Small is Beautiful

You probably know the phrase, “Small is beautiful.”  Often used in advertising, it’s a phrase that many people have likely heard. 
It is the title of a book by English economist, E.F. Schumacher.  Published in 1973, the original title was “Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.”  As you probably know, 1973 was the year of the October War, or the Fourth Arab-Israeli War.  It was published during the energy crisis and the book attracted much attention at the time.  FYI: The Japanese version is by Mr. Keizo Kojima.  

This phrase was also made famous by Schumacher’s mentor, Austrian economist and legal scholar, Leopold Kohl, who criticized economic supremacy and preached just how effective and personal a small community level organization is for people.  “Small is beautiful” was the slogan used for this movement.  People say that the original idea came from Kohl and it became a book by Schumacher. 

The great importance of technology in Schumacher’s book is emphasized in European countries, cities and corporations, and, as you really understand from reading the book, it is interesting that parts of it feel like Japanese goods and services.   

With the rapid economic growth focused on emerging countries, “Small is beautiful” is resurging.  However, more than just returning, related things are actually being carried out and the society that Schumacher envisioned is becoming closer. 

In a past blog about eco-city construction in the U.A.E. we wrote about the implementation of a new transportation system called podcar, which was being considered.  From 2009, there have been news reports that the introduction of these podcars is being considered even in cities in India. 
The podcar, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) or Personal Automated Transport (PAT) as it is affectionately known, is a new form of public transportation smaller than a train or bus, and closer to a taxi.  It is best to think of it as a shared taxi with a set destination.  However, although the implementation strategies differ by country, it seems that it will be seen as a replacement to the car.  In residential areas in Japan, you see microbuses that circulate between stations and housing areas, but similar things will quantitatively increase.  

We are looking at not only cars, but also the handling of the food supply crisis.  There is now talk of starting to limit the amounts of items sold in supermarkets, etc.  The sizes that you see in an emerging market supermarket are because of large families and there are many items that are close to American sizes.  Because of the influence of fast food and the advancement of products, it seems that the number of obese people is increasing.  As a country, thinking about the health of the people is an issue, and solving the problem of increasing amounts of garbage has become a major issue as well.  As countries with large populations become more advanced garbage also increases tremendously. 

Something close to and a step above “Small is beautiful” is the Japanese phrase, “Mottainai.” Wangari Maatai, the first Kenyan to win a Nobel Peace Prize in the environmental field, is said to have been impressed with the phrase when she visited Japan.  Her proposed Mottainai campaign became a big topic.  In Japan, the reconstruction of disaster areas and convergence of the nuclear accident will take time and there will be many people who have to review their lives.  In particular, when it comes to views on electricity, there will be more people changing their views and becoming conscious of saving energy.  As for me, I am unsure as to whether “Mottainai” is the most suitable or not, however I believe that with the will of the citizens it will (as a result) make the country more environmentally conscious in terms of saving energy for cities and the country, which is a great thing.  In reality, it was stated (by TEPCO and the Japanese government) that during the rolling blackouts power demand is below expected.  In other countries we likely wouldn’t see the same effect.


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