Mondays are Physical Day here at Taking it to the Streets
And while Tuesdays are Idea day, and thus the day you usually get book reviews from me, I can justify starting my comments today on Judith Schor’s intriguing book, Plenitude: the New Economics of True Wealth.
Because one of the ideas that really jumped out at me in this engrossing book, presenting a “third way” solution to the double-whammy situation we’ve gotten ourselves into (economic meltdown coupled with environmental crisis) is that of so-called “fab labs.” Have you heard of these? I think I first did in something I was reading about improving life in third world countries, but Schor presents fab labs (fabrication laboratories) as part of her multi-valenced approach to solving this economy-ecology conundrum.
A ‘fab lab’ is “an advanced machine that follow sets of digital commands to manipulate and form raw materials to produce actual objects. One type is rapid prototyping machines, which engage in a kind of three-dimensional copying process. The machine is programmed to produce a certain object, the required materials are added, and it begins to create. Humans add the steps the machine can’t handle. Scrap plastic is a common input for a fabber, but they also handle metal, wood, and other materials.” (p. 121)
Is that cool or what?!
And then she went on to write a group who is doing this at a place called “Factor e Farm” – “dedicated to building the ‘world’s first self-replicating, self-sufficient, open source, decentralized, high-appropriate-tech resilient permaculture ecovillage.’” Whoa! I’m in idea nirvana land! Here’s a Wiki page about Factor e Farm and here’s their Blog.
So on this soybean field outside Kansas City they’re just cranking out the machines they need to create a “self-sufficient, completely sustainable community requiring minimal financial capital.”
Later on in the book she talks about how the rise of Big Banks is one of the factors that led to our recent meltdown. So what if we built an economy ourselves and left the bankers out of it? I love that idea!
There are so many innovative and thought provoking ideas in this book, but the more detailed look at these fab labs and the possibilities inherent in their use was particularly unique for me. My friend’s husband is a chemist and he knew exactly what I was talking about – referring to them as 3D printers (which I just googled and yes, I see that IS what they are sometimes called).
I’m really getting lately, that the “back to the land” “doing it for ourselves” movement that my gen aspired to “back in the day” is getting married to the technogeek culture that I now love and what a lovely baby they are going to have – a wonderful world of PLENITUDE for us all. Stay tuned for more. And read this book!