We here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS see an awful lot of information on the efforts and achievements of the "alternatives movement" in this country and there's no doubt that the folks now striving to develop new sources of energy, better food production techniques and low-impact lifestyles here in the United States are involved in some mighty crucial endeavors indeed. But if you allow your mind's eye to move back a step or two and get a somewhat wider perspective you'll soon see that the real need for such work does not fall within our borders at all. Instead, it lies among the impoverished, suffering millions now barely surviving in Third World countries.
For some time now, organizations like VITA (Volunteers in Technical Assistance) and ITDG (intermediate Technology Development Group) have been working to devise tools, techniques, and methods that the people of underdeveloped nations can adapt to their own situations and thus help themselves to better, more fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, however, much of that work including such desperately needed items as plans for low cost shelters using native materials simple energy devices (like bamboo waterwheels) and ways to increase community food production is still virtually unknown among the very people for whom it is intended. The problem? Well, it all boils down to a lack of widespread communication which is why we're so glad to see the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook pop up.
Produced by Volunteers in Asia — a small, non-profit, international people's self-help organization — the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook pulls together all the alternatives devised so far that might be of use to, say, a farmer in Bangladesh or the residents of a native village in Surinam. Although only 72 pages in length, the booklet outlines and reviews dozens of sources for how to information on the likes of simple. tool making, crop storage, food production, water supply development, home construction, and the entire range of possible energy sources from pedal power to methane digesters. Each entry critically analyzes whatever book, blueprint, or set of plans is offered op the basis of simplicity, materials and manpower needed, expense, and adaptability to local needs and resources. In other words, the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook provides Third World residents with a single guide to a vast storehouse of valuable (but little known) information and then leaves those people to make their own decisions (which is as it should, be) in terms of which ideas might be most useful to them.
Speaking of making decisions, self-sufficiency freaks in this country would do well to take advantage of the little booklet too. Appropriate Technology Sourcebook maybe directed at Third World nations, but the access it furnishes to simple, low-cost living techniques makes it universally usable.