will never be known with certainty. Recently released documents in the UK reveal that the British ambassador to China at the time estimated that over 10,000 people - mostly students - were killed in consequence of the Tiananmen Square action. [4]

The terror unleashed at Tiananmen Square is not a singular aberration or strategic error on the part of the Chinese Communist State. Violence has been explicitly built into its structure from the outset. This sanctioned violence reached extraordinary levels during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution during which millions of people died. Nor did it end with Tiananmen Square. In the decade that followed, two groups within China – the Uyghurs of Xinjiang and members of Falun Gong throughout China - were designated Internal Enemies and thereafter systematically subjected to State violence.

Chinese history has been re-written for the Chinese. The events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 appear nowhere on Chinese internet search engines. History textbooks used by schools in China make no mention of the massacre. On those few occasions when 1989 is referred to by politicians, the event is passingly portrayed as a necessary minor intervention to deal with a small group of agitators whose thought and actions threatened the peace and prosperity of the Chinese people.

The suppression of acts that are clearly unjust but knowingly undertaken at the highest levels of government appears to be part of the political machinery in China. What has been done with the history of Tiananmen Square has, in the two decades since, been repeated in the matter of “re-educating” over one million Uyghurs detainees in Xinjiang [5] and the reported “harvesting” of organs from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience for use by transplant surgeons throughout China. [6] These activities show the degree to which Chinese leaders have disregarded their more noble traditions in the pursuit of control, of power, and of wealth.

The roots from which the Chinese soul draws nourishment have lain dormant during the moral winter that China has endured over the past century, but the perennial turning of seasons is ultimately unstoppable. The chilling inhumanity exercised in the present age must subside in its turn. The Wen Yen Commentary was believed to have been elaborated by the Confucian school over two thousand years ago. In it, we find the following commentary on the first Hexagram of the I Ching, Ch’ien/ The Creative:
“The four fundamental attributes of the Creative are likewise the attributes necessary to a leader and ruler of men. In order to rule and lead men, the first essential is to have humane feeling toward them. Without humaneness, nothing lasting can be accomplished in the sphere of authority. Power that influences through fear works only for the moment and necessarily arouses resistance as a counter-effect.

On the basis of this conception, it follows that the mores are the instrument by which men can be brought into union. For nothing binds people more firmly together than deeply rooted social usages that are observed because they appear to each member of society as something beautiful and worth striving for. . .

Furthermore, as the foundation of social life there must be the greatest possible freedom and the greatest possible advantage for all. These are guaranteed by justice, which curtails individual freedom no more than is absolutely necessary for the general welfare. Finally, to reach the desired goals, there is the fourth requisite of wisdom, manifesting itself by pointing out the established and enduring paths that, according to immutable cosmic laws, must lead to success.” [7]

The principles of just government were recognised in China even before the birth of Jesus and will hopefully be meaningfully recovered in the uncertain future that awaits us all. However, it would appear that we either learn very slowly or that the very nature of power and its exercise has an irremediably corrosive effect on human nature.

There is a consistent political ethos underlying the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the enforced “re-education” of Uyghurs and the colonisation of Xinjiang (and Tibet beforehand), and the “disappearing” of tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners throughout China since 1999. Elements of this ethos with its undercurrents of secrecy, suppression, and “control of the narrative” remain active and visible in the present day even in regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is reflected in the refusal of Beijing to permit outside observers from entering China to investigate the origins of the outbreak that has brought unspeakable grief to so many families around the world and upended the economies of so many countries.

As the power and the confidence of the Chinese State continues to grow, one can only hope that the expressions of good will and the yearning for freedom expressed so strongly and, in the end, so poignantly by those who paid the ultimate price at Tiananmen Square, will find their fruition in the fullness of time.


1. Jonathan Unger: The Pro-Democracy Protests in China. Reports from the Provinces, M.E. Sharpe, London, 1991

2. Joseph W. Esherick, Xi’an Spring, in Jonathan Unger (1991), pp. 81-86

3. Tiananmen: Australia’s Witnesses. ABC Foreign Correspondent (3rd June 2014). Viewed at:

4. Tiananmen Square protest death ‘was 10,000’. BBC News (23rd December 2017). Viewed at:  

5. Human Rights Watch: Eradicating Ideological Viruses. China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims. September 2018. Viewed at:

6. The problematic issue of reconciling the immense number of organ transplants that occurred in China after 1999 with official accounts of the sources of donor organs was substantively documented by David Kilgour and David Matas in 2006. Ten years later, they extensively updated their findings. (See: More recently, this issue has been picked up by Australian researcher Matthew Robertson in his March 2020 report: Organ Procurement and Extrajudicial Execution in China: A Review of the Evidence. (See:

7. Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes. The I Ching: Or, Book of Changes, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1968 (Third Edition), pp. 376-377

Vincent Di Stefano M.H.Sc., D.O., N.D.

