Preserving the Past to Serve the Future: Using Pre-fossil Fuel Technology on Regional Waterways

By Andrew Willner, Transition NYC Bioregion, for the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)

Transitioning includes reinvigoration of heirloom technologies and traditional skills needed to thrive in a carbon-constrained future. Permaculture, which birthed the Transition environmental movement, offers guidance on how to use those skills to design superb quality lives.

High Tech is, "industrial technology and refers to things that are out of your control, as opposed to low technology, which is simple things done in a smart way. Low technology is using the intelligence of nature to accomplish tasks. High technology is buying an apple from the store; low technology is getting an apple from a tree you planted yourself. One of the big differences is in high technology you are disconnected from cause and effect relationships. So if you pollute through high technology, you may not feel the direct result. Low technology is connection because
you are involved in the process and you are directly affected by the consequences.” C. Milton Dixon, interviewed in The (Chicago) Examiner, May 2011

Transitioning fosters and supports the revitalization of "pre-petro" technological skills. The Transition environmental movement asks us to consider relearning for example, the skills needed to reanimate wind mills, sailing vessels, watermills; and pressing hand tools, levers, block and tackle back into service.

Two low technologies that have immediate relevance in the Mid-Atlantic region are: 1) Short Sea Shipping: i.e. carrying freight under sail that doesn’t cross oceans, which is resurging as more people build and rebuild wooden ships for the transport of goods along coastal waters and
the inland waters of the Hudson Valley, and, 2) Mill Restoration: Water mills are being built and rebuilt for grinding grain, pressing cider, as well as producing electricity for individually owned operations and communities. Building, restoring, preserving, and actively using these
technologies is a key to preserving the past to serve the future.

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