Each year the new students have spent a week at Schumacher College near Totnes, Devon, learning about sustainable development. Schumacher College provide 'transformative courses for sustainable living' and offer masters qualifications in Holistic Science, Economics for Transition and Sustainable Horticulture. This is part two of James Stephenson's account of cohort 5's time there. You can read part one here.
Regardless of the concept that was being explained or practiced at Schumacher, it was vital to approach everything with an open mind. One such concept was that of Gaia Theory. Gaia theory was developed by James Lovelock in the 1970 as a conceptual tool for explaining phenomena on Earth. Lovelock proposed that organisms in the biosphere interact with the environment to form Gaia, a self-regulatory system, which provides relatively stable and habitable conditions on Earth. The examples given in the introductory talk and the terminology used to explain Gaia theory complied with our scientific senses. Flowery adjectives were avoided to some extent and any suggestion of a Gaia existing as an actual Deity was strongly opposed. The use of Gaia as a metaphor to explain earthly phenomena seemed logical and intuitive to the group, and overall the discussion was a resounding success.
Personal development was a very important aspect of our time at Schumacher College. From years of living in modern civilisation, it is entirely feasible that we all suffer a detachment from nature. To amend this in a week is impossible, but we had a good go! Our first flavour was an eco-phycology talk, where we discussed in groups our experiences with nature and realise our own connections. Unfortunately, for most this exercise was not successful, but no matter, as we had plenty of other opportunities to connect with nature throughout the week, and I believe I am right in saying everyone in the group developed their relationship with nature to some extent.
Although not everything we did was particularly related to sustainable development, they are certainly worth mentioning as refreshing and enriching novel experiences. I attended morning meditation and capoeira, I had never tried these activities before, but it so happens that 5 months on I now enjoy both regularly. In conclusion, Schumacher introduces many “different” concepts some of which are more personally useful and agreeable than others. Ultimately Schumacher is what you make it, anywhere between a completely useless waste of time to an experience that will shatter and reconstruct your world views.