Appropriate Tech

I am presenting to you an article that has some amazing insight into the nature of technology.  REAL Green adaptation is primarily a system to reconcile technology and spirituality.  The REAL Green message is meant for more affluent westerners.  I am relatively affluent so I will not pretend to be an expert on what is best for the poorer subsistence farmers of the world.

This article is directed to their protection and advancement through “AT” appropriate technology.  The affluent need to reflect on “AT” as a new benchmark.  An alternative to the status quo of ever-expanding efficiency and tech that is clearly failing to delivery real happiness is now needed more than ever.

The wisdom of what tech and knowledge to use and what to reject is a key aspect of REAL Green.  This article lays forth a foundational approach to this wisdom from the tech perspective.  Those in the 3rd world are the beacon now in regard to appropriate tech.  Those in the first world the problem with high tech.  The planet is in decline and in need of beacons and less problems.

I recommend you read the article I linked.  In this post I am highlighting terms, nomenclature, and definitions from this article mainly to digest the best points.  These notes are useful to explain green prepping tech.  Appropriate technology is central to localism and permaculture of REAL Green.

My goal in REAL Green is to get affluent westerners closer to appropriate technology.  REAL Green considers decline an unstoppable force now.   The embrace of the affluent with tech and efficiency is complete now meaning the penetration of tech and efficiency into our lives can’t be reduced. 

Affluent people are trapped in an unsustainable world of ever-increasing demands for tech to solve problems.  This is now the problem.  Affluents are trapped in carbon and the path dependencies of growth.  This trap is the culture we are locked into so adaptation is only incremental and marginal. 

We affluent westerners are comfort and convenience driven consciously and subconsciously.  Technology is central to our lives directly and indirectly.  This is a self-organizing systematic process beyond human control.  If there is human control at this point it is just exacerbating the negative process through delusions and denial.

Reason itself is corrupted in scientism.  Human wisdom is not trusted with trust given to algorithms and automation developed by compromised humans.  This means the damaged will be swift and brutal if more care is not taken.  Machines have no empathy or compassion and those who employ these tools have malice in their hearts.

My goal is to get people to develop a wisdom that is primarily focused on throttling down the affluence of the modern world.  This throttling is relative and realistic to the local of people and place.  My point is there is no way to go back completely to this AT world for the affluent people short of collapse.

The affluent can walk back a great deal and doing so can improve resilience and sustainability.  This strategy is then a lifeboat and hospice approach of small groups and individuals who can learn from the subsistence people our society has been colonizing for centuries now.  We can learn from them and be the ones colonized with a wisdom that seeks less of what we have become.  

This article is useful to know what direction we need to go in but we are not in the same world as these subsistence people this article reaches out to.  In the past we forced these subsistence people into our world of novel tech.  Now a forced planet and unwinding civilization will force us affluents back to the world of appropriate tech found among the subsistence peoples of the world. 

Techno fake greens take note.  Your world of wind and solar are a ruse for what is really green.  Renewables have a place in the world of decline now being entered but NetZero is a lie.  Green new deals are just more of the same tech and efficiency that guarantee failure.  This article addresses the correct path forward all true greens should reflect on.

“Appropriate Technology, Traditional Cultures and Degrowth”  by Alex Jensen, originally published by Local Futures.  I found it here:

Notes from appropriate technology:

The industrial-capitalist-technological system

novel ‘needs’ are manufactured

boundaries and norms of comfort and convenience are continually reshaped socially necessary

 ever-accelerating throughput of matter-energy and output of waste

Technological planned obsolescence begets material objects of short functional lifespan but nearly permanent environmental harm

being made of industrial processes and toxic substances that do not return safely to the environment (e.g. plastics, stain-resistant coatings with toxic ‘forever chemicals’, heavy metals

From an ethical and sustainability perspective, the reigning technological system is fundamentally in-appropriate but wearing the mantle of high-positivist and rationalist science

Rube Goldberg machine, where solutions, no matter how brilliant in isolation, are applied to either ridiculous ends or a ridiculous complication of means.  Each stage of the unnecessary or absurd contraption itself produces a new series of problems requiring further (profitable) technical mitigation, treatment, and ‘externalization’ (i.e. dumping) in turn.

technologies are whimsical cartoons

life cycle assessment

surplus exchange value for profits, rather than use or subsistence value for needs.

