Appropriate Technology

The right tools for the job

Here at Abrazo House we aim to live well and sustainably in harmony with our surroundings. To achieve this, we think that the use of appropriate technology is vitally important.

In a nutshell, appropriate technology just means choosing the right tools for the job. By tools I don’t just mean things like hammers and screwdrivers, but all forms of technology that people use to construct and manipulate their environments.

Thoreau, one of the writers who inspired the environmental movement (and who also built his own house), said “We are tools of our tools.” Every time we choose a particular form of technology — whether that means selecting the materials to build a house, or deciding whether to go to the shops by car, bike, bus or foot — we change our lives for better or worse.

If we invest in technologies that are costly, complex and hard to control, our ways of life will reflect those choices. The difference between (say) a motor car and a bicycle is the difference between two ways of life: top-speed versus gentle-pace; high-cost versus low-cost; complex versus simple; closed-in versus open.

Tilting at windmills?

This is not to say that we are a bunch of Don Quixotes tilting at the windmills of technology, or romantics who want to turn the clock back to a simpler, gentler age (if there ever was one). It just means that we are not dazzled by innovation for its own sake, and prefer to choose the simplest and easiest tool for a particular job. Like most people we rely on the internet and the motor car — but use them sparingly, since we’re aware of the dangers of too much speed or information, and the pleasures of just being where we are.

In the process of creating Abrazo House we have researched and gained practical experience with a number of different forms of appropriate technology. Here we present some information about them, in the hope of spreading awareness of these ecologically sound, inexpensive and practical techniques for living.