A PDF copy of the above essay along with selected excerpts from The Pro-Democracy Protests in China. Reports from the Provinces can be accessed at:

Saturday, November 9, 2019

E.F. Schumacher. On Small is Beautiful

When Francis Fukuyama triumphally proclaimed The End of History in 1989, he projected the widely-held view that Western liberal democracy, firmly rooted in corporate capitalism and the free market economy, had brought humanity to its historical culmination. From Fukuyama's particular vantage point at the end of the twentieth century, it was plain sailing ahead. He wrote: "What we are witnessing is . . . the endpoint of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." [1] There appeared to be absolutely no disquiet in his mind regarding the less tangible consequences of the liberal democratic project with its implicate laissez faire commercialism, monstrous energy consumption and consumerism, and widespread dislocation of traditional societies.

As the precarious state of technological civilisation becomes ever more apparent, it can only be helpful to reconsider the reflections of those less sanguine commentators who, even decades before Fukuyama issued his pronouncement, perceived the strains within both institutional structures and ecological systems that heralded hard times ahead.

E.F. Schumacher was such a one.

Copies of Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, first published in 1973, can still be found in many libraries. And it occasionally chances as an unexpected treasure on the shelves of second-hand bookshops. Although most copies of the book were printed in paperback form, it remains one of the pivotal works of the twentieth century and carries within it the fruits of decades of considered reflection on the nature of human flourishing.

As an economist, E.F. Schumacher focussed his attention on how economics could be made to serve human needs rather than those of corporations and megalithic financial institutions. His work has had a significant influence on many who continue to remain active behind the scenes in their mission to restore the natural rhythms and capacities of the earth and her peoples, an earth that has been severely lacerated by industrial civilisation and its destructive technologies. In his own words:
We must thoroughly understand the problem and begin to see the possibility of evolving a new life-style, with new methods of production and new patterns of consumption: a life-style designed for permanence. [2]
It is clear that half a century later, we have barely begun to understand the problem, and have - especially in the so-called developed world - cultivated a life-style designed more for transience rather than permanence.  Although Schumacher's ideas were not picked up by those who move the world the way it goes, they remain fertile ground for those who would contemplate any futurity in a post-apocalyptic context.

Schumacher identified Keynesian economics as the primary driver of an economics - and politics - of greed that continues to devour the world. In 1930, on the cusp of the decade-long Great Depression, Keynes wrote:
For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight. [3]
Keynes' hundred years has nearly passed, and the gods of avarice and usury and precaution have shown no sign of fatigue but, rather, seem more intent on claiming what they can of the next hundred years as well. Powerful states, corporations, and individuals continue to tenaciously claim the freedom to increase their wealth and privilege regardless of the cost to peoples or planet. A recent Oxfam Report notes that "just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world." [4] In more direct terms, this means that eight single individuals own more than what is owned by three and a half billion of the world's poorest people.

Pity, says Schumacher, that we listened to Keynes and not to Gandhi.

Regarding the ravenous consumption of energy by technological civilisation and the near-universal promotion of nuclear power as a means of providing that energy, Schumacher presciently noted that nuclear reactors have a finite life beyond which they become unusable and unserviceable. Each of the over 400 nuclear reactors in use today will become an incandescent monument that will continue to emit radioactivity for centuries. Dismantling them may remove the eyesore, but the core and its irradiated surrounding structures will continue to emit radiation for countless generations to come.

The current push for new fleets of small modular reactors (SMRs) as sources of low-carbon energy and as a "solution" to the problem of humanly-induced climate change similarly disregards that fact that we still don't know what to do with over 220,000 tons of high-level waste, most of which is crowded into the overflowing cooling ponds of the world's existing reactors. In the meantime, the molten reactor cores of Fukushima continue to pour radionuclides into the Pacific Ocean while, at the time of writing, the Japanese government is poised to release the contents of 1000 massive tanks holding over a million tons of contaminated water into the sea, justifying this act of ecocide by citing the old and over-worked adage, dilution is the solution to pollution. Biology works differently. Even a single radioactive atom embedded in the tissues of any living organism causes havoc in the cells surrounding it.

