The Rural-Urban Imbalance
photo by ILMO JOE
The Widening Gap
The imbalance of rural and urban development has become a serious situation throughout the world. The current educational system prioritizes urban and industrial values. The Living Tree Educational Foundation aims to provide rural centres of education which meet the needs of rural cultures, lifestyles and economics.
The world-famous economist E.F. Schumacher stated in his classic work, Small is Beautiful: “The all-pervading disease of the modern world is the total imbalance between city and countryside – an imbalance in terms of wealth, power, culture, attraction, and hope.” While cities have become universal magnets and are becoming perilously dysfunctional and ultimately unsustainable, and rural life has become increasingly impoverished.
“Yet,” as Schumacher pointed out, “it remains an unalterable truth that, just as a sound mind depends on a sound body, so the health of the cities depends on the health of rural areas. The cities, with all their wealth, are merely secondary producers, while primary production, the pre-condition of all economic life takes place in the countryside.” This prevailing lack of balance threatens all countries throughout the world, the rich even more so than the poor. “To restore a proper balance between city and rural life is perhaps the greatest task in front of modern man.”
“The chief problem in Ireland,” wrote the Irish visionary, George Russell, in National Being, “the problem which every nation in greater or lesser measure will have to solve, is how to enable the countryman, without journeying, to satisfy to the full his economic, social, intellectual and spiritual needs … Unless the countryside can offer to young men and women some satisfactory food for soul as well as body, it will fail to attract or hold its population, and they will go to the already overcrowded towns; and the lessening of rural production will affect production in the cities and factories, and the problem of unemployment will get still keener.
“The problem is not only an economic one. It is a human one. Man does not live by cash alone, but by every gift of fellowship and brotherly feeling society offers him. The final urgings of men and women are towards humanity. Their desires are for the perfecting of their own life, and as Whitman says, where the best men and women are there the great city stands – though it be only a village!
“There is no reason why as intense, intellectual, and progressive a life should not be possible in the country as in the towns.”
photo by Harper Stone
Towards a New Rural Education
To address the rural-urban imbalance, we need rural-based centres of education which provide experiential and learning programmes relevant to living and working, thriving as well as surviving, in rural areas; which also contribute to our understanding of how best to live in life-enhancing ways which are in harmony with Nature.
The creation of a university which takes the living tree (symbolically ‘the tree of life’) as its primary point of reference, is simply one of many possible rural initiatives which can meet individual as well as local collective requirements on all levels – cultural, spiritual and economic – at the same time as serving the needs of the Earth and of the communities in which the various Faculties of the University are based.
In addressing the rural-urban imbalance through an initiative in education, The University of the Living Tree is participating with many other initiatives in laying the foundations for the emergence of a new, more balanced civilization – a civilization which gives equal priority to the rural, including all of Nature, as it does to all things relating to the urban and industrial. Russell proclaimed: “The creation of a rural civilisation is the greatest need of our time,” but it needs to be founded on rural, and therefore also Nature-based, values. It is not achieved by bringing urban values or industrial approaches into rural areas.
see: Tree University