insidious seductiveness, since it disperses, mystifies and socializes its real costs in time and space, causing a “non-intersection between advantages that are privately consumable and disadvantages that have to be borne collectively

socially paid but nevertheless hidden from the end consumer. Only by way of this accounting legerdemain can complicated high-tech devices appear “efficient” against simple manual tools.

use value over exchange value; social necessity; place-based, hand-made and low- or no-energy; non-polluting; durable but also ultimately safely bio-degradable; democratic and decentralized; and non-alienating

the avoidance of technical interventions and superfluous innovations where none are needed, or where their utility may be overwhelmed by their harms: the sufficiency principle, and the precautionary principle, respectively.

I would also call this the ‘a-novation’ principle – the application of intelligence and creativity to not-doing, to non-production.

nothing should be made by man’s labor that is not worth making, or which must be made by labor degrading to the makers

Traditional/original AT, based on communal social arrangements, hand-crafted from local, natural materials that cultures have used since centuries mostly for subsistence purposes, satisfies practically all of the principles of deep sustainability.

contra modernist prejudices

externalized costs

modern AT (aka Intermediate Technology)

indirect pollution

technologies graft well onto and enhance the subsistence economy while responding to novel challenges of modernity, and maintaining critical qualities like autonomy and cooperation

some of them necessitate entanglement with the cash economy.

modern ATs as solar cookers and water heaters, rocket stoves, ram pumps, trombe walls and other passive solar building techniques are widespread.

This belies misconceptions of traditional cultures as static and closed; indeed, traditional ATs themselves are the result of centuries of careful refinement and innovation

chief disadvantage of both traditional AT and modern AT vis-à-vis modern high-tech is precisely in their non-mystifying nature: less privatized convenience borne of cost-shifting.

This lack of ‘convenience’, conventionally conceived, and the physical muscle input required in its use have been the very features of traditional tech long denigrated as backward,

pretext for colonial intervention and domination.

traditional cultures are eroded by incorporation into the extractive global economy. This is of particular concern at a time when living examples of AT and sustainable modes of social organization are so desperately needed as lighthouses by which to navigate the downscaling of industrial society.

still being muscle-powered enough to stop short of an energy stroke” of the sort suffered by the over-developed societies.

reversion to simpler, manually-powered AT

praise of traditional AT mere romanticization?

convenience through mechanization and automation under the banner of technological progress

epidemics of both physical and mental illth

lack of ‘conveniences’, facilitating reasonable and necessary bodily exertion and movement, connection to nature, and alleviation of loneliness.

AT movement, intermeshed with the degrowth movement, is doing exactly this sort of ‘reverse development’, re-peasantization and deliberate in-conveniencing, motivated both by ethical objections to the socialized harms of high-tech, and by practical ones of independence and autonomy, especially from centralized energy grids and fossil fuel oligarchies.

durable advantages

hegemony of the dominant system.


in the pursuit of “technological sovereignty

decommodify life through projects of sharing and repairing are also pointing the way towards a ‘social AT’: repair cafes,  remakeries, tool-lending libraries, and reskilling hubs.

planned obsolescence’ and criminalization of repair

not on ever more innovation, but rather ‘exnovation’ to dismantle harmful technologies and technological systems that are incompatible with eco-socially just futures.

There is no AT in traditional cultures independent of traditional community-based social arrangements: reciprocal labor sharing and care, mutual aid, and the like. The two are mutually constitutive.

Just as sustainability cannot be achieved merely by adding renewable electricity technologies to an otherwise unchanged consumerist-industrial growth economy, neither can AT in isolation make significant impact situated within an otherwise congenitally unsustainable system.

Unsustainable substitutions are often ushered in on the wake of community disintegration, and cause further such disintegration in turn, because by nature they obviate the community element, privatize the use and shift dependence to global industrial supply chains.

AT is therefore not just a matter of tools and artifacts, but requires supportive social and political-economic conditions.

smaller-scale, more localized, sufficiency economies

social maladies of alienation (from our own labor, ourselves, other people and nature)

downscale, decentralize and de-grow the economy

 This paper was originally presented at the online conference, “De-growth or Reinventing Life: Prospects and Projects”, 4-6 October 2021, by the M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies ‘Metamorphoses of the Political

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