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Global Perspective

Knowing Our Worth

Conversations on Energy and Sustainability Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker and Daisaku Ikeda

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker, German academic and environmental activist. Illustration by RickyHadi / Fiverr.

Ikeda Sensei has had dialogues with leading figures throughout the world to advance peace. More than 80 of his dialogues have been published as books. This series highlights these dialogues. The following are excerpts from Knowing Our Worth (pp. 109–11).

Honoring Our Indivisible Bond With Nature

Ikeda Sensei meets with Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Daisaku Ikeda: In recent years, the idea of food sovereignty—that the people of developing nations have the right to grow the crops they want on their own land, through their own efforts—is gaining momentum. Respect for this kind of ownership is, in my opinion, a crucial factor not only with regard to the problem of food shortage but also for achieving social justice in global society.

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker: I was strongly influenced in adopting the viewpoint … expressed by the economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher. …

In one of his lectures, after speaking on food issues, he asked his audience, “Do you know the TLC factor?”

“What chemical is TLC?” I asked him.

“It’s not a chemical,” he replied. “It stands for ‘tender loving care.’”

He explained that when people owned their land, they managed to produce five times as much food per acre as industrial farmers. The TLC factor that Dr. Schumacher was referring to did not register on the radars of industrial farmers, and it had not occurred to researchers in the agricultural sciences. What Dr. Schumacher pointed out made me realize that the solution to the world’s food problems has less to do with markets than self-motivation, less with employing more farmers than with fostering more self-employed farmers.

Ikeda: The TLC factor emerges from a strong bond between people and nature—in this case, the soil. In his renowned 1971 work Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Dr. Schumacher explained his views on agriculture as follows:

A wider view sees agriculture as having to fulfill at least three tasks:

—to keep man in touch with living nature, of which he is and remains a highly vulnerable part;

—to humanize and ennoble man’s wider habitat; and

—to bring forth the foodstuffs and other materials which are needed for a becoming life.

I do not believe that a civilization which recognizes only the third of these tasks, and which pursues it with such ruthlessness and violence that the other two tasks are not merely neglected but systematically counteracted, has any chance of long-term survival.[1]

Rereading this now, one can take it as both a prediction and caveat issued by Dr. Schumacher that a phenomenon similar to land grabbing would occur. His reference to the “ruthlessness and violence” with which civilization pursues its goals also resonates with the “pathology of civilization” that I noted in the context of Goethe’s Faust in my peace proposal (2013). Without a full-fledged attempt to remedy this pathology, the creation of a genuinely sustainable society may be unattainable.[2]

Dr. Schumacher argued that this pathology is “due to the fact that, as a society, we have no firm basis of belief in any meta economic values, and when there is no such belief the economic calculus takes over.”[3] What we need now is to reexamine what the proper relationship between human beings and nature should be and what we must not neglect, either by omission or commission, in society.

All life, including human life, exists in a relationship of mutual interdependence and support, the natural environment and living beings joined by deep, indivisible bonds.

The Mahayana Buddhist view of nature regards human beings and nature, human beings and the land, as inseparable. Nichiren Daishonin wrote, “The living beings and their environments are not two things, and one’s self and the land one inhabits are not two things.”[4] In other words, all life, including human life, exists in a relationship of mutual interdependence and support, the natural environment and living beings joined by deep, indivisible bonds.

“Life is shaped by its environment,”[5] Nichiren also wrote, stressing that we must never forget to have deep gratitude for the blessings of nature and that our lives are supported by our relationships with all other living things. Our ties to nature must be based on the realization and ensuing sense of responsibility that “Without the body, no shadow can exist, and without life, no environment.”[6]

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker

(June 25, 1939–)

Notable Achievements
Former co-president of the Club of Rome.
Served as professor and director of many universities and institutes, including the U.N. Centre for Science and Technology for Development.
Founding president of the Wuppertal Institute, a leading think tank on energy efficiency and climate policy.
Appointed co-chair of the U.N. Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel.
Authored three reports to the Club of Rome: Factor Four, Limits to Privatization and Factor Five.


  1. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (London: Blond & Briggs Ltd., 1973), pp. 103–04. ↩︎
  2. A Forum for Peace, pp. 515–52. ↩︎
  3. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful, p. 107. ↩︎
  4. “The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 842. ↩︎
  5. “On Omens,” WND-1, 644. ↩︎
  6. Ibid. ↩︎

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