Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Appropriate Technology???

Every year, the magazine Scientific American puts out a special issue devoted to a single topic. This year's issue is entitled the end. Or is it?
Popular science magazines aren't noted for their deep thinking. Their editorial content trends firmly toward cheerleading science and technology. So the current issue of Scientific American is a pleasant surprise.
Among other things it has a list of technologies that in the opinion of the editors the world would be better off without. What a concept - technology is not all an unalloyed good! Scientific American is not the first body to have this idea, but for a cheerleading magazine, it is a good start.
It also has an article on resources that the earth does not have limitless supplies of. Among them, oil, silver, gold, copper, coal, all due to run out in this century.
So what does any of this have to do with building skin boats? Nothing, directly, but wood wasn't one of the things we're expected to run out of this century. So skin boat building has some promise for the future. Skinboat building has its problems as well, like what to use for a skin in place of nylon or polyester when the oil is gone later in this century.
Or if you're living in a place that has no wood like Easter Island where you've cut down all your trees, what do you make the frame out of? Problems, problems.
But perhaps the part of skinboat building I like the best, apart from the difficulty of finding a suitable skin is the low tech nature of the process. It isn't reliant on any upstream industries for its raw materials. You can get your own wood, whittle your own dowels and spin your own yarn.
OK, I'm starting to sound like a survivalist. I'm not a survivalist. But I do like whittling my own dowels and thinking about how I would drill holes without electricity and I do own a rip saw, the kind you operate with muscle power. etc. etc.
Well, enough congratulating myself on what a clever fellow I am. Go out and buy a copy of the current Scientific American and read all about the possible ways that the world will end. What the heck disaster sells magazines.

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