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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Journey to Forever


Having yet again been almost wiped out by a triple-trailer truck at a freeway on-ramp, I offer the following Sunday-morning meditation:

Here is the site of some young people whose energy, vision, and upbeat approach I greatly admire: Journey to Forever:
Journey to Forever is a pioneering expedition by a small, mobile NGO (Non-Government Organization) involved in environment and rural development work, starting from Hong Kong and travelling 40,000 kilometres through 26 countries in Asia and Africa to Cape Town, South Africa.

Our route will take us away from the cities and populated districts to remote and inaccessible areas (usually also the least developed and poorest areas), where we'll be studying and reporting on environmental conditions and working for local NGOs on rural development projects in local communities.

The focus will be on trees, soil and water, sustainable farming, sustainable technology, and family nutrition.

The aim is to help people fight poverty and hunger, and to help sustain the environment we all must share.
The project team seems to be mostly from Japan. Their itinerary looks something like a transect -- they'll be recording environmental and social problems along their route, but also, notably, solutions. They are especially interested in small family farms, subsistence farming, and effective traditional and/or appropriately scaled technologies. The bibliographies they are assembling are quite useful, and show that they've done a lot of homework for the journey. Hats off to them! I wish I could go...

The viewpoint these young people express reminds me of Practical Action, once known as the Intermediate Technology development Group, about whom I learned back in 1970s and have idolized ever since. Here's a post I wrote about them back in 2003.

While the U.S. juggernaut chases gigantic solutions to its energy crisis by building large-scale permanent military bases in Iraq and Africa, near pools of oil, groups like Practical Action and companies like Open Energy are pursuing the doable.

Open Energy has installed a 14.5 kilowatt solar membrane roof on one of our favorite local eateries, making the Sweet Life Patisserie practically energy independent. Visualise millions of roofs with such a membrane.

Practical Action, the brainchild of twentieth century social economist E. F. Schumacher, is almost unique in how it functions. A UK nonprofit, it forms study/action groups composed of scientists and volunteers from developed countries and local citizens from third-word countries, in which the weight of the leadership falls upon the local citizens. Problems are identified, and solutions visualized and tested in a consensus-based atmosphere. No solutions are attempted unless they fit the scale of the local economy, and can be maintained and controlled at community level. Stoves that reduce fuel usage, small-scale manufacturing workshops, agricultural innovations, wind power, water power, solar power, new methods of digging and piping water, and local-built roads have all been part of the mix.

A thread connecting all these thoughts is the notion of relocalization, which is closely allied to the older, better-known concept decentralization. Food or energy or products created, marketed and consumed within the immediate surroundings offers tremendous carbon-footprint savings over globalization.

That's the lesson, aside from its superior taste and nutrition, of the home-grown tomato.

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