Appropriate Technologies

Reader Contribution by Kyle Chandler-Isacksen

I want to take a step back from the “Stoven” and share some about appropriate technologies in general and those we use at our Be the Change Project. AT’s are defined as technologies that are small scale and simple enough to create and use on a local level (are people centered) and that serve basic human needs. They also connect people to the place, resources, economics, culture, and impacts of its use. E.F. Schumacher is given credit for the term in his influential book from 1973, “Small is Beautiful”.

AT’s vary depending on location and climate as well as needs; what’s appropriate for the high desert of Reno, Nevada, may be different than the rain and gray of Seattle, Washington just like the needs of a handicapped person or an elder will differ from those of a teen or young adult. The basics, however, like food, shelter, water, sleep, etc, will be very similar. Beyond that “needs” get very subjective. What we try to do at the Be the Change Project is to constantly evaluate and reevaluate our needs so they are in alignment with our values. And because we treat our project as an experiment, we play a lot with appropriate technologies to find the sweet spots where practices and values intersect. We push the edges of our comfort zones to stay fresh and innovative but also know that experiments involve failure so we give ourselves that space and grace to fail and to retreat as needed.

It’s easier to utilize AT’s when you create the contexts that facilitate their employ. For example, we live without electricity (the context is an electricity-free homestead) so to preserve foods by drying we cannot plug a fancy dehydrator into the wall. So, we build solar dehydrators (see image) – more about “El Gigante” in future posts. They’re simple and easy to make, efficient, and a very appropriate way to preserve food in our region. A second example of contextual organization is that we choose to live on very little cash (about $500/month). Experimenting in this way impels us to creativity and deepens our connections to our neighbors and community to meet our needs.

Why use Appropriate Technologies? Here are our reasons:

• It reduces our eco-footprint

• It harnesses and honors the Universe’s/God’s gifts and the abundance of the earth

• They’re neat and we get great joy in utilizing simple principles and techniques (hot water/air rises and cold sinks, gravity pulls things down…)

• We withdraw our support from violent or oppressive systems (Big Energy, for example)

• They cause us to connect more deeply with nature and people and reduce our isolation, anonymity, and separation from both

• They serve as powerful demonstrations to others for what’s possible

My entry about the Stoven was one example of an AT we use. For my next several posts I will share about many of our other AT’s including:

• The passive-aggressive solar wall heater

• Greens Galore from cold frames and our $30 greenhouse

• “El Gigante”, the solar dehydrator

• Refrigeration and Refrigerators sans electricity

• The Watering Can Shower: 2.6 gallons of bliss (and water heaters in general)

• Natural building in the urban environment and Scavenging!

• Glorious graywater

• Stacking functions like crazy with a wood stove while honoring wood to the max!

• Bikes are for Super-Heroes, and more!!!

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