Thursday, March 17, 2011

Big and Small Energy

Navadarshanam (New Vision), among other things, is an experiment in using sustainable energy sources. Located 50 km from Bangalore in India, all of the needs on the 115 acre campus are met by wind, sun and Gobar gas (from cow dung).

Most of their building materials come from their trust land. They make their own mud bricks. The homes are cool when the climate is hot and warm when the climate is cold, with breezes replacing the need for fans. There's no need for clothes dryers, or washers either, as you wash by hand and dry on bushes in the sun. They don't need an electric stove as charcoal made on the grounds is used for cooking. They call themselves an alternative to the western model of development, bent on consumerism, militarism, and industrialization. They believe in local economy, not globalization.

On their website they write: The founders came to "the conviction that the urban-industrial way of life was leading to alienation of the individual from self, nature and the Creative Power, resulting in ecological destruction, increasing poverty, unemployment and unmanageable levels of social disintegration and violence. To get away from this vicious cycle, they felt the need to explore alternatives to the modern way of living and thinking. In particular, they felt the need to explore the possibility of a new kind of science and technology: a science that would recognize the realities of the spiritual dimensions, and concomitant technologies that would enhance rather than destroy ecology. Central to this way of thinking is the recognition that there exist forces which are invisible to our physical senses, but are nevertheless the centres of power in shaping our universe and in taking care of its ecological balance."

On my last visit to Navadarshanam, I learned how difficult it was for residents to find a windmill adequate to their needs. Most windmills being built today are huge. The blades go by our home daily on the interstate highway, as all around us new wind farms are being built. Big blades for big windmills are being constructed by big capital for big corporations who anticipate big profits and with big contributions to big politicians will make big promises in the face of big ecological challenges.

As bigness goes viral in Japan these days, why not experiment with a Navadarshanam model? Why not have small windmills in many backyards? It wasn't so long ago windmills dotted these northern plains, one for each farmer or rancher who needed to draw water. Or let's make those windmill farms cooperatives, people owned. So at least the common person has some say in their construction and maintenance.

As E.F. Schumacher taught us years ago, big is not better. Small is beautiful, because people do matter! And no living thing will be unaffected by another nuclear catastrophe. Water and air don't respect national boundaries. They belong to all beings. So why must we continue to allow some to exploit our earth elements for their big plans and big egos?

Carl Kline

Pictures from Navadarshanam: Solar Heater for Home and Windmill

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