Practical Action, the international NGO that uses technology to challenge poverty in “developing” countries, has published a new book that is freely accessible online. Rethink, Retool, Reboot: Technology as if People and Planet Mattered is written by Simon Trace.
A fifth of the world’s population lacks access to technologies fundamental to a basic standard of living, while unfettered use of technology by those who have it brings its own problems. Inspired by EF Schumacher’s 1973 book Small is Beautiful, Trace argues that ending poverty and achieving environmental sustainability cannot be realized without radical changes to the way technology is developed, accessed, and used:
“Humanity has lost control of technology, or rather relinquished it to the vagaries of the market, assuming its ‘invisible hand’ will ensure the most efficient development and dissemination of technology that best meets people’s needs – an assumption that is wrong.”
The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 starts by looking at notions of technological progress and the relationship between technology and human development, demonstrating the need to ‘rethink’ how we use and provide access to technology. Part 2 goes on to explore the idea that we need to ‘retool’ — to re-examine our innovation processes — in order to focus on driving technology development towards, rather than away from, the twin problems of poverty and environmental sustainability. The book closes with a third section that sets out a series of radical changes required to ‘reboot’ our relationship with technology.
“Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?”
“Vietnamese families living in slums along the Red River in Hanoi are using red plastic buckets and old printers to help light homes, cook meals and slash electricity costs by as much as a third.
The recycled goods form the blades and motors of electrical generators that power old motorcycle batteries to illuminate lamps with a brightness equivalent to a 45-Watt light bulb.
Though the output generated is small, it makes a significant difference for families previously denied power because they lived too far from a power station or had to ration supply because of the expense.”
More pictures and information at Reuters: Plastic buckets, broken printers shine light on Hanoi’s poor. Via Playground Magazine.
See all our low-tech windmill posts.
L’Atelier Paysan is a French-speaking collective of small-scale farmers, employees and agricultural development organisations who design open source farm tools.
Based on the principle that farmers are themselves innovators, they have been collaboratively developing methods and practices to reclaim farming skills and achieve self-sufficiency in relation to the tools and machinery used in organic farming.
A lamella roof, also known as the “Zollinger roof” (after Friedrich Zollinger), is a vaulted roof made up of simple, single prefabricated standard segments (mostly in timber) as a way to span large spaces. The individual pieces are joined together with bolts and/or plates to form a rhomboid pattern. Wooden sheathing covers the structure on the outside. The lamella roof was patented in 1910 and became popular between the World Wars, especially in Germany when metal for construction was in short supply. Some of these structures are now almost 100 years old and many of them remain in very good condition.
Read more: Lamella Roof, Open Source Ecology.
Is Progress an illusion? Are catastrophic changes inevitable? Is Technology the problem or the solution? What are the practical alternatives? Such questions were asked 40 years ago in the pioneering book Radical Technology [PDF, 31.5 MB].
The conference Radical Technology Revisited will ask them again with even more urgency. The main event is in Bristol (UK) on Saturday September 3rd. Other events will take place on Friday 2nd and Sunday 4th, and will include presentations, workshops, debates, demonstrations, exhibitions, and a party.
Thanks to Leah Temper.
Students from Dalarna University, Sweden, have won a competition for creating efficient rail-based transport, claiming a world record in the process. Team Eximus 1 was competing in Delsbo Electric, where teams must design and build a battery-operated railway vehicle that uses as little energy as possible. Delsbo Electric is open to college and university students. It was inspired by the Shell Eco-marathon, with the concept translated for rail-based rather than road-based travel.
Vehicles must carry between one and six passengers weighing a minimum average of 50 kg (110 lb) each. Vehicle efficiency is measured on a per person basis, meaning vehicles carrying six passengers are not at a disadvantage. The Eximus 1 carries five passengers. The vehicle is estimated to weigh about 100 kg (220 lb) and to measure about 5,500-mm (217-in) long by 1,500-mm (59-in) wide. It was powered by four 12 V, 45 Wh batteries linked together in parallel and a 500 W motor.
The team’s final efficiency score was 0.84 Wh/person-km (watt-hours for every kilometer traveled by each passenger). Delsbo Electric claims that is a new world record. “We have done research and not found any information about somebody or something traveling as efficient rail-based in the world. In fact, it seems like Eximus 1 achieved a lower energy consumption per person than the current Shell Eco Marathon record.”
See & read more at Gizmag: Silver machine rolls down the track to new efficiency record. Vehicles from other participants can be found here. Thanks to Frank Van Gieson.
“Personal Effects (after Hokusai) 2016″, 5footx7foot8”, charcoal & pencil on paper. Click to enlarge. By Laurie Lipton.
Over 70% of Bangladesh’s population live in corrugated tin huts across the countryside. During the long summer months, temperatures reach up to 45° Celsius, making these huts unbearable to live in.
To address the issue, Grey Dhaka teamed up with volunteers from Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd to create the Eco-Cooler – a zero electricity air cooler, which uses re-purposed plastic bottles cut in half and put into a grid, in accordance to available window sizes.
Based on wind direction and airflow pressure, the Eco-Cooler has succeeded in decreasing the temperature in tin huts by up to 5° Celsius. After initial tests, blueprints of the Eco-Cooler were put up online for everyone to download for free.
Thanks to Adriana Parra.