Centre for Alternative Technology and the legacy of E.F.Schumacher

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    Authors & editors

    Harper, Peter [Author]

    Publisher Centre for Alternative Technology
    Year of publication 2008 -

    Medium Digital

    Economics & commerce > Sustainability and the environment


    Renewable energy

    Scope & contentThe pioneers of what was then the ‘National Centre for Alternative Technology’ moved onto its unpromising site in an abandoned slate Quarry in mid-Wales in 1974. I was not one of them, but I had a modest influence on its early days through my writings and occasional visits, and because I had first proposed the term ‘alternative technology’. The concept owed much to Schumacher, whose work I first discovered through his famous essay on Buddhist Economics, published in Resurgence in 1968.

    Schumacher’s original conception of Intermediate Technology was aimed at developing countries. Schumacher observed how disruptive in a traditional culture were attempts to forcibly introduce advanced technological systems, and how inefficient they were in improving the lives of most of the people. Instead, he argued for technologies intermediate in scale and complexity between traditional hand tools and advanced industrial systems. He was talking about bicycles, ambient energy systems, improved latrines, ferrocement rainwater tanks, incremental improvements of vernacular building methods, new methods of food processing, and so on.

    He also recognised that systems of decentralised social ‘software’ were necessary, such as credit unions, methods of managing shared resources, and accessible forms of information diffusion. Once the whole of a local community had moved up to this new level of productivity, they would be ready to consider further developments. The emphasis was on maintaining the skills, solidarity, cultural heritage and ‘social capital’ of a community.

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