Communal Bathing

communal bathing

“For most of the history of our species, in most parts of the world, bathing has been a collective act… But communal bathing is rare in the modern world. While there are places where it remains an important part of social life – in Japan, Sweden and Turkey, for example – for those living in major cities, particularly in the Anglosphere, the practice is virtually extinct. The vast majority of people in London, New York and Sydney have become used to washing alone, at home, in plexi-glass containers – showering as a functional action, to clean one’s own private body in the fastest and most efficient way possible.”

“The bathhouses of the future, by reinventing the historical social functions of their ancient originals and combining their most attractive aspects to build a new model, would compensate for the erosion of public spaces elsewhere… Politically, too, they could be part of a wider effort to construct sustainable economic models. Last year at the UN climate change conference in Paris, countries agreed to phase out gas boilers and replace them with carbon-friendly alternatives. Although boilers do not pollute to the same degree as cars, aeroplanes or cattle farms, our individual commitments to private washing is part of an unsustainable burden on the planet. Solar-powered public baths could lighten the load.”

Read more: “Why we need to bring back the art of communal bathing“.

No Tech Reader #8

Equestrian Travel

horse travel

The Long Riders’ Guild is the world’s first international association of equestrian explorers and long distance travellers. [Read more…]

Rethink, Retool, Reboot: Technology Justice

rethink retool rebootPractical 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.

No Tech Reader #7

“Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?”

Wind Power System Made from Plastic Buckets

A wind power system made from plastic buckets is seen on boats at a floating village in Hanoi, Vietnam June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Kham

A wind power system made from plastic buckets is seen on boats at a floating village in Hanoi, Vietnam June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Kham

“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.

Adapted Tools for Organic Farming

horse plough

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.

They have an English language website, which includes about a dozen tool descriptions with technical drawings. All tools can be appropriated and modified by farmers. [Read more…]

Lamella Roofs

lamella roof

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.

Radical Technology Revisited

radical technology revisited

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.

Battery Powered Rail Vehicle Claims New Efficiency Record

battery powered rail vehicle

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.

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