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Most Important Know-How

By ananthu at July 27, 2006 6:01 PM

These days, everyone talks about environmental damage and the need to preserve the ecology. This was not the case 50 or 100 years back. But there were a few honourable exceptions. Way back in 1910, reacting to an earthquake that shook Paris, Gandhi had blamed it on our foolish efforts to try to conquer nature, and had predicted that nature would strike back, leading to the kind of problems we are facing today. In the 1960s, one of Keynes’ foremost students, E.F.Schumacher, a well-known economist, broke ranks with the establishment and began to echo what Gandhi had been saying. In 1966, he predicted the oil crisis that later shook the world in the 70s, and also pioneered the appropriate technology movement.

Schumacher soon became a very respected figure in international circles, and was once invited by the multinational companies to talk to them on ways that they can ‘supply know-how to the poor’, a subject in which he was regarded as an expert. Because of his stature, his talk was attended by the CEOs of all these big companies. They thought he would talk to them about various appropriate technology ideas, and suggest ways in which they can help the poor. But he shocked them by instead talking to them about a know-how which they can learn from the poor people of the poor countries. He called it the ‘know-how of survival’. He predicted that because of the way we live, a stage will come when the things that we take for granted – oil, LPG, electricity, water, vegetables and grains, even clean air – will become scarce commodities. At that time, those who are used to the modern way of living will find it impossible to survive. What we have learnt in our colleges and universities– our engineering skills, our financial acumen, our surgical expertise etc. – will not help us to compensate for the lack of these elementary essentials of life. But those who have remained outside the purview of modern civilization will not be adversely affected, they already know how to survive without the amenities that city people have grown used to.

“When the crunch comes,” said Schumacher,” New York and Moscow will not survive, Bomaby may or may not survive, but the poor people of rural India will survive.”

The Kaigal project of the Krishnamurti Foundation is an example of how our youngsters can be taught these elementary survival skills which are an integral part of India’s glorious tradition, which until recently were so well-known amongst our simple, rural folks, but alien to the city people. It is not actually difficult to live without airconditioners, TV sets, and coca cola. In fact, life can be great fun, and our health actually improves if we learn to do so. Most important, we become independent of the BWSSB, the BMTC, the KEB, the supply lines to our markets, and don’t have to fret and fume every time shortages in water, electricity and food articles are reported in our newspapers. It is the most important skill our youngsters can learn, something that will come in very useful to them when the crunch comes, and this crunch is bound to come within their lifetime.