DV: In the “Localism” chapter, you give percentages on how goods should be distributed: 60% locally, 25% nationally and 15% globally. How did you determine these percentages? What impact would compliance with these percentages have?
Sask. : The percentage I’m talking about is just a guideline. It is not a fixed number. What I mean by localism is that what can be produced locally must be consumed locally. We need to reduce the number of kilometers traveled by goods. In the past, we always traded in tea or spices or silk. But everyday goods and food were supplied locally. We didn’t need to use so many fossil fuels to transport everyday things. If this principle is kept in mind and we design our business policies accordingly, the percentages will more or less work by themselves. Localism is not a matter of narrow-mindedness. We should think globally but buy locally. We should learn the literature, culture, philosophy and arts of other countries. But our economic footprint on planet Earth should be lighter. Then we won’t face big problems like the climate catastrophe.
DV: Can you go into more detail about what Oikonomia (meaning “housekeeping” in Latin, and the root of the word economy) and how can this be a force for good and lead to an economy of love?
Sask. : From what I understand Oikonomia is the basis of the regenerative economy. All of this beautiful planet is our home. The birds in the sky and the deer in the forest are part of our planetary home. All members of our earthly home should be respected. Humans are important, but so are forests, rivers and animals. While defending human rights, we must also respect the rights of nature. That’s what I call Oikonomics.
DV: You say that two million inhabitants is the maximum for the size of a city. Why is that?
Sask. : Cities are for people. They must be friendly places to live. Right now our cities are full of cars, roads and railroads. We have lost the sense of neighborhoods and communities. My dream city is a city where I can walk to stores, schools, doctors offices, libraries and restaurants. I want to live in a city where I have friends so there is no social isolation – a city where there is a sense of belonging. Urban design should be based on the idea that “small is beautiful”. Therefore, a city of two million is my ideal city. But of course, this figure is approximate. I have no dogmatic opinion. My point is, how can we plan our cities where commerce is compatible with compassion and human dignity? A city should be a community rather than an urban jungle.
DV: You describe the work as “poetry”. How to find a job that is poetry?
Sask. : The word “poetry” comes from Greek etymology. It just means to do
;: made with imagination, skill, creativity and love, rather than simply copying someone else’s recipes or formulas. Any occupation can be poetic if made with these ingredients. A beautiful garden is poetic, any work of original design or craftsmanship is poetic, the preparation of imaginative food is poetic, the construction of a beautiful house is poetic, and so on. Poetry is not just imaginative words on a page, poetry is much more than that. The words on a page are poetic when they come from imagination and love. Love and poetry are twins.
DV: Your description of the walk is so joyful! Can you talk about your experience walking several miles for the first time without protective footwear?
Sask. : I started walking naked
, I didn’t wear shoes until I was 18. I walked 8,000 miles from India to Moscow, from Paris to London. Then from New York to Washington then from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Often barefoot. When I walk without shoes, I feel connected to the Earth. I feel grounded. My feet are stronger and the skin on my feet is more resilient. I can recommend walking without shoes.
DV: Can you define what elegant simplicity means to you? How to balance your life between elegance and simplicity?
Sask. : Simplicity should not be associated with ugliness or deprivation. Beauty, aesthetics, comfort and elegance are food for the soul. We talked about poetry. Elegance gives life to poetry. Our industrial civilization based on mass production has turned out to be an ugly civilization. Garbage is ugly. Pollution is ugly. Extravagance is ugly. Having a lot of material possessions is ugly. I prefer culture to civilization. Culture is cultivating beauty, elegance and modesty. It is elegant simplicity. Simplicity in itself does not communicate my ideal of life. When simplicity is this elegant, there is wholeness in our lives and in our world.
Vivien Dinh started her career in traditional nonprofits and recently moved into publishing as a marketing and advertising professional currently working at Parallax Press, a nonprofit founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, tending to her many plants and her dog Lucy.
Satish Kumar is the founder of the Resurgence Trust, the publisher of The environmentalist online, and editor emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine.
The SMALL IS THE FUTURE event takes place on Saturday 17th June 2023 at Paintworks, Bristol. Speakers include Satish Kumar, Dr Ann Pettifor, Charlie Hertzog Young, Professor Herbert Girardet and Gareth Dale. Buy your tickets here.