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• UNDERCURRENTS, the magazine of radical science and alternative technology [ISSN

0306 2392], was published from London, England, from 1973 to 1984 [No. 60]. This text
version has been created in 2006·8 by me, Chris [Hutton·]Squire [a member of the
now·dissolved Undercurrents Collective], by OCRing scanned images of a print copy; the
text has been spell·checked but it has NOT been checked against the original.
Health & Safety Warning: The practical, technical and scientific information herein
[though believed to be accurate at the time of publication] may now be out of date.
The many stories that Undercurrents told will interest students of a period that is both too
distant and too recent to be adequately documented on the Web. The moral, philosophical,
social, economic and political opinions herein remain, in my opinion, pertinent to the
much more severe problems we now face.
Readers who wish correspond on any matters arising are invited to contact me via:
This pdf version is formatted in 15 pt Optima throughout, so as to be easily readable on
screen; it runs to 133 pages [the print versions were 48 · 56 pp.]: readers wishing to print it
out to read are recommended to use the text version and to reformat it. The many pictures
that embellished the print version are sadly not included here. There no restrictions on the
use of this material but please credit individual authors where credit is due: they are mostly
still with us.
Page numbers below are for this pdf version. The beginning of each section or article is
indicated thus:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Undercurrents 15 April·May 1976
6 EDDIES. The usual brew of News, Scandal, Gossip, Horror and
22 LETTERS. Your chance to get your own back on us.
29 RADICAL TECHNOLOGY. Peter Harper has another stab at
re·defining a strategy for what's Left of Alternative Technology movement,
in this extract from our book Radical Technology.
Jeavons describes the Biodynamic/French Intensive method of
horticulture, which he says could make possible an ecologically·sound
system of organic 'mini·farming', with yields up to 16 times those of
50 WHOLE FOODS FOR HALF PRICE. Get together with your friends
and start a food co·op. You'll eat better and save yourselves a lot of
money. Robin Roy explains one way to do it.
Willoughby and Godfrey Boyle give the lowdown on the latest 'Mark II'
version of the Undercurrents·LlD Wind Generator described in UC 12
and 13.
59 DC·ACi STEP RIGHT UP! With this do·it·yourself transistorised
Invertor, a 12·volt DC supply from batteries can be stepped up to the
normal 250 mains voltage, and turned into AC. Dave Graham tells you
Who Needs Nukes? · Special Feature
protest movement has succeeded in putting the nuclear power industry
on the defensive. Now's the time for us to throw open the door to a full
public debate on the Nation's energy options, says Godfrey Boyle. For a
start, we could ?point out that a national domestic Insulation campaign
would make more energy available, create more jobs and cost less than
the CEGB's
new reactor programme.
71 TOWARDS A NON·NUCLEAR FUTURE. Amory Lovins argues that
nuclear fission, a dangerous, unforgiving technology, is not needed to

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'tide us over' until fusion power, or solar energy, can take over in 50
years. A far better, cheaper, safer stop··gap is energy conservation. Solar
power could meet virtually all our energy needs and could be developed
much more quickly than many 'experts' predict.
85 JOB CREATION. Dave Elliott urges an alliance between the
Alternative Technology advocates and workers claiming the right to work
on socially·desirable products. Specifically, we should push for a national
alternative energy technology campaign, and for conversion of the
armaments industry to socially valuable production.
out some of the pitfalls involved in attempts to make industry responsive
to the needs of ordinary people, and suggests some possible remedies.
105 IF YOU DON'T DIG IT, SHARE IT. Details of Friends of the Earth's
new share·a·garden scheme, which aims to put unused gardens back into
106 REVIEWS. Supership, by Noel Mostert. The World Turned
Upside·Down and Winstanley's Laws of Freedom, edited by Christopher
Hill. Health is for People. by Michael Wilson. Vegetarian Passion, by Janet
Bakis. Fertility Without Fertilisers, by Lawrence D. Hills· TIle Dome
Builders' Handbook, by John Prenis. Fuel's Paradise, by Peter Chapman.
Follies of Conservation. by George Edwards. Pontifex. by Theodore
Roszak. Plus books on Workers' self·management.
UNDERCURRENTS lnternational Standard Serial Number 0306 2392
Undercurrents is published every two months by Undercurrents Limited (Registered
Office. 275 Finchley,. Road. London Nw3), a democratic, non·profit company,.
without share capital and limited by Guarantee. Printed in England by Prestagate Ltd
OUR ADDRESS: From now on. Undercurrents will have two addresses one in the
city, one in the country. Our new city address:Undercurrents., Earth Exchange
Building.. 213 Archway,. Road, London N6 5BN. Telephone (01) 340 1898. Letters
about News, Reviews or Advertising should from now on be sent to this office.
Letters about Features and general editorial matters should be sent to: Undercurrents,
11 Shadwell, Uley, Dursley, Gloucesteshire GL11 5BW. Telephone (0453 86) 636.
Subscription orders and enquiries should be addressed to our Uley office.
SUBSCRIPTIONS cost ,£2.50 Sterling (US$6.50 or equivalent in other currencies) for
six issues, posted by second class surface mail to any country except the United
States, Canada and Mexico. Subscriptions to these countries cost US$7.50: copies
are sent by Air freight to New York and posted from there by second class mall.

