Appropriate Technology text

Estelle Sidler

Appropriate Technology text Energy Fact Sheet Appropriate Technology What is appropriate technology? Appropriate technology is small-scale technology. It is simple enough that people can manage it directly and on a local level. Appropriate technology makes use of skills and technology that are available in a local community to supply basic […]

Appropriate Technology text

Energy
Fact Sheet

Appropriate Technology


What is appropriate technology?

Appropriate technology is small-scale
technology. It is simple enough that people can manage it
directly and on a local level. Appropriate technology makes use
of skills and technology that are available in a local community
to supply basic human needs, such as gas and electricity, water,
food, and waste disposal.


Appropriate technology is decentralized.

Today, many of our basic needs are handled by
huge, complex systems These systems are managed centrally by
large private corporations or the government. For example, our
electricity typically comes from utility companies that operate
across many states. Similarly, many of the fruits and vegetables
we consume come from large-scale agricultural corporations in
California. In contrast, with appropriate technology the person
who produces a service or a product also becomes the consumer –
the person who uses it. This has several advantages: For one,
consumer-producers are more likely to care more about their work.
As a result, service and goods are more reliable and of higher
quality. Secondly, centralized systems remust invest a lot of
money to purchase large, complex machinery and to employ
thousands of workers. Often these systems are disrupted due to
breakdowns in the technology, problems getting needed supplies,
or labor strikes. When this happens a great many people are
affected. Breakdowns such as a power outage may also occur in
communities that use small-scale, appropriate technology. But
these local breakdowns are not nearly so difficult and time
consuming to track down and repair as those that cover a broad
geographic area. Thus, a simpler technology tends to be more
reliable, and the effects of breakdowns do not disrupt so many
lives.


Technologically sophisticated, though simple
in design.

It is important to realize that use of
appropriate technology does not mean turning the clock back to
the 18th or 19th century. Although the technology involves
simple, easy-to use and repair designs, it is based on
sophisticated, 20th-century technologies. One example is the
invention of photovoltaic, or solar cells that convert solar
energy, a renewable energy source, into electricity for homes and
businesses.


Environmentally friendly.

Appropriate technology emphasizes the use of
renewable resources, like the energy from the sun, wind, or
water. These energy sources are available almost everywhere and
need only the right technology to capture them. Unlike burning
coal and oil, these local energy sources do not contribute to air
and water pollution and they do not need to be transported over
long distances. Food, energy, water, and waste disposal are also
handled locally by ecological systems. These are systems that
conserve resources by recycling organic nutrients back into the
soil and re-using manufactured goods in innovative ways. Thus,
appropriate technology makes it possible to satisfy our basic
human needs while minimizing our impact on the environment.


Social problems.

Many people are coming to realize that neither
our economy nor our population can continue to grow forever. We
are running out of the natural resources necessary to sustain
ourselves. In addition we are limited in our ability to deal with
the social and environmental problems that result from continuous
growth. There seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with the
complexity and hectic lifestyle of 20th-century society. Many
people would prefer to return to a simpler way of life.
Appropriate technology is attractive because it makes households
and industries more self-sufficient, and most things can be
managed at a local level. We may have to do more hand labor
instead of depending on automation to satisfy our basic needs.
However, there are many advantages to simplifying our lives. By
growing more of our own food and producing and buying goods in
our own communitites, we spend less time and money on
transportation, produce less waste and consume fewer
environmental resources.


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