Satish Kumar (born 9 August 1936) is an Indian activist and editor. He has been a Jain monk, nuclear disarmament advocate, pacifist, and is the current editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. Now living in England, Kumar is founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies, and of The Small School. His most notable accomplishment is a peace walk with a companion to the capitals of four of the nuclear-armed countries – Washington, London, Paris and Moscow, a trip of over 8,000 miles. He insists that reverence for nature should be at the heart of every political and social debate. Defending criticism that his goals are unrealistic, he has said,
Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me "unrealistic" to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept.
Kumar was born in Sri Dungargarh, Rajasthan, India. At the age of 9, he left his family and became a Jain monk. At 18, after reading a book by Mahatma Gandhi, he ran away from the mendicant order, to become a student of Vinoba Bhave, an eminent disciple of Gandhi and his nonviolence and land reform ideas.
Inspired by Bertrand Russell's civil disobedience against the atomic bomb, in 1962 Kumar and his friend E P Menon decided to dedicate themselves to undertaking a peace walk from India to the four capitals of the nuclear world: Moscow, Paris, London and Washington D.C. and decided to carry no money on their trip. They called it a 'Pilgrimage for peace'.
Vinoba Bhave gave the young men two 'gifts'. One was to be penniless wherever they walked. The other was to be vegetarian. They first travelled through Pakistan, where they met great kindness from a country with a huge historic conflict and antipathy towards India. They continued through Afghanistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Khyber Pass. They visited Moscow, Paris, London, and Washington, D.C.. Travelling by foot and carrying no money, Kumar and his companion would stay with anyone who offered them food or shelter.
While on their way to Moscow they met two women outside a tea factory. After explaining what they were doing one of the women gave them four packets of tea, one to be delivered to each of the leaders of the four nuclear powers and to also deliver a message, "when you think you need to press the button, stop for a minute and have a fresh cup of tea". This further inspired their journey and became in part the reason for it. They eventually delivered 'peace tea' to the leaders of four of the nuclear powers. The journey is chronicled in Kumar's book, Path without Destination.
Kumar is editor of Resurgence & Ecologist (combining the former Resurgence magazine, which had been described as the artistic and spiritual flagship of the green movement, with The Ecologist). He contributed an essay to The Society for Curious Thought entitled "Focus on Food". He has also been a contributor to the BBC's "Thought for the Day" strand on the Today programme, and also appeared on Desert Island Discs. Kumar was interviewed by Richard Dawkins in his 'Slaves to Superstition' episode investigating the prevalence of unscientific beliefs in modern society. He also made a film, Earth Pilgrim, for BBC2's Natural History Series.
Kumar was one of the contributors for writing the book, We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, released in October 2009. The book explores the culture of peoples around the world, portraying both its diversity and the threats it faces. It contains a collection of statements from tribal people, photographs, and essays from international authors, campaigners, politicians, philosophers, poets, artists, journalists, anthropologists, environmentalists and photojournalists. The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organisation, Survival International.
Kumar, a recipient of the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award, settled in England in 1973. He lives a simple life in Hartland, Devon, with his partner June Mitchell, their son Mukti Kumar Mitchell, and their daughter Maya Kumar Mitchell.