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Delivery takes 3 to 14 days. Since Airfreight is only economic when as many

subscribers as possible use it. we cannot accept surface mail subscriptions to these
countries. Our US mailing agents are:Air & Sea Freight Inc 527 Madison Avenue
Suite 1217, New York 10022.
COPYRIGHT. The copyright @ of all articles in Undercurrents', belongs to
Undercurrents Limited, unless otherwise stated, and they must not be reproduced
without our permission. We will normally allow our material to be used for non
profit purposes. on condition that Undercurrents is credited.
CONTRIBUTIONS. We welcome unsolicited articles, news items, illustrations,
photographs etc. from our readers. Though every care is taker with such material. we
cannot be responsible (or its loss or damage. and we cannot undertake to return it
unless it is accompanied by an appropriate stamped· envelope addressed to the
sender. To make life easier for our typesetters. manuscripts for publication must be
typed clearly on one side of the page only, with double or triple spacing and at least
one inch margin on each side o( the type. OK?
CREDITS. Undercurrents is produced by a large number of people. There are only,.
two. paid staff. one full time. one part time. The rest of us work for nothing in our
spare time. Here. in alphabetical order. an the names of the people most directly
concerned in putting the magazine· together: Godfrey Boyle·. Sally Boyle. Duncan
Campbell. Peter Cockerton, Pat Coyne. Tony Durham. Dave Elliott. R Richard Elen.
Sotires Eleftheriou. Herbie Girardet. Peter Harper. Chris Hutton·Squire Martin Ince.
Barbara Kern Martyn Partridge. and Peter Sommer. Other people, without whom
Undercurrents, would be more·or·Iess impossible include: Graham Andrews. Gavin
Browning. Ollie Caldecott. Charlie Clutterbuck. Brian Ford. Ian Hogan. Roger Hall
Cliff Harper. John Prudhoe. Dieter Penner. Nigel Thomas, Geoff Watts. Martyn Turner,
Joy Watt and Woody. And of course everyone we've forgotten.
COVER: Tony Durham.
TYPESETTING: Geoffrey Cooper.
HELPERS: If you’re interested in helping on undercurrents in any way, write or phone
for details of our weekly meetings.

