People often believe that we can overcome the profound environmental and climate crises we face by smart systems, green innovations and more recycling. However, the quest for complex technological solutions, which rely on increasingly exotic and scarce materials, makes this unlikely.
A best-seller in France, this English language edition introduces readers to an alternative perspective on how we should be marshalling our resources to preserve the planet and secure our future. Bihouix skilfully goes against the grain to argue that ‘high’ technology will not solve global problems and envisages a different approach to build a more resilient and sustainable society.
This chapter explores the principles of a low-tech approach that are developed and rooted in the search for simplicity and conviviality, localization, design, and manufacture for true sustainability. It describes paths to be taken and general principles on low-tech based on the conscious rejection of the hope of a successful outcome based on technological breakthroughs still to come. It also elaborates the principle of simplicity as the immense advantage of the pure and simple suppression of need that aims to effectively reduce the rate of consumption of resources. The chapter mentions examples of ways to reduce the non-negotiable standard of living, such as a ban on advertising materials, trainers that flash when walking, or single-use plastic bags. It analyses the main problem of the high-tech world under the pretext of seeking greater effectiveness and technical efficiency.
This chapter investigates what daily life might be like in a low-tech era, including topics on agriculture and food, transport, construction, manufactured products, finance, information technologies, and love and leisure. It speculates the application of the general principles on low-tech without any assumptions about their political, economic, social, or cultural feasibility. It also describes the ‘upstream’ activities of food production that is needed to feed humanity in decades to come without compromising the capacity to feed for the coming centuries. The chapter looks at the freedom created by motorized individual mobility that came with a high price from the environmental and societal point of view. It probes how the energy issue might be solved in the low-tech world.
This chapter addresses the question of whether effecting a transition from a society in peril to a world of low-technology is prudent in its use of resources. It discusses the questioning approach that has made a number of analyses of societal ‘crises’ in order to shed light on different aspects of a complex grasp to reality. It also recounts the implementation of a monetary policy when the rates of profit declining in the late 1960s deliberately generated unemployment in order to maintain downward pressure on wages and encourage increased household debt to maintain sufficient demand and production. The chapter discusses the decline in purchasing power owed to debt or unemployment, which inevitably slows demand. It describes the efforts of engineers and advertisers to encourage the technical or cultural obsolescence of products.
This chapter reviews how technology has always responded to shortages of resources. It describes the origins of industrial chemistry, energy technology, food production and storage, and construction materials. It also explains the history of humanity that encompasses a long struggle with resource scarcity wherein every species is constrained by the availability of resources in its environment. The chapter looks at the idyllic vision of energy ending up with nuclear fusion or fast breeder reactor solving the problem of limited reserves of uranium, which is based on a serious misunderstanding of several physical phenomena and of the ‘systemic’ nature of industrial society. It elaborates how renewable energies are far from being autonomous, resilient, community-based, and controllable by local people and companies.