Making Peace With Nature
Kathy Litchfield interviews Satish Kumar prior to his keynote address at the North East Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Summer Conference: Debate on Alternative Energy.
What will be the primary thrust of your keynote address in August?
Making peace with nature is prerequisite to making peace in the world and finding peace within. At present, we treat nature as if we were at war against nature. Our cruelty to animals in factory farms, our cruelty to the soil when we poison it with chemicals, our cruelty to rivers when we pollute them and build dams on them, and our cruelty to rainforests in the way we destroy them reflects in our cruelty towards the poor and underprivileged - if we exploit nature, we exploit people. Exploiting does not make us happy, so we feel guilty and thus we are unhappy. So the path to happiness is to develop a sense of reverence and love towards the earth and see all life as one and sacred.
What inspires you in our ever-changing world?
Nature is my inspiration. Walking along the sea on the coast path, up and down the cliffs, through wild herbs and gorse, with the infinite sky above and enormous ocean beside I am full of delight and joy. And then of course when I am digging the soil, tending the plants and working in the garden I feel at one with nature and inspired. Nature is my teacher and source of greatest inspiration. People who serve the planet and take care of communities, selflessly with dedication and commitment are also a great source of inspiration.
What philosophies do you hold about life?
Life is totally interdependent. We live in the web of relationships, when we separate ourselves and start to think in terms of self-interest we lose the plot. My self-interest against your self-interest, the American national interest against the national interest of other countries, human interest against the interest of animals and plants, all such divisions lead to conflicts. Peace and happiness is routed in mutuality, reciprocity and complimentarity.
What are your agricultural philosphies?
Agriculture is different from agribusiness and agri-industry. Culture emerges out of cultivation of relationships. Every human being should have access to land, even if it is for summer evenings and weekends. Many more people should be involved in agriculture. Small family farms must be respected and protected, land and food are more than commodities to buy and sell - they are sources of life, creativity, art and poetry. This is why working on the land is called agriculture. The modern industrialised, mechanised and chemicalised form of farming has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with short-term profit, and, therefore, is unsustainable.
What is most rewarding to you about your work?
I publish and edit Resurgence magazine and teach at Schumacher College. Through these two activities I serve human communities. In addition, I enjoy cooking and gardening. Through work I relate to the other and in that relationship is the fulfilment. The good work is its own reward and a way of keeping oneself engaged with the world. Whether it is political, social or economic all activities provide a framework for relationship.