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On May’s episode of the podcast, we talk to journalist Kris De Decker about how low-tech of the past can serve as inspiration to improve our future. We discuss historical ways of producing power and how they can help us better understand our energy usage. As well as this, how our current idea of sustainability and our economic model may be inherently incompatible. How much is too much?
Learning from low-tech
Firstly, we delve into De Decker’s philosophy and why he believes that we need to pay much more attention to low technology. He does not discount the difficulties that he has faced living low tech but holds strong that this is a process that we all may have to evolve through.
“I don’t want to go back to the 19th century…It’s more about what can you learn from the past, and putting new technologies to good use.”
As a journalist, De Decker runs Low-Tech Magazine – its subheading reads “doubts on progress and technology”. He tells us about how he deals with the irony of writing about low-tech on the internet and the way that the website has been optimised to use as little energy as possible to run. Taking it one step further, we discuss his solar-powered website and how he believes the principles applied there could be adapted at large.
Powered by people
De Decker may not envision a future of completely human-produced power. But he explains how his art project, Human Power Plant, can encourage people to recognise the true value of the energy they use. Through this very literal experiment of a self-regulating and energy-producing community, he hopes that we can learn to moderate energy consumption according to true need rather than accessibility.
“When you have to generate your own power, you’re gonna think twice about the amount of power you need…We don’t ask ourselves this question now because energy is so cheap and it seems like it’s infinite.”
Finally, we discuss how digital devices are ingrained into our everyday lives. The conversation of how much is too much screen time is not a new one.
However, we consider the way that many physical activities such as making music and drawing have been adapted digitally. How satisfying is this “progress”? What are we losing with it? And ultimately, where might we backtrack from this high tech progress so we can survive on Earth? How can we integrate the new with the tried-and-tested?
[Images courtesy of Kris De Decker and Diego Marmolejo]