Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Seven Pillars of Survivability: Appropriate Technology with a Human Face

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Seven Pillars of Survivability: Appropriate Technology with a Human Face

Article excerpt

1. Introduction: Issues and Opportunities

Overwhelming efforts to pursue sustainability have captured the attention of many different countries and multiple disciplines. Sustainability has been stated as a universal goal of engineering, business, and even nonprofit enterprises. The discussion began when environmental issues began to be incorporated into engineering and business activities in addition to economic and social issues. The term "sustainability" was universally defined by the Brundtland Commission, formally known as the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (UN-WCED), which interpreted sustainability as the way systems can remain productive in any development type (United Nations, 1987). Since its beginnings in the environmental movement, sustainability has been treated as a complete package of integrated solutions for the sustainable condition of a targeted entity. In the sustainability perspective, three issues, the so-called triple bottom line (TBL), have been identified as the major determinants of sustainable development, which, in turn, leads to greater profits and better performance without sacrificing social and environmental conditions (Carley and Christie, 1993; Sianipar and Yudoko, 2012).

Conversely, one of the successors of the old environmental movements from circa five decades ago also produced another brilliant idea: appropriate technology (AT). By interpreting Eastern wisdoms through a Western technological and economic mindset (Ganguly and Docker, 2007), E. F. Schumacher (1973) expanded Gandhi's ideas into a proposal to provide a more feasible solution for people in underdeveloped areas. Schumacher thought that providing technological solutions for people in these kind of regions could not be implemented by using a purely Western technological approach. He stated that outsiders from developed countries needed to pay attention to local conditions and to treat all technological solutions as intermediate until the local people had adapted to them. After Schumacher's introduction, the AT approach was increasingly applied in many community development projects in underdeveloped areas (Sianipar, et al., 2013a). It also became one of the important solutions in permaculture (Mollison, 2004), which attempted to integrate both permanency of culture and permanency of agriculture.

However, after decades of the development of both sustainability and AT, these two brilliant ideas have not sufficiently converged to support each other. Although they were produced by the same movement, sustainability was dominantly implemented in developed countries but AT was not. These two ideas were fundamentally separated because of the different realms of their field applications. The result is not a surprising one: sustainability became an unquestioned solution for Western engineers (Bell, 2011) whereas AT was perceived as a solution with insufficient scientific value (Hazeltine and Bull, 1999). Furthermore, these conditions were already distracting from many development efforts. Flows of aid from developed to developing countries were not sufficient to bring underdeveloped communities to the next level of wealth. Some were even trapped into technological catastrophes (Manion and Evan, 2002) that made their situations worse than they had been. Although engineers attempted to transform targeted communities by implementing sustainability, routines. What could be sustained in underdeveloped conditions or after major catastrophes, such as natural disasters or wars?

Moreover, enforcing sustainability through applying AT became a questionable solution. There were evidence for the inappropriateness of the three pillars of sustainability after engineers attempted to construct AT in underdeveloped communities (Catalano, 2007). Engineers from developed countries tended to make technological adaptations by treating communities as objects, rather than engaging local residents as the subjects of development (Baillie, 2006). …

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