When it Comes to “Green” – Small is Beautiful

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And furthermore…

“Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.”

The quotation above is from E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, first published in 1973, about a decade before the Internet – as the world knows it now thanks to its commercialization – first blossomed. Ironically, Schumacher’s ideas have been disseminated more widely by the Internet than by traditional book publishing. One of his principal ideas was Intermediate Technology (aka Appropriate Technology). It typically refers to technology that has some direct economic benefit at a community level, usually in a developing country, and with a low impact on the environment. By these criteria it would appear that the Internet is, in its present state – and this could change – Intermediate Technology. Or perhaps it illustrates that it is more precisely the application of technology that defines it.

It was nice to see that a 25th anniversary edition of Small is Beautiful was published in 1999 – and yes, that is 26 years if you’re counting, as if an afterthought by the publishers, or maybe it took the extra year to collect the commentaries it also contains. It seems that great ideas (classics as they properly become known in time) are still better honored in book form.

All right, a slight digression admittedly, but if you’ve read this far you now see that we are setting our foundation and fixing our framework for our discussion of green building: global warming, technology, economics – what next?

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Colin Laughlan