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
The Friends of the Earth campaign against nuclear power moves into a
higher gear on Saturday April 24 when FOEers will gather at two of the
sites proposed for the third generation of reactors Sizewell and Torness ·
and at Windscale · where a new reprocessing plant is planned.
Tom Burke, the pugnac·ious director of London FOE, hopes that these
rallies will finally kill off the 'soft Schweppes' image that many people
still have of FOE. London FOE have chartered a train · the Nuclear
Excursion · to take 420 of them to Seascale and back. They will be
meeting Half/Life and Northern FOE groups outside the plant (in the
church hall if wet) for a debate between representatives of the 'pro' and
'anti' factions, a rerun in fact of the Church House debate last month.
Hopefully there will be speakers from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd and the
unions on the plant, as well as a couple of MPs and the redoubtable Walt
Patterson. The plant however will not be picketed as originally planned.
Cumbrian County Councillors are being lobbied discreetly to refuse
planning permission for the extension to the processing plant. It is
thought that direct action might be counter·productive. The Nuclear
Excursion will return more or less merrily to London the same night.
At Sizewell, on the Suffolk coast near Ipswich, Survival, the lively
Cambridge·based coalition of FOE and Consoc groups, are organising a
picnic with home·brewed beer, street theatre and music. They will be
supported by four coach loads of FOEers from the South of England as
well as local groups from all over East Anglia. There is already a Magnox
reactor there, providing a good opportunity to inspect one of the beasts at
close quarters. The cooling water from this station warms up the
surrounding sea, so bring your swimsuit (but watch out for pistol·toting
Atomic Police!). The workers and management have been invited along
and Survival hope to arrange an impromptu debate on nuclear power un
the beach_ They are also, as a publicity stunt for the local media, putting
on street theatre and dumping Nuclear Dustbins ('Not to be opened until
Easter 500,000 AD.') in the Market Square on Ash Wednesday (April 14).
Meanwhile up in Scotland on the wild and windy cape of Torness five
miles south east of Dunbar, Edinburgh, FOE will gather covenanter·style
to register their protest at the choice of the site for the South of Scotland
Generating Board\ new reactor_ Planning permission has been given for
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this and work is expected to start in April The plant is already running into
difficulties: a 'design rethink' by the National Nuclear Power
Group will delay the completion of the plant two years (until 1984) and
increase its cost substantially; and the villagers of East Linton, East
Lothian, are strenuously resisting the Board's plans to quarry there for the
large stone blocks needed for the sea wall for the plant.
There will be music (a pipe band and folk groups) in the barn on the
Thorntonloch campsite, an anti·nuclear exhibition, beachcombing and
kiteflying competitions, and, on the Saturday night, a public meeting; in
Dunbar. more info page 7
Fallout Shelters Planned
The Home Office continues its attempts to ensure that the Home Office at
least will survive the next war. Two new circulars, iss.ued earlier this year,
deal with plans for fallout shelters for the gener·al population, and
'Community Organisation in War.' When the hard rain falls, the
government in its confidential circular ES1/16, is clear that it would be
impossible for 'public authorities to provide shelter against all the effects
of a nuclear attack' at least, not for the proles. Fallout shelters are
different · but it isn't entirely clear that the Home Office have any answer
to the problem of people running all ways at once when an emergency is
This is what they'll be telling you as the bombs start falling:·
If you're at home, stay at home. If your home isn't any good, then go
away, taking 14 days food and water with you. Preferably find somebody
else's home, by mutual agreement if possible. If at work, stay at work,
unless you can easily go home, in which case go home. ... and there's
more in a similarly unhelpful' and ill planned vein. There is nothing for
example, which suggests that large factories in urban areas will need to
establish food stocks for the workforce who would be taking fallout
shelter there.
The most significant suggestion is that local authorities should identify
suitable buildings in public ownership which could be adopted as fallout
shelters for roughly 2% of the population who will neither be near home
nor work. Likely sites are underground car parks and the basements of
large public buildings. The circular is intended as local
authorities. Many local authorities will be inclined to stick it in the waste
The Home Office, they complain, is perpetually planning for war and the
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survival of government. As a result, their plans for the population at large

