Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

eric brende's Better Off... a superb book about a couple's experiment of living their life over a year without any modern technology.
their experiment places them in an amish type community (in fact, a more austere version).

their trials and tribulations resonated heavily with what we underwent over 2010.
but his analysis of technology and its role in today's world is well worth paying attention to and marks for karpagam and I, a watershed in understanding this concept.

for example,
a modern automatic machine is no mere inert tool. it is a complex fuel consuming being with needs of its own. it gobbles up energy, it demands care and maintenance; it even has bouts of temperament. in many cases, no diaper will contain its mess...
and an approach we plan to use,
it is better to find a non-technological solution than a technological one, or failing that, a less technological solution to a more technological one.
here he is in his own words.

before anyone jumps to use luddite in their response, do read the book.
and yes, i am using a very high technology medium to communicate this message.
that would appear contradictory.
it is clearly that...


Vanessa said...

"i am using a very high technology medium to communicate this message.
that would appear contradictory."


Not to mention Bill Gates' Windows OS :)

Rags said...

Thats why you should switch to Ubuntu...More greener OS than windows...

Anonymous said...

Ubuntu or Windows, still a technology and a personal choice. Ubuntu being greener is just another marketing hogwash.

There is this wasteland restoration project at a place near Madurankantam TN., called point return.

They are using a windmill to get water lifted. What technologies went into making it? They I think are also planning to use Solar cells, that is very high technology. The swales they created, was using tools that are high technology. Funny thing is there are millions in India who do farm on not so fertile land and they do not have access to such high technology items to become self sufficient. For one a virtue has been made out of necessity and for the rest the necessity has been made into a virtue to be acquired. How quant.

So using high technology for wasteland restoration is okay.

I think Madurakantam (or however it is spelled since I do not know Tamizh)., is some 100 Km from Chennai, a major cosmopoliton area with planes, trains and automobiles - all high technology. Why was wasteland restoration site chosen 100 Km from Chennai and not 250 Km from any major town? There are villages across India which are still not connected.

Anyway, for the gora writer, simplifying life is a necessity, what with surrounded by information technology (mobiles, pcs itiyaadi)., and a virtue has been made out of necessity (again!!!)., while several individuals will want access to same technology!

Is too much technology in personal space is a problem, of course - but that is individual choice. So what is the role of technology - shouldn't it be used to encourage and foster modern thought? Wheel is a technology, so is hammer - so is the idea of using swales to harves water and the list goes on and on.... this debate occurs everyday in Indian elementary schools.

So all the musings aside, what is the status on the wasteland restoration - that is how fast are the plants growing?

Kishore said...


When I read the sanctimonious outbursts of the cyber-coolies it never ceases to amaze me as to how easily they dupe themselves to think how important they actually are.

Sure Bill Gates did modify computer interface and came up with an "OS" which through ingenious marketing became a very successful company and created wealth for him.

But other than his (now) charitable work what has he really done for the benefit of mankind. So before all these wealth worshiping techies start with their condescending statements, let me tell you that there WILL be medium of communication after Bill Gates and your time. So, I agree with CSM that real change is actually much more difficult than tokenism that most of us do.

I hear this statement that Mr. gates created wealth. Let us be honest. He learned how to use a situation to his maximal advantage and more power to him for doing that. the question is that once he had acquired that wealth, (by the way destroying many companies along the way, which you younger techies may have no idea about) is he really helping or just doing tokenism. I do believe that he is trying to do some good with time left on earth that he has but it is quite reasonable to challenge him to an even higher goal.

Having said that, Anon's statement about using technology is the most asinine, idiotic statement that I have heard form an egotistic geek (statements for effect)

What the h__l were your ancestors doing when they used walls to protect themselves from the elements, or actually dug a well to ensure water supply in the dry season. Was that not "technology"?

Your comment "high technology" is ridiculous. The key is "Do you give more than you take" and do you leave the earth in a better state than you found it?

I have no doubt from your statement and high handedness that you are so full of yourself that you do not realize that what eve field you work in or claim superiority in WILL be obsolete in 25 to 50 years but the fact that human beings absolutely need this planet and the resources that keep us alive will NEVER be obsolete.

Don't know what I am talking about. Then let us try an experiment - why don't you stop drinking any fluids for the next 5 days (not very long is it?) and let us see what happens.

Surio said...

I share your sense of irony.

Before getting on the asinine, silly remarks soapbox along the lines of "If you use Windows, you shouldn't be criticising Bill Gates" tripe, please meditate on this footnote of history!

a) Gandhi advocated the Boycott/Swadeshi movement, but did use Press/Telegraph/cars/trains to organise the freedom struggle.
b) Despite being an ahimsavadi, he canvassed for Indian soldiers to fight for the crown for the I World war.
People may call him a major hypocrite for these, but they completely miss the point in doing so and it only highlights their shallow understanding. In his doing so,
a) we were the first nation to gain independence from the empire (after Ireland) and
b) Gandhi actually gained the support for Indian Independence from the grateful British public!

If your using technology to highlight/fight inherent flaws makes you a hypocrite, but hastens the battle to end favourably, I'm all for it. :-)

I've read that book of Eric, but I have some issues! a) It was all part of a Master's thesis and so that took away some of the sincerity straightaway for me. b) I found him to be contradictory at times - but that I can forgive, as humans are complicated people. In contrast, Fukuoka's books are more grounded and appropriate - recommended!

Nice riposte to the glib response. You've flayed all the holes in the argument and saved others' time. Thanks. Most of modern society/"cyber-coolies" (nice word, BTW) are of the type described in Matrix III

That's the problem with you people. You can't think for five minutes in front of your face.

If you don't have the decency to learn the spelling of the place, kindly make a brief effort at least. That remark diluted your message's credibility. You speak of "personal choice", but sadly forget that it is the companies that push their products at you have put those very words in your mouth! Remember the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon?

Hobbes: So basically, this maverick is urging everyone to express his individuality through conformity in brand-name selection?

If you want to know the reason for choosing Madurantakam, you must read pointReturn/goodnewsindia. You wil find reasons there! Damal Shridharan being a native Tamil speaker, I can't imagine him buying land of this size without controversy in any other state. TamilNadu is largely urbanised (44% live in urban area, highest in India) with road connections in TN being one of the best so these issues are non-sequitur. Also,
Maharashtra has its own share of such movements too run by locals from there. Facts, facts! :-P

If more people like us stopped commenting and joined the commune, then perhaps pointReturn won't need a bulldozer or an excavator. They are not waiting for the 100s of volunteers to turn up, before starting the project (Very smart thinking brothers!). Read Partap Agarwal's articles for some more enlightenment on the difficulties in launching a new movement!

P.S: Sriram, just "Surio" will suffice, ;-) rather than the long "sbs" :-D

csm said...

anon - trees are growing well. thanks for asking.
guavas fruited this year, mangoes are flowering, the pongamias appear to be on schedule.
2009/10 planted will require close attention to let them survive this blazing summer.

kishore - all guns blazing...:-)

surio - very busy weekend you have had out here :-)
eric and mary had a home delivery. that ultra tops. leaving aside anything that may cloud the book, eric raised many points which has forced us to think differently.
and that, for us, makes it very valuable. good that you are enjoying these reports.