Hard energy. The contaminated water tanks of Fukushima

Nearly 50 years ago, Schumacher wrote about nuclear energy in his signatory style:
No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make 'safe' and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime ever perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilisation could sustain itself on the basis of such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economic affairs of man as if people really did not matter at all. [5]
E.F. Schumacher has also identified a curious inversion within the industrial-technological project whereby in the guise of easing life's burdens, progress and development have brought a massive and ubiquitous poisoning of the earth and her creatures in their train. Small is Beautiful draws attention to the excesses and the disparities of an economic and industrial system that has trashed cultural traditions that have served the needs of human communities for centuries. Schumacher cautioned against the gigantism and the obsession with globalisation that were beginning to overtake governments of all colour during the 1960s and 1970s. Schumacher offered both clarity and direction but his suggestions found no resonance with the dominant political and economic powers. These powers have systematically herded the world into an insistent consumerist ethos, while such terms as restraint and self-reliance have been effectively removed from their lexicons.

Yet through it all, Schumacher remains optimistic that creative individuals and visionary groups will continue to develop simpler technologies and ways of living that are more in keeping with the needs of the earth and her people than with those of superannuated shareholders and their corporate minders.

Soft energy. Harvesting the invisible

E.F. Schumacher calls for the creation of educational programs in both the developed and developing world that are more attuned to the perennial rhythms of the earth, systems of education that are directed more to the cultivation of wisdom, discernment, compassion and usefulness, than to satisfying industry-driven demands to create new cadres of "efficient" and compliant technocrats. One of Schumacher's major contributions during his latter years was the development of what came to be known as "intermediate technology" programs in both developed and developing countries. These serve to empower local communities and to promote autonomy and decentralisation.

Such individuals as Satish Kumar and Vandana Siva have become powerful advocates of Schumacher's ideas. They, along with many others have taken up the work of awakening and informing all who would hear that the present entrancement and the pursuit of the goals of technological-industrial civilisation do not bode well for humanity and its earthly home.

Strong Gandhian sentiments permeate Schumacher's work. He bluntly demolishes the myth of limitless growth as the natural destiny of economies and nations. Yet the common sense spoken by Schumacher is still nowhere to be seen in the economic and political style of the present day. It is, however, increasingly being taken up at the margins by individuals and communities who have consciously stepped off the wheel and chosen to simplify their lives in whatever ways are given to them.

After teaching English at New York University from 1962 to 1964, American writer, poet, and political activist Wendell Berry saw the writing on the wall. He resigned his post and purchased a farm in Kentucky which he proceeded to cultivate using ploughs and heavy horses rather than agricultural chemicals and heavy machinery. In 1981, four years after Schumacher's death, Wendell Berry presented the inaugural Schumacher Society lecture entitled People, Land and Community in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. These yearly lectures inspired by the work of E.F. Schumacher continue to be hosted by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics with the 39th annual lecture entitled Actionable Responses to Climate Change being held in October 2019.

A profound aesthetic sense is expressed in Schumacher's thought. He continually returns to the criteria of beauty, of elegance, of non-violence, and of human scale in his pursuit of a workable future for humanity during a time of troubles and of growing uncertainty.

E.F. Schumacher remains an enduring source of wisdom in an age of madness and folly.


1. Francis Fukuyama: The End of History, The National Interest, Summer 1989
2. E.F. Schumacher (1974): Small is Beautiful. A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Abacus Edition, London, p. 19
3. Ibid., p. 22
4. Oxfam Briefing Paper: An Economy for the 99%, January 2017, p. 2
5. Schumacher (1974) op. cit., p. 141

Vincent Di Stefano M.H.Sc., D.O., N.D.
Inverloch, November 2019

A PDF copy of the above essay along with selected excerpts from "Small is Beautiful" can be downloaded from:


 1. E.F. Schumacher. A Voice for Wisdom in an Age of Folly

The economist E.F. Schumacher has served as a source of inspiration for many over the past half-century. His essential message is carried in two books published in the five years before he died, Small is Beautiful. A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (1973) and A Guide for the Perplexed (1977).

His ideas continue to be explored, developed and disseminated by such groups as the Schumacher Society in the UK and the New Economics Institute in the US as well as numerous individuals and groups in both the developed and developing world.

This post offers a downloadable audio presentation drawn from two lectures given by Schumacher in the 1970s.

2. Wendell Berry. Finding Our Souls before we Lose the World

Wendell Berry has written over twenty books of poetry, sixteen volumes of essays, and ten novels. He has also been prominent in political actions against the Vietnam War, nuclear energy, US Department of Agriculture policy, George W. Bush's post 9/11 National Security policy and more recently, the mining of coal by the methods of Mountaintop Removal in Kentucky. All the while, he has continuously worked his 125 acre farm using traditional and organic methods.

Throughout his life, Wendell Berry has sought to artfully uncover the rhetoric that presents our time as one of utopian possibilities and universal fulfilment. While acknowledging the transformations wrought by industrial and technological civilisation, he calls our attention to the perennial values and unchanging realities that condition our being.