are ill thought out and contradictory, and impossible to put into practice.
Councils are more concerned with planning for more probable
emergencies such as a major air crash, another Flixborough ... These
emergencies they can do something about. Besides, there isn't any
money. But, even if council coffers were full, many councils, particularly
in the North and in urban areas wouId be totally unwilling to divert
resources to war planning.
The second epic war plan, 'Community Organisation in War' (ES2/76) is
about the organisation of local communities in the event of a war. The
purpose of this is to establish a direct link between the local controller,
appointed by the council and each 'community.' A 'focal point' in each
community would be needed.
Here we learn that 'some local authorities, in response to local demands.
have nominated and briefed wartime community leaders or advisers for
this purpose in normal peacetime and in some cases vested in the m
some semblance of wartime' authority.' In other words, the local councils
have appointed, secretly or openly, individuals who in war would have
power under emergency regulations to run their districts. Although some
of these 'leaders' are likely to be district or parish councillors, the process
is distinctly antidemocratic. It also smells of the private Army elite of
General Walker and his kind. But such an inference would probably be
wrong, as the circular says earlier that 'purpose·designed volunteer
'emergency' organisations should not be given special priority or status
over other community organisations.' This is understood to be a
deliberate attempt to exclude any unsatisfactory arrangements which
might be made with 'private armies' at a local level.
Again, the only county councils which are likely to respond to another
war circular are the 'shire' rural counties and others in the south. The
'wartime leaders' suggestion probably refers to arrangements made in
Devon, Somerset or Cornwall, one source suggested. Councils are now
supposed to prepare emergency plans identifying different communities',
possible suitable organisations within them, and then to encourage
self·help schemes. Many councils won't have the money, time, or interest.
Why should they, if the communities can help themselves. The Home
Office's attempts to organise central control will be unwelcome. '
Green Blight In Brum
The first Green Ban move·ment in Britain · modelled on many successful

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actions in Australia · has got off to a good start. Building workers, all
members of UCA IT, the construction union, have won the support of
Birmingham Trades Council in their attempt to prevent demolition of a
former Post Office in Brum's Victoria Square, and its replacement with a
£10 million office development.
Green Bans were described in the last issue of Undercurrents (14) in an
interview with Australian Building Workers Federation leader Jack
Mundey. Mundey has been giving lectures in many parts of Britain during
his stay.
If demolition is attempt·ed, it is now certain that union members will not
work on the site, and the site could be picketed. But the move·ment
against the development has already had effect At the start of March,
West Midland county council voted to ask Environment Minister
Crosland to revoke the planning permission granted earlier by
Birmingham City Council. The City Council has now agreed to investigate
the costs of revoking a planning decision.
The Victoria Square affair has also been notable for its murkiness. The Post
Office has no statutory power or, right to enter into a private development
to exploit their own site for non·Post Office uses. And the Post Office and
developers have been 'advised' by ex·Birmingham mayor Sir Frank Price.
As a result, apparently, planning procedures have been rushed to get
permission through, with a.lack of statutory public planning consultation
which is now being investigated by the government ombudsman.
California dreamin'
The future of nuclear power in the state of California will be put to the
test in June this year, when Californian citi·zens vote on a popular
initiative statute to limit the ways in which new nuclear power plants can
be set up in the state. The statute · 'Land Use and Nuclear Power Liability
and Safeguards Act' imposes stringent conditions.
The first condition is that any electricity company setting up a new plant
must sign a waiver for the S560 million limit on compensation payable in
the event of a nuclear reactor accident. They must accept liability for their
equipment and its failures. This measure will concentrate nuclear
proponents minds' wonderfully on problems of safety. If the utility
(electricity company) does not accept this, its power output would be
progressively restricted over 11 years until the reac.tor became illegal to
use. Similar conditions apply to fuel disposal safety, with utilities being
required to demonstrate in public complete and satisfactory methods of

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fuel disposal.
Business fronts like the 'California Council for Environmental and
Econom·ic Balance' claim that the measures will force a total shutdown
of California' existing three nuclear plants, and a moratorium m on new
construction. The proposers of the bill point out that the honesty of
nuclear safety claims can well be tested by removing the shield of a
compensation limit which stops people who are injured, mutilated or
have relatives killed in a large accident from seeking full compensation.
The bill will be decided by a referendum held in june. There is a similar
bill coming up in Oregon in 'October, with more planned for other states.
If California votes yes to the bill, the nuclear industry may soon be
fighting a rearguard action against demands for full safety · or no nukes.
Uranium Export Plan Debated
The attempts of the Australian government and mining interests to start
exploitation of a uranium mine in Aboriginal lands is meeting with
difficulty, according to Marg Smith in the Australian National Review
recently (6th February). An inquiry into the development of the proposed
Ranger mine at jabiru in Northern Territory re·opened late in February.
Commissioner Judge Fox has chosen to hear very wideranging evidence
about the environmental effects of the mine · such as the effect of
Australian uranium exports on the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Australia's new conservative government has told journalists that Japan
will be supplied from Australian sources. japan has not signed the nuclear
non·proliferation treaty.
Yet the government has prevaricated on a request from Commissioner Fox
for a clarification of the government position on uranium exports.
The commission · which is viewing the proposal in terms of
environmental impact · has reportedly been asked to report by June 30th.
Witnesses to the hear·ing, which has travelled round Australia taking
evidence, have also stressed
the impact on the Aborigines whose land the uranium has been found.
Open cast tech·niques were planned, bringing considerable hazard to the
surrounding area as well as miners, through the release of radon gas and
particular radioactive material. Further information all the campaign:
QLD Camp. PO Box 59, Toowong. 4066 Australia.

