We arrive early at Schumacher College. A collection of small hogwort-esque buildings clustered between woodland and fields, on the Dartington Estate just outside Totnes. We are warmly received by the beautifully named Lou Rainbow, who showed us around the college. Hosting a combination of residential long-term MA programmes and short term courses, Schumacher College offers “transformative learning for sustainable living”. They have an incredible programme of courses, which are incredibly expensive to our pockets, yet reflective (in this paradigm) of the quality of the teaching… Lou tells us that they do offer bursaries and assisted places for students who are unable to afford the fees, which is re-assuring, but also highlights the tragedy that quality learning is simply not available in the mainstream. We have to seek it out, we have to push for it, and we have to PAY for it… This is something that Pete and I find so interesting, and believe to be so important – how can we find a way to share the knowledge, to make information accessible to those who are interested in learning more than the devoid dish that is served to us by mainstream education? We spend time talking with Lou, she seems genuinely interested in our project, and excited by what we are doing.
We are invited to stay for lunch, which is an incredible, rainbow assortment of fresh leaves and vegetables, home-baked bread and hot soup. All food is vegetarian, and organic, and much of it is grown on site. Schumacher seems to be a place that grasps the idea of the importance of ‘home’, of creating a warm, comfortable nucleus, from which the community can grow. There is a constant, gentle flow of folk into the communal spaces: people drinking tea, open for discussions, sharing ideas. The vibe is open, welcoming. We are introduced by name, to everyone, and given an opportunity to explain a little bit about our project. There is a sense that there are no anonymous faces here, that everybody is acknowledged and counted, and we, as guests are made to feel a part of this, too.
Over lunch, we are invited to join a time walk, led by Stephan Harding, who was one of the founding members of Schumacher College over 23 years ago. The promise of the walk is a 4.54 kilometre walk along the costal path to Dartmouth, representing the 4.54 billion years since the planet earth came into being.
Along this walk, Stephan tells us; each step will represent half a million years. We are following the Big Bang evolutionary story (which is, after all, just another story), as we physically experience the magnitude of scale, space and time of our home planet… The coastline is wild and rugged, pre-historic rock juts from the sea below us, we see a small seal playing in the waves, and wild herbs line the path, as we cover hundreds of thousands of years with each footstep. Still, as we finally descend through woodland toward the town, we are aware that there is still no sign of human life. In fact, it is not until the end of the walk when Stephan pulls out a tape measure, which he lays down on the floor.
As we gather round, we experience the relative millimetres of human life-form, and decimals of millimetres which represent civilization. Granted, this is an intrinsically linear perspective, but nonetheless a powerful illustration of our pinprick presence in this universe.
In the evening, we share another delicious meal before retreating to the van to prepare for our interview with Satish tomorrow morning.