A Healthier Head Through Appropriate Technology

We are still in the process of developing our core principles and strategies, but once we’re fully underway The PremaFuture Project will focus heavily on health and fitness (both for the individual and the community). Much will seem obvious; improved nutrition through better access to fresh food; higher levels of physical fitness through a combination of exercise and greater reliance on humanpower; better health through preventative procedures rather than – our all too heavy reliance on… – curative and/or palliative medicine.

But less obvious are the improvements in mental health that are linked to a better understanding of – and control over – essential human technologies. The practice of designing and using Appropriate Technology (AT) is actually very good for the health of your head 🙂

In his important essay, Five Facets of a Myth, Kirkpatrick Sale observes:

Certainly many in the U.S. and throughout the industrial world live at levels of wealth undreamed of in ages past, able to call forth hundreds of servant-equivalents at the flip of a switch or turn of a key, and probably a third of this “first world” population could be said to have lives of a certain amount of ease and convenience. Yet it is a statistical fact that it is just this segment that most acutely suffers from the true “comfortable disease,” what I would call affluenza: heart disease, stress, overwork, family dysfunction, alcoholism, insecurity, anomie, psychosis, loneliness, impotence, alienation, consumerism, and coldness of heart.

This ‘affluenza’ is related to the sedentary mind in much the same way that obesity is linked to a sedentary lifestyle. It’s obvious that those who don’t use their body/mind for extended periods of time are asking for trouble – the ‘use it or lose it’ cliché suddenly rings very true when we find that we ‘need it’. But less obvious is the absolutely vital need for quality with regard to our food/thinking. Recent studies show that children with bad eating habits (i.e. those fed on the so called ‘convenient’ foods which are heavily processed and saturated with trans-fats and sugars) are more likely to become lethargic because of their diet – which means that what they put in their mouths may actually cause them to become sedentary in the first place.

In terms of the mind there are obviously those people who are more than happy to veg-out in front of the TV and never let a single thought pass between their ears. But the vast majority of affluenza sufferers are not cognitive-couch-potatoes, many are called upon to apply their mental faculties in the course of their working lives and many more seek various forms of cerebral stimulation as a leisure activity. Everything we consume mentally – from Sudoku snacks to the haute cuisine that is chess – has it’s own potential benefits, but the most powerful form of mental stimulation is that which suits our uniquely human evolutionary physiology. With our bloated cerebral cortex and our opposable thumbs we are essentially problem-solving, communicating, tool-making and machine/tech-building animals – in other words the development of Open Source Appropriate Technology is in our DNA 😀

Without going into too much detail (we will of course expand on this theme as we develop the ADApT (Anticipatory Design of/and/or Appropriate Technology) section of our website) we believe that practicing the core principles of AT – scientific methodology, applied creativity, hands-on design, communication, etc, etc – (things which every Homo sapien has the potential for regardless of what their particular culture would have them believe) has a positive effect on the individual with regard to stress, anxiety, alienation, etc – i.e. affluenza. More importantly AT could prove to be vital in relieving the horrific violence that is poverty. As Vinay Gupta says:

I went on a quest to understand poverty, to understand why the people were dying of lack, and came back with a five point plan.

* stop smoking
* biosand water filters, or better, for all (around $20 per household per year)
* rocket stoves, or better, for all (as little as $6 per household, fixed cost)
* sulabh toilet, or better, for all (around $40 per household, fixed cost)
* farming education where appropriate (see One Acre Fund), $100 per household, paid back in the first year from improved crop output.

I believe these five measures together, perhaps with a few bonus items like solar lamps and cell phones would more or less end poverty, the state of dying young because you do not have the things you need to live. Yes, health care and dentistry need answers, and there are teams working on these aspects of the problem, but in the very simplest terms, every single human being living on their own resources rather than grid water, power etc. needs to filter their water, cook on wood, have a toilet that works, or they and their children will die decades early.

It’s not very complicated: water, cooking, toilets. Simple technologies. But to see why this matters, you need to see the people on the other side of the cultural divide, the rich vs. poor bridge, and know that they live in their lives much as you live in yours, with hopes and fears and dreams. All this recent talk of governance, of #thebigdeal and so on is really just by way of asking why isn’t this done, why hasn’t anybody come to help these people?

Why not?*

Why not indeed? It should be the goal of anyone who claims to love humanity to help alleviate this most curable of plagues. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because empathy is also good for our brains! When we emphasise with others our brain produces Oxytocin – which is also released during breast-feeding and sex!- so AT makes you feel good. And feeling good is, er…, good for you!

* Read the full article along with many other important posts from Vinay Gupta here.

For more on Appropriate Technology visit http://www.appropedia.org/

Published by The PermaFuture Project

We combine Permaculture and survivalist ethics and strategies to plan for a sustainable and self-sufficient future - both for individuals and communities.

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