Electric Newspaper: Groups in Britain and France are proposing multi-

media distribution networks. That means texts, tapes, video recordings
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and slides which would be gathered and circulated by a central

organisation. In London, Steve Herman of International Times has
proposed the re·establishment of the Electric Newspaper, a 'people's
newsreel' which was started by an early video co-operative, about 1972.
But the price of suitable equipment, and the consequent lack of inlets and
outlets then caused the project to fold. Steve would like to hear from
anyone with offers, suggestions as to origination of material, possible
locations for regular showings or views on organisation and use of the
recycled Electric Newspaper. A similar request is made by
Connexite·Mediadrome who make very clear propos.als for classification
and organisation of radical material on audio visual of a nature. They
have already worked out a fine prepared alternative library classification
of topics for their network.

Interferences, an amazing French magazine, with an Undercurrents style,

looks ·t the technology of com·munications and social interrelations, has
just published its fourth issue, 12 Francs. from Antoine Lefebure, 94 Quai
jemmapes, Paris 75010. (Subscriptions 44 Francs). Undercurrents,
however, has a few copies of the previous edition, No 3 · No 3 covers
electronic espionage and surveillance, insurgent and counterinsurgent
radio, computers in China, graffiti communi·cations, more. It's extremely
well produced and a good (French!) read. Post free from Undercurrents,

Peoples Habitat In Dockland

In an effort to break down barriers to change a People's Habitat at
Rotherhithe Street in London will take place at the same time as the UN
Habitat Conference in Vancouver (end of May and beginning of June).
Rotherhithe Street curves round 600 acres of land lying fallow in the
Surrey Docks, 10 minutes from Tower Bridge. People's Habitat can
provide an ideal opportunity for ideas on the future of the Surrey Docks
to flourish on the spot. In fact some ideas . are already being
demonstrat·ed: an urban farm (Hilary Peter's farm is in the Surrey Docks
overlooking the Thames), allotments (they have been staked out and seeds
have been sown), graz·ing for totter's ponies (Tottie's pony is there with
hawks flying overhead). Small workshops are beginning in the old
warehouses next to the river · there are already violin makers, weavers a
printer, a glassblower, a toy maker, a saddler and a knitter. Other ideas

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could range from fish farms in the remaining docks to Colin Ward's
Do·it·Yourself New Town.
There will be buskers and street theatres · the Waterside Theatre is already
there · music will range from African to chamber music · people can
bring their own musical instruments A camp site for approximate·Iy 100
tents will be available. Information from: Fiona Cantell Intermediate
Technology Publications, 9 King Street London WC2E 8HN Tel:
2402106_ Sponsored by Comtek, Intermediate Technology Publications,
Resurgence, Street Farmers and Undercurrents.

