Biological Equity Must Determine Design

Saul Mendlovitz of the World Policy Institute has a question he is wont to ask when taking part in meetings or conferences that are engaged in examining trends or possibilities for the future. Whether the issues under discussion are political, economic, or technological, he asks: How will it affect the poorest third of humanity? However obvious and urgent this question may sound, from the worsening plight of the poor people of the world, it is evidently not posed or seriously examined frequently enough when a new policy or venture is unleashed by the developed world upon them.

Mr. Mendlovitz has not permitted us to disregard his concern. He questioned us the first time he heard of our work at New Alchemy and has caused us to keep the future of the poor of both developed and under-devel-oped nations constantly before us in our design work. Saul Mendlovitz's views of our work was reinforced when Margaret Mead made her comment that our design with bioshelters had, at the time of her observation, little relevance for poor people. rile longer we worked the more it became self evident that biological design and biotechnology could not be divorced from issues of social justice. Biological equity, the just access to and distribution of basic resources is, unavoidably, a precept of biological design.

The abuses of this precept are far more numerous than the instance of it being honored. Francis Lappe and Joseph Collins in Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity have documented how the agricultural self-sufficiency and nutritional basis of Third World peoples is undermined through the infiltration of multinational corporations interested in expanding their markets or exploiting their resources to create luxurious and exotic products for sale to the developed world. The Worldwatch Institute has published more than fifty books on the depletion of basic resources, particularly in the Third World, which has led to deforestation and desertification, and the increasing unavailability of fuel. The urgency of these problems for the people affected is matched only by their complexity.

An awareness of world hunger and malnutrition were very much with

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11 r r pm together our first aquaculture programs at New Alchemy.

who is one of the pioneers of appropriate technology and was ::h us at the time, was inclined to look at the question of social jus-ir.other angle. He used to remind people at the Institute that, at r \ erv wrench not to mention far more imposing forms of technol-:hc steel mills of Gary, Indiana: implying that social and techno-;e> are as old as our use of tools and are probably forever fatefully With one of our most recent projects we have made a broader > :ackle the knotty problems of social and biological equity. Rather -- - :ng a concern for Third World peoples at bay or living with it as a - - >ri \. we decided to try to work closely with a Third World coun-: ratting our accumulated expertise and knowledge of biotechnol-■ r r disposal, to undertake a project that had energy, technological, and nutritional repercussions.

"in about 1976 on New Alchemy's workbegan to be sufficiently rec-•: : or many of us to be invited to travel internationally to discuss the _ : >ns of the work. Working in coastal areas and on islands we had a : i observe yet another horn of the dilemma that industrialization ~ra of cheap fossil fuels had inflicted on coastal and fishing peoples. £ artisanal fisheries in the Indian Ocean, in the South Pacific, and ¿nbbean, we found that rising fuel costs, supply disruptions, and ^ .ailability of spare engine or fishing gear parts, not to mention the •rarance, through rapid deforestation, of traditional boat building had idled many offshore fleets. We learned that in many places tradi-rafts had been abandoned and modern fishing boats adopted in the between the end of the Second World War and the early 1970s, which en a time of worldwide economic expansion characterized by low

■ :. easy credit, and expanding world markets. With the subsequent recession and the accompanying diminution in foreign credit and

■ exchange resources, the then-expanded fisheries became vulner-

■ the vagaries of international fuel and finance sources over which ad virtually no control. The need to rethink the basis of transport for :i peoples was becoming increasingly obvious.

The impressions that we had been gathering from our own travel-> ere reinforced by reports from other parts of the world from a num-■i our colleagues. Before her death Dr. Mead was drawn to the idea of ■powered shipping which, as the tall ships have proved, have a power of ¿ery that is difficult to explain. The heart is moved, and perhaps the soul n we put together our first aquaculture programs at New Alchemy. A in. who is one of the pioneers of appropriate technology and was ; with us at the time, was inclined to look at the question of social jus-in another angle. He used to remind people at the Institute that, at < >f every wrench not to mention far more imposing forms of technol-

• e the steel mills of Gary, Indiana: implying that social and techno->sues are as old as our use of tools and are probably forever fatefully rd. With one of our most recent projects we have made a broader ; to tackle the knotty problems of social and biological equity. Rather eping a concern for Third World peoples at bay or living with it as a worry, we decided to try to work closely with a Third World coun-. putting our accumulated expertise and knowledge of biotechnol-heir disposal, to undertake a project that had energy, technological, "iic. and nutritional repercussions.

From about 1976 on New Alchemy's work began to be sufficiently rec-:i tor many of us to be invited to travel internationally to discuss the "ions of the work. Working in coastal areas and on islands we had a *o observe yet another horn of the dilemma that industrialization era of cheap fossil fuels had inflicted on coastal and fishing peoples. : artisanal fisheries in the Indian Ocean, in the South Pacific, and aribbean, we found that rising fuel costs, supply disruptions, and

• ailability of spare engine or fishing gear parts, not to mention the bal ance, through rapid deforestation, of traditional boat building had idled many offshore fleets. We learned that in many places tradi-: afts had been abandoned and modern fishing boats adopted in the between the end of the Second World War and the early 1970s, which en a time of worldwide economic expansion characterized by low easv credit, and expanding world markets. With the subsequent -ecession and the accompanying diminution in foreign credit and exchange resources, the then-expanded fisheries became vulner-ihe vagaries of international fuel and finance sources over which d virtually no control. The need to rethink the basis of transport for peoples was becoming increasingly obvious.

The impressions that we had been gathering from our own travel-re reinforced by reports from other parts of the world from a num-ur colleagues. Before her death Dr. Mead was drawn to the idea of ered shipping which, as the tall ships have proved, have a power of that is difficult to explain. The heart is moved, and perhaps the soul

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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