It is now nearly fifty years since EF Schumacher penned his seminal work ‘Small is Beautiful’. I recall reading it as a young man and finding hope that small, well-designed interventions could solve some of our most intractable problems. I still carry that hope today as we face the environmental crisis and for all our talk of emergency, very little is happening to prevent a tragic outcome both for ourselves and the planet. I ask myself ‘Is there something missing from our response?’ ‘Is there something else to be done?’ We have activists acting, politicians politicking, scientists pronouncing and yet we are somehow dull and unresponsive.
If we are honest with ourselves, this unresponsiveness may come partly from our love for modern Western culture. We simply don’t want it to change. There are so many benefits that we receive from our freedom-loving world and we fear their loss. The truth may be that our present culture carries within itself a fatal flaw. Schumacher described this problem in terms of our attitude to nature, saying that humanity does not experience itself as part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. Many others have drawn similar conclusions. But how do we change the attitudes that dominate our society? How can we create a deep love for the natural world and sense of belonging? There may be a simple solution.
This website draws from traditional human societies and their instinctive recognition of festivals as a power to help shape our minds and build community life. By focusing festivals on our relationship with the Earth, we will be calling one another into a new way of responding to the natural world. By doing this at neighbourhood level we can nurture this new love for nature in practical ways as we care for wildlife around us.
Festivals, nature places, neighbourhoods. Such a simple idea really, but multiplied around the world, in every local area, in thousands and thousands of neighbourhoods, it would shift our culture into a new reality. Then politicians could make the radical changes required, because they would have the support of the people and a deep reform would take place.
It is said that it is an irritant getting into an oyster that provokes the reaction that makes a pearl. Maybe the environmental crisis is that irritant for our Western Culture and that ultimately something much more beautiful will be formed.
We are just launching this new movement. As yet, there are only a few neighbourhoods signed up, though some of us have substantial experience of this way of working and we will be sharing some of what we have learnt through this column. We invite you to join this movement, sign up your neighbourhood and make this happen.