Schumacher at Oxford and engineering at Bradford

September 13th, 2011

In mid-September, Oxford University held their annual alumni weekend, where a Schumacher centenary lecture was one of the events on the programme.  This was held at Rhodes House, where Schumacher was enrolled as a Rhodes Scholar in 1930. Speaking to a packed house, Dr Donald Markwell, Warden of Rhodes House outlined details of Schumacher’s time at Oxford and his subsequent career, concluding that the Foundation had chosen very well when they selected him as a Scholar.

Schumacher’s daughter, Barbara Wood, author of his biography ‘Alias Papa‘, talked about her father and some of the influences that formed his philosophy and shaped his work.

Other speakers were Practical Action’s Simon Trace, who described how Practical Action is putting Schumacher’s ideas into practice in the developing world.  The final speaker was Ann Pettifor of Advocacy International, who talked about the world’s current economic woes and the need to revisit the principles expounded in ‘Small is Beautiful’ to tackle our current crises both financial and environmental.

A lively crowd of science buffs came together on 14th September to discuss how engineers can help tackle poverty in the developing world.  This event formed part of the British Science Festival which this year took place in Bradford and was one of a series of events that Practical Action is organising to celebrate the centenary year of our founder, E F Schumacher.

Taking as their starting point Schumacher’s ideas in ‘Small in Beautiful’ published nearly 40 years ago, Simon

Bradford Science Festival

Trace of Practical Action and Sacha Grodzinski of Engineers without Borders (EWB), led a lively discussion of technology options for poor communities in the developing world.

Technologies debated included biogas for cooking, animal vaccination programmes and the transport of crops across the mountains of Nepal. The audience were full of ideas and technical wizardry to solve these tricky problems, during a game of technology bingo.

Simon Trace  introduced the audience to a range of Practical Action’s work and they were particulaly intrigued by the recipe for lollipops for cows and growing pumpkins on sandbars in Bangladesh.

Sacha Grodzinski then described how EWB harnesses the expertise of engineers from the UK to assist with projects in the developing world.  Their programmes enable engineers to volunteer in projects in the developing world which take in account the a sustainable use of natural resources and minimise impact to the local environment by adapting existing low risk technology and using modern engineering methods.

Animated discussions were ongoing as the crowd departed for their next event at this exciting exploration of science and its impact on the world.

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