Q&A: Satish Kumar

The editor-in-chief of Resurgence magazine shares his thoughts on the importance of spiritual values

Positive News: How important are spiritual values in creating a sustainable future?

Satish Kumar: We must not think all solutions are technological. There are other, human solutions. We need to have reverence and compassion for nature, and a right relationship of restraint with nature. Spirituality is about those values. A change of heart, not just of thinking, can happen when you bring them in.

Schumacher’s genius was that he was able to create a marriage of economy with spirituality. This is why he called his approach Buddhist economics. He was the only economist in the west who had the courage to put those two words together.

Do we need inner or outer change, or both?

It’s a balance. We need to create new institutions, schools, energy, banking and politics, but we also need inner change. It’s the dance between the inner and the outer that was shown by great leaders like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa.

Outer action is the service to humanity and the Earth. But why you do it – that’s the inner, spiritual dimension. You do it because you love. Fear is not a good reason to be an environmentalist.

How can we bring human and spiritual values into society?

The first step is to be the change you want to see in the world. When you live it you’re setting an example, which will shine and other people will see it works.

Secondly, we need to communicate. When the liberation of the 60s came – the women’s movement, the hippy movement – how it happened was Bob Dylan, The Beatles and all these wonderful people, they communicated through their art.

The third step is to organise. There are millions of people interested in ecological issues and when you organise a movement, there’s a power of unity and politicians and business leaders will listen.

Do you think the needed change will happen?

Already there’s a big groundswell. Bankers and government leaders don’t know what to do. That gives us the opportunity to build lifeboats for when the industrial ship sinks, through new models such as Transition Towns where people are organising for wellbeing. It will happen because people are hungry for it.

What is the value of the arts in creating positive change?

It’s very important. When we turn away from consumerism, we take refuge in the arts and they touch people’s hearts and imagination.