Positive News’s Stephen Lewis speaks to Satish Kumar, the long-standing editor of the pioneering environmental magazine Resurgence, about the publication’s philosophy and achievements.
Forty-five years ago, Britain’s first environmental magazine was launched. Resurgence predated publications such as The Ecologist — with which it has now merged - and even existed before Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were established.
Founded at the end of 1966 by John Papworth, EF Schumacher and Herbert Read at a time of little environmental awareness in the UK, in 1973 Resurgence moved into the hands of its now long-standing editor, Satish Kumar.
Satish had been a Jain monk and was steeped in Mahatma Gandhi’s ethic of non-violent resistance to oppression. At the height of the cold war, inspired by British philosopher and peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish spent most of the 60s walking the world, bringing a message of peace and reconciliation; a journey chronicled in his autobiography No Destination. It was during a visit to Britain that ‘Fritz’ Schumacher asked Satish to take over the editorship of Resurgence.
Satish was hesitant to accept the offer. “I wanted to go back to India to work within the Gandhian movement,” he says. Schumacher pressed him: “Why are you hesitant? Why don’t you stay here? There are lots of Gandhians in India; we need one in the UK. Help build bridges between East and West.” So Satish stayed, and has led Resurgence to become what the Guardian has referred to as ‘the artistic and spiritual flagship of the green movement.’
The west that Satish experienced was a shock. “It was a society where money, finance and material possessions were all-powerful. Everything was measured in terms of materialistic benefit; everything needed to have a financial validity and be measured in terms of money, even education and health.” But he adds: “I preferred to measure things with other values.”
One value derives from his Jain and Gandhian background and is embodied in the tone of Resurgence. It is, he maintains, a non-violent magazine. “The way we say things in Resurgence is gentle and non-violent; this is a different approach to other magazines, which can be aggressive, critical and didactic.”
Among the many influential articles that have appeared in Resurgence over the years, Satish highlights three: James Lovelock first put forward his Gaia theory in an article titled Stand up for Gaia, Arne Næss promoted the idea of deep ecology, while EF Schumacher first wrote about the concept of ‘small is beautiful’ in the pages of Resurgence.