·Windmill School
The winning project in the BBC's 'Young Scientist' competition, to be
screened during April and May, is an oscillating windmill devised by a
York school. The main component of the device is a solid aerofoil section
pivoted at its lower end. As it reaches full travel on one swing, the pitch
of the foil changes and it is driven in' the opposite direction. The team at
Pocklington school deliberately went for intermediate productive
technology rather than the more typical aping of con·sumer high
technology. The device has two advantages over conventional rotors · the
normal tower is not needed; and the reciprocating action can drive a
pump or similar device directly.
Regional Network Survey
Undercurrents has just completed a survey of the subscription list by area
which reveals interesting information about the distribution of readers
around the country. The highest concentrations are, predictably, around
London · there are 57 subscribers in Essex, 35 in Middlesex, 54 in surrey,
40 in Kent and 40 in Sussex. North London has 63, South London 72,
West 47 and East 33. The other main concentration is in the York, Leeds,
Bradford, Sheffield area · with more than 60 subscribers. There are 86 in
Scotland overall, 14 in Glasgow, 11 in Edinburgh. Cardiff has 12 and
Wales has 38, Lancaster/Lanes also 38. The main difficulty as far as the
Regional Network is concerned is that we do not have the correspondents
in some areas · and we would welcome volunteers from any of the
following locations: ·Manchester/Stockport (30 subscribers) ·Cheshire/
Chester (21) ·Liverpool (14) ·Bristol (31) ·Cambridge (24) ·Oxford (32)
·Cumbria (12) ·Glasgow (14) ·Dublin (17) ·Leicester (17) ·Derby;'Staffs
(20) ·Lines. (10) ·Northampton (20) ·Norfolk (19) ·Berks, Beds, Bucks,
Hants and Hamps, together with Surrey, Essex, Wilts, Dorset and

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Somerset, all need correspondents. ·So do Gwynedd, Dyfed & Gwent.

We also need contacts in rural Scotland and Ireland (there are 40
subscribers scattered about the North and in Eire). If you feel you would
like to join the network can you contact:
Dave Elliott, 39 Holland Park, London, W11 4UB.
The main aim of the Network is to try to build up informal contacts
between individuals and groups involved in AT or related activities. This
may lead to local group meetings and perhaps to contributions from the
regions outlining local activities for publication in UC. It shouldn't
involve too much work, just the occasional·letter, although of course
we'd be delighted if you started to generate local initiatives, contributions
and sales! There are 21 members of the Network so far: see UC issues 13
or 14 for their addresses.

Oil Industry Examined

A major report on the impact of oil development on the Aberdeen area,
Oil·on Troubled Waters, was published in March by Aberdeen People's
Press. Its basic message is that the oil boom has nothing to add but added
deprivation for most people in the Aberdeen area. It makes the richer
many of whom star in the centre spread 'Who owns Aberdeen' diagram ·
even richer, if they are astute enough, But the rest really have no choice
but to get poorer. Prices of everything, and especially housing, have risen
steeply, so that now nobody who isn't well paid can buy property in
Aber·deen. Likewise, few jobs are created in the city except for qualified
personnel. mostly immigrants from other oilfields, for whom the North
Sea is just the latest 'prospect.' This supports the case made by 01 and GA
Mackay of Aberdeen University. who claim in a recent book that the peak
of forseeable Scot·tish employment in the North Sea oil boom has already
passed with the finishing of the first batch of platforms late in 1975, And
the few who get oil jobs don't pull in the fabulous salaries we're led
to believe.
Control over the activities of the oil companies by local or central
government has, APP claim, been negligible. Although every government
recognises its obligation to look after its own country's energy supplies,
the British government has done this by encouraging offshore operators
and paying little attention to the effect of oil development on areas like
Aberdeen. Aberdeen has been in the forefront of oil development, in
defiance of long laid local plans and traditions and despite the lack of

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suitable infrastructure. Improvements in local facilities are paid for by

generally raised rates where there is often a sound case for offshore
developers, who will have almost exclusive use of facilities, paying all or
most of the cost.
The report singles out developments at Peterhead, a formerly isolated
fishing community now threatened, and the proposed new town of
Maryculter, for case studies of difficulties caused by sudden development.
Both will still be there, probably changed for the worse, when the oilmen
have moved to the Canadian Arctic, or Greenland, or another prospect.
The report holds out lillie hope for the inhabitants of these towns getting
anything they need from oil money which is presently pouring past them
The report is the product of much work, including interviews with local
officials, trade unionists, oilmen, and others. It does not apply the
portable left wing analysis against capitalism, in Scotland or anywhere
else, now or next year; and it is one of the best things yet produced by a
local activist group.
Oil on Troubled Waters. 75p from Aberdeen People's Press, 167 King
Street, Aberdeen.

