Welcome to Down-To-Earth by Jenna, fun chats about your offline world •
You know what? Tangibility is underrated.
Projects that you can touch, experience, in real life.
We all need to see more tangible examples of what our future could look like - wherein we limit the warming of the planet, solve our supply chain issues, inject biodiversity back into our landscapes, enjoy enough chill moments in nature together, etc.
A future that is mad cool, bright, engaging, sustainable, tech-forward, integrative, inclusive, gorgeous.
Too often I’ve heard the word “solutions,” without actually seeing them.
Does the word “solutions” make you feel passionately committed to solving a problem? Seriously!?
How about SEEING those solutions. Those solutions are called projects.
Projects are made by passionate people who have a lot of fun together. Projects are built to be inspiring. When successful, projects create new pathways and models for us all to riff on.
Projects bring new solutions to life.
Here’s a project that you need to know about.
Ahoy! Low-tech sustainability pirates.
Once upon a time a group of sailors from Brittany, France led by Corentin De Chatelperron decided to sail around the world on a catamaran called NOMADE DES MERS.
In each place they stopped they learned about local “low-tech” — day-to-day life solutions that people use in places that lack infrastructure, and/or easy access to affordable energy or freshwater.
Like reflective solar cookers that you can use to make dinner. Or ceramic water filters that a doctor designed to be open source so that anyone can have access to fresh water. But also like flies that literally process human waste — a technology that our sewage systems can really benefit from around the world, especially in places with developing economies.
Our french pirate friends then 1) learned about these solutions from their friends that invented or discovered them, people who often had incredibly limited resources and ingenious “hacks,” 2) mastered these solutions and brought them back onboard their sailboat, and 3) documented them all online as free how-tos on their website and YouTube channel.
Now that’s a project.
Here’s what I noticed when I was onboard NOMADE DES MERS –
Solar cooker apple crumble, anyone? It smelled amazing.
Or… solar cooker banana bread. The insulation on this oven here is made of mycelium - mushrooms.
For the savory-toothed - here’s solar-sauteed zucchini.
They have a mini aquaponic farm on board so that the crew can enjoy fresh leafy greens while at sea.
They also preserve and ferment a lot of food (delicious and great for gut bacteria).
They experiment a lot with mycelium, and recently made a mycelium thermos (left) to keep liquids warm.
Here are those black soldier flies from Malaysia that help decompose organic matter, including human waste.
And that ceramic water filter. The designs are open source if you’d like to build one.
Check out this wine cooler made from two ceramic pots and a layer of wet sand in the middle.
Now towards the end of their worldwide voyage, the Low-Tech Lab team is currently bringing these TANGIBLE solutions back to Brittany, and working with their local city governments there to trial them. At the moment they’re investigating how to install solar cookers at some bakeries (“one solar baguette please!”) and speaking with local sanitation officials about those rad poop flies.
Why “low tech?”
Solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy, can all be harvested in sustainable, renewable ways to power a lot of modern life.
What if your phone and laptop just charged themselves with sunlight? What if your building was designed to harness wind for low-tech air conditioning? What if all freshwater came directly from your roof? What if your street lights were bioluminescent?
The best technology works with, not against nature. The best technology COMES FROM NATURE ALREADY.
We just need more creative projects run by free-spirited rebels to test, suss out, and share exactly how.