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Apt: suitable for the circumstance or purpose, appropriate, fitting, adapted to, having a tendency to behave as specified.
Sustainable: capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage Forever!
Small: Appropriate technology stemmed from the work of the British economist Dr. Fritz Schumacher, author of the book "Small is Beautiful Economics as if people mattered", which is still the foundation text on a sustainable future. Appropriate technology is the kind of technology that fits small-scale, grassroots, community-centred economics: technology as if people mattered.
Dr. E.F. Schumacher
But small is powerless, we're used to thinking. Well, atoms are small. So are viruses.
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito." the Dalai Lama
"If many little people, in many little places, do many little things, they will change the face of the world." African proverb
Can a small NGO match a huge multinational oil company when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Dr. W.S. Hulscher, Chief Technical Adviser for the Regional Wood Energy Development Program in Asia (RWEDP), compared the effects of a small, local NGO distributing improved wood and charcoal stoves to villagers in Laos with the potential of a large production facility for photovoltaic solar energy panels built by Shell in Europe -- with surprising results: they're equal. "Solar electricity is 1,000 times more expensive than cooking on wood," he adds. See "The Battle in the Greenhouse":
Ask the Monsanto Corporation whether they think small NGOs are powerless. (See The Internet.)
Here's a good description of appropriate technology:
"Appropriate technology is being mindful of what we're doing and aware of the consequences. Appropriate technology works from the bottom up; it is not an overlay to the situation; it is a genuine grassroots solution to economic needs.
"In the Industrial World small businesses account for more technological advances in their areas of expertise than government supported researchers or research departments in massive corporations. Third World craftspeople, farmers and other villagers invent, create, and contribute to the technological process of their area much more than outside 'experts' do.
"The definition of 'Appropriate Technology' changes with each situation... One quality that remains the same, however, is taking care of things. In each situation, the essence of AT remains appreciating, helping, caring. Planned obsolescence, throw-away products, poor quality all go against intelligent decision-making and the true spirit of appropriate technology." -- From "What is Appropriate Technology?" by Steve Troy of The Sustainable Village.
It "changes with each situation" -- as it must in a natural world where people matter. Mother Nature never heard of "standardization", that's a concept from an economic world where people don't matter, except perhaps as workers and consumers. Appropriate technology has to fit the infinite variety of life on Earth, rather than forcing life to fit the technology.
Appropriate technology is technology that fits.
It's a very broad-ranging subject -- a philosophy as much as a technology, a way of seeing things. But some aspects of it are definite and clear-cut: for instance, waste is not appropriate. Our societies have started to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", but we're still very bad at it -- about the only thing modern industrial society is good at recycling is gold, which is pretty useless stuff anyway. (You can make quite a powerful explosive out of gold, but it's not widely used, for some reason.)
We're going to have to learn to recycle everything as well as we recycle gold.
We're also going to have to clean up the mess we've made -- and any technology that helps us do that will definitely be appropriate.
Some resources on appropriate technology and a focus on several specific areas follow in subsequent pages, along with some of Journey to Forever's appropriate technology work.
Appropriate technology is to be found throughout this website, and the whole Journey to Forever project.
Appropriate technology resources
- Agriculture resources
- Wood resources
Wood fires that fit
Houses that fit
Water-powered water pumps
Journey to Forever and AT
- Chinese watering cans
- Handmade Projects watering can plans
- Hoe for victory!
- Billhooks and sickles
A better rat trap
- Rats and owls
- Chinese rat trap
- How to make a Chinese rat trap
- Bucket rat trap
Appropriate technology subjects