Shetland hit by OiI

With the recent winter weather things in Shetland have been relatively
quiet. The Shell pipeline into Firths Voe is now complete, and work on the
Brent line has stopped temporarily with 66km of the length laid. But it
has not been smooth going all the way.
Although the testing of spill·collecting equipment is obviously vital, in
July the Department of Trade and Industry decided to spill several lots of
oil off north·east Shetland to see if they could pick it up again, ignoring
several million auks whose migration through the area is at a peak at that
time of year. As Jon Tinker pointed out in the New Scientist, the
information gained might well be wortha fair number of oiled auks, but
the most disquieting thing was that the Nature Conservancy Council, the
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and local environmental groups
were not even notified until after the times and places for the experiments
had been fixed, Luckily notice was taken of the many complaints that
were made nationally and locally, and the scale of the tests was cut back
Then in August a rig supply boat which had run aground in Lerwick
harbour pumped over 100 tons of barytes (drilling mud) over the side
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without telling anyone to try to refloat itself. It was not even pumped into
the sea, where it would have settled to the bottom, but left to blow over
grassland on the neighbouring island of Bressay. The Shetland Times ran
the story as the pumping overboard of cement, which would have been
environ·mentally disastrous (although barytes, being totally inert, can be
relatively safely dumped), but no attempt was made by the companies
involved to point out the difference.
Also in August a kilometre of the Shell pipeline mysteriously rose to the
surface of Yell Sound, apparently because quality control at the Forth
coating yard was not all it should have been and the concrete coating fell
off the pipe when it came into contact with sea·water. A Ministry enquiry
is currently under way, but Shell'themselves have totally refused to give
any public explanation of the rising pipe. They are also in trouble with
Shetland Islands Council and the local fishermen's association over
compensation to fishing boats, one of which hit the pipe at night
(expect·ing it, of course, to be.on the sea·bed) and several of which have
had their nets fouled on ex·oil jetSam (despite there being a clause in the
Council licence forbidding the tipping overboard of unwanted rubbish). .
So, heels into the peat for the next round of the great Shetland oil tug of

Post Office Parcel Spies

The Post Office, despite public reports, is not allowing the parcel service
to die without a fight. This includes spying on their competitors and
circulating the contents of business letters sent out by the firms.
According to 'Intelligence Exchange' a confidential Post Office
publication recently sent to Undercurrents, Post Office parcels service
representatives are in the habit of examining their client's.
correspondence. 'While on a customer's premises in the Bolton Area 'one
item relates, the PO's rep 'noted a current memo from Huddersfield
Parcels Ltd', pointing out their rates were 3p less per pound. The item
appeared under the heading 'Blatant Undercutting. '
In other items, the Postal Service Representative at Southampton learns
confidential information about a competitor, BRS Parcels, in a
euphemistically termed 'wide ranging discussion I no doubt following a
little gentle persuasion, Other snippets were apparently gathered by
chat·ting up competitor's drivers. And, somehow, letters sent by Securicor
to their custom·ers end up in Post Office hands. How? Parcels companies

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who operate in competition to the_ Post Office parcels service will be

interested to know that Intelligence Exchange is published several times a
year by Chris Blagg of PMkl.5 and contains 50 detailed pages of
confidential information about them. What an enterprising nationalised
industry is the PO!

IN ITS EARLY years the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science
worked as a 'pressure group' to publicise the abuse of science. During
those years it campaigned against chemical and biological warfare, the
use of CS gas in Northern Ireland, nuclear testing, and pollution. A series
of conferences were held on topics such as Science Education and The
Social Impact of Modern Biology. These conferences were 'talk shops'
concerned with abuses of science not 'workshops' aimed at organising
scientists and technicians around specific issues.
Times have changed: During the last 18 months BSSRS's work on health
hazards in industry has brought it into contact with the shop floor and left
groups. Its interpretation of the role of science and technology in society
has shifted away from a use/abuse model towards a marxist·based
analysis. Some of the work that BSSRS has done over the past year
includes ·
• Talks to trade union groups on health hazards issues.
• The reprinting of The New Technology of Repression: Lessons from
• The publication of an internal bulletin