Remaking Suburbia

Quoted from: Trainer, Ted. “Remaking settlements for sustainability: the Simpler Way.” Journal of Political Ecology 26.1 (2019): 202-223.

In view of the global resource and ecological situation, per-capita resource consumption rates in the rich world probably need to be reduced by 90%. This can only be done if there is a “de-growth” transition to some kind of Simpler Way centered on mostly small, highly self-sufficient and self-governing communities in control of local economies within a culture that is not focused on material wealth.

It is not surprising that the viability of such a vision is typically regarded as implausible. The aim of this study is to show that normal outer city suburbs could be restructured along the lines required to cut global impacts by the necessary amount, while improving the quality of life. Data on typical Australian consumption rates, food production yields, suburban geographies, etc. is used to estimate the achievable reductions.

The theoretical conclusion that such reductions could be made aligns with a study of the Dancing Rabbit Eco-village in northeast Missouri. Heavy cuts in resource consumption cannot be made without extreme change in economic, political, settlement and cultural systems.

The Sailboat as a Research Lab for Resilience and Self-Reliance

The hundred rabbits research lab does experiments on resilience and self-reliance through low-tech solutions. The two-headed team practice what they preach: the lab is located on a small sailboat that has been traveling across the oceans since 2016. Among other things, their website contains a lot of practical information for those who want to go off-the-grid, whether it is on land or on water. Because they run a design studio and create free and open source software, there’s also sound advice on how to work off-the-grid efficiently.

How to Build a Small Town in Texas

“Of all the questions I get on Twitter the most common is this: ‘How do you build a town?’ We know well how it used to be done, but these last one or two centuries we have forgotten how to do it (with only a handful of notable exceptions during the last century).

The other day I was asked again, but this time with a set of premises that made the question a little easier to approach. I have anonymized all the details but the general idea remains: four guys (friends) with money have bought a suitably large piece of land in Texas and now want to create a car-free human-scaled town of the kind that I am always writing about.

In this text I intend to set out the most bare-bone basic premises for how to start a good town, what is needed to build something anti-fragile and sustainable under the above mentioned scenario.”

Read more: How to Build a Small Town in Texas, Wrath of Gnon, July 2021. [Read more…]

The Galaksija: Socialism’s DIY Computer

The Galaksija computer was a craze in 1980s Yugoslavia, inspiring thousands of people to build versions in their own homes. The idea behind them was simple – to make technology available to everyone. Free play was implicitly encouraged: the sharing, collaboration, manipulation, and proliferation of software was built into Galaksija’s very operation.

A computing enthusiast since 1979, Zoran Modli caught wind of Galaksija after the publication of Computers in Your Home. As host and DJ of Ventilator 202—a renowned New Wave radio show on Serbia’s Radio Beograd 202—Modli was something of a minor celebrity in Yugoslavia. Because all the day’s computers, including Galaksija, ran their programs on cassette, Regasek thought Modli might broadcast programs over the airwaves as audio during his show. The idea was that listeners could tape the programs off their receivers as they were broadcast, then load them into their personal machines.

An overnight sensation, this DJing practice quickly became a staple on Modli’s show. In the ensuing months, Ventilator 202 broadcast hundreds of computer programs. During the hour, Modli would announce when the segment was approaching, signaling to his listeners that it was time for them to fetch their equipment, cue up a tape, and get ready to hit record. In the case of games, users would “download” the programs off the radio and alter them—inserting their own levels, challenges, and characters—then send them back to Modli for retransmission. In effect, this was file transfer well before the advent of the World Wide Web, a pre-internet pirating protocol.

Read more: Socialism’s DIY Computer, Michael Eby, Tribune, July 2020. Thanks to m.

Simplifier: Creating a Stable Foundation of Technology

Mathieu Maury sends us a link to a very interesting (and minimalist) website called Simplifier. From the about-page:

Why do I simplify? How did I get started? What is the goal of this website?

Before developing any other skill, I enjoyed programming. To some extent, I still do; each program is its own universe, built from scratch, and the ability to create these on a whim is fascinating. However, the more time I spent programming, the more I became aware of the fact that software depends on hardware, and hardware is constantly changing. A program is not like a book or a painting; it requires constant upkeep and adaptation to remain in existence.

Initially, this drove me to learn about hardware, so that I could develop a stable platform to build upon; but this too was futile. Components inevitably fail, and there is no guarantee that replacements will be available in the coming years or decades. Essentially, permanent work cannot be achieved on a computer, as the hardware is fundamentally out of the control of the user. No matter what world is created inside of a program, its foundation will always rest on sand.

At this point I left programming entirely, and began searching for other meaningful work to do; but the problem had followed me! No matter what skill I intended to learn, I found that its permanence had been eroded by the chaos of technology. Materials were replaced by brands, techniques replaced by accessories, and craftsmanship replaced by consumerism. Clearly, this was something that needed to be fixed. Clearly, this is what I had to do.

Fundamentally, my work here is about creating a stable foundation of technology that is reliable, understandable, and practical for an individual to build for themselves. As of writing this, I believe I have done this on a conceptual level, but I intend to continue this work to the highest level of technology that I can achieve on my own. I encourage readers to utilize anything here which they find practical for whatever purpose they see fit, and to consider adopting a mindset of simplification in projects of their own.

Making a Cooling Chamber for Tomatoes

When you pick your tomatoes, if you want to keep them longer, you have to find a way of reducing the temperature. As availability of electricity at village level can be a problem, ways have to be found to lower the temperature of this fragile crop. Some farmers at Dambatta in Kano State, Nigeria have used local mud bricks to make a very effective cooling chamber. Watch the video at AccessAgriculture. Via Practical Action.