It’s great to see appropriate technology - a core part of permaculture - at work. It’s application is universal and, just like permaculture design, context dependent. A solar cooker needs lots of sun, a wind turbine, lots of wind; a microfinance system can work brilliantly to pull people out of poverty, and expensive solar panels can brighten up the homes of the rich world. Indeed, the use of permaculture principles is a cross-contextual guideline for identifying which technology is appropriate and which one is not in a given milieu and given time.
In the mountains around the town of Rimbik, four hours from Darjeeling, people use stream water to power small turbines which are used to charge their mobile phones. The water passes through an old byro casing, which focuses the pressure on a small motor attached to a simple cable running to the house. A great example of small scale energy systems producing tangible, welfare increasing results. Somewhat ironically, not far away, are numerous large-scale hydro-electric projects. Our good friend Kunnsang, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and keeper of Samten Monastery comments that since one of the larger plants nearby was built it hasn’t snowed at his monastery. It’s difficult to ascertain the cause and effect in this case, but he remains convinced. We look forward to partnering with Kunnsang for a PDC in Rimbik in April 2015
In Bodhgaya, a tenacious Brit, Lillian Sum, is hoping to use Ubuntu Blox to solve the plastic crises gripping the subcontinent. Designed by Harvey Lacey, a Texan inventor, Ubuntu Blox take used plastic rubbish, and squeeze it into functional building blocks. A people-centered, low cost solution to a massive problem in India and the world. The buildings designed using Ubuntu Blox are earthquake resistant, and once rendered are perfectly reasonable dwellings. A wonderful concept with far-reaching applications for the future - there is no shortage of plastic waste. This use of appropriate technology was highlight of the PDC in Bodhgaya last November.
Further south, in Mysore, on a recent Permaculture Design Course we were fortunate to visit the National Institute of Engineering, Centre for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technologies (CREST). A brilliant place, illuminating some of the most simple and effective appropriate technology applications, such as the tippy-tap, to some of the more complex - a biodiesel generator (pictured left) using the seed of the pongamia, for example. The biodiesel is produced from the seed of this leguminous tree not otherwise utilised that grows abundantly in the area. The centre is flagged by a wind-turbine and solar, and houses a renewable energy kitchen using biogas. Water pumps, solar cookers and a myriad of other human centred technologies are displayed. A jewel for students of permaculture to see. We look forward to the next PDC in Mysore in December.
Appropriate technology, like permaculture, is an umbrella term that covers areas of study as diverse as eco-building to energy and water harvesting or finance. It means different things to different people. In energy hungry Europe, Chris Dews director of Casita Verde and GreenHeart Ibiza, is counting on appropriate technology to provide a high-powered, high-tech future. Indeed, between intelligently designed rocket stove heating systems, a remarkable solar generation system and large water storage system, Chris ensures that Casita Verde, built from recycled and natural materials, stays functional and comfortable in super-dry Ibiza and has more than enough power to charge a small electric car and half a dozen small eco-homes. We look forward to Chris sharing the joys of appropriate technology in the upcoming permaculture design course in late September at Casita Verde, Ibiza