Satish Kumar
Satish-Kumar-Jan-2008.jpg
Kumar in 2008
Born (1936-08-09) 9 August 1936 (age 85)
Known forFounder, Schumacher College & The Small School, Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist
MovementNuclear disarmament;
Environmental Sustainability
Board member of
RSPCA[2]
Partner(s)June Mitchell
ChildrenMukti Kumar Mitchell, Maya Kumar Mitchell
AwardsHonorary Doctorate in Education, Plymouth University; Honorary Doctorate in Literature, University of Lancaster; Honorary Doctorate in Law, University of Exeter; Jamnalal Bajaj International Award[2]

Satish Kumar (born 9 August 1936)[1] is an Indian British activist and speaker. He has been a Jain monk, nuclear disarmament advocate and pacifist[3]. Now living in England, Kumar is founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international center for ecological studies, and is Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. His most notable accomplishment is the completion, together with a companion, E. P. Menon, of a peace walk of over 8,000 miles in 1973–4, from New Delhi to Moscow, Paris, London, and Washington, D.C., the capitals of the world's earliest nuclear-armed countries.[4] He insists that reverence for nature should be at the heart of every political and social debate.

Defending criticism that his goals are unrealistic, he has said,

Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me "unrealistic" to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept.[5]

Early life

Kumar was born in Sri Dungargarh, Rajasthan, India. At the age of 9, he left his family and became a Jain monk.[6] At 18, after reading a book by Mahatma Gandhi, he ran away from the mendicant order, to become a student of Vinoba Bhave, an eminent disciple of Gandhi and his nonviolence and land reform ideas.[7]

Peace walk

Inspired by Bertrand Russell's civil disobedience against the atomic bomb, in 1962 Kumar and his friend E.P. Menon decided to dedicate themselves to undertaking a peace walk from India to the four capitals of the nuclear world: Moscow, Paris, London, and Washington D.C. and decided to carry no money on their trip. They called it a 'Pilgrimage for peace'.

Vinoba Bhave gave the young men two 'gifts'. One was to be penniless wherever they walked. The other was to be vegetarian. They first travelled through Pakistan, where they met great kindness from a country with a huge historic conflict and antipathy towards India. Leaving Pakistan via the Khyber Pass, they continued through Afghanistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and the Caucasus Mountains. They visited Moscow, Paris, London, and Washington, D.C. Travelling on foot and carrying no money, Kumar and his companion would stay with anyone who offered them food or shelter.

Satish Kumar at The Convention on Modern Liberty, London, 28/2/2009
Satish Kumar at The Convention on Modern Liberty, London, 28/2/2009

While on their way to Moscow they met two women outside a tea factory. After explaining what they were doing one of the women gave them four packets of tea, one to be delivered to each of the leaders of the four nuclear powers and to also deliver a message, "when you think you need to press the button, stop for a minute and have a fresh cup of tea". This further inspired their journey and became in part the reason for it. They eventually delivered 'peace tea' to the leaders of four of the nuclear powers.[8] The journey is chronicled in Kumar's book, Path without Destination.

Professional career

Editor

Between 1973 and 2016, Kumar was editor of Resurgence & Ecologist (combining the former Resurgence magazine, which had been described as the artistic and spiritual flagship of the green movement, with The Ecologist). He contributed an essay to The Society for Curious Thought entitled "Focus on Food".[9] He has also been a contributor to the BBC's "Thought for the Day" strand on the Today programme, and also appeared on Desert Island Discs. Kumar was interviewed by Richard Dawkins in his 'Slaves to Superstition' episode of the documentary The Enemies of Reason, investigating the prevalence of unscientific beliefs in modern society. He also made a film, Earth Pilgrim, for BBC2's Natural History Series.

We Are One

Kumar was one of the contributors for writing the book, We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, released in October 2009.[10] The book explores the culture of peoples around the world, portraying both its diversity and the threats it faces. It contains a collection of statements from tribal people, photographs, and essays from international authors, campaigners, politicians, philosophers, poets, artists, journalists, anthropologists, environmentalists and photojournalists. The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organization, Survival International.[11]

Family life

Kumar, a recipient of the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award,[12] settled in England in 1973. He lives a simple life in Hartland, Devon, with his partner June Mitchell, their son Mukti Kumar Mitchell, and their daughter Maya Kumar Mitchell.[13]

Politics

Prior to the 2015 UK general election, he was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[14]

Books

References

  1. ^ a b Kumar, Satish. 2000. "Path without destination: The long walk of a gentle hero", Belief.net. Accessed: 20 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b "About Satish", Resurgence. Accessed: 16 June 2012.
  3. ^ Cullen, Tom A. (19 May 1969). "Indian Pacifist Preaches Guerrilla War on Violence". Star-Banner. Ocala, Florida, United States: Halifax Media Group. p. 8. ISSN 0163-3201.
  4. ^ Vidal, John (16 January 2008). "Soul man". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  5. ^ Sica, Giulio (16 January 2008). "What part does spirituality play in the green movement?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  6. ^ Kumar 2000, pp. 18–19
  7. ^ "Walking the World for Peace," Context Institute. Accessed: 15 September 2012.
  8. ^ BBC World Service radio broadcast, BBC Outlook, 2015 October 25, 0830-0900 GMT, United Kingdom.
  9. ^ "Focus on Food".
  10. ^ "'We Are One: a celebration of tribal peoples' published this autumn". Survival International. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  11. ^ "We Are One". Survival International. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Jamnalal Bajaj Award". Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  13. ^ "It Takes a Genius to be Simple". Ascent Magazine. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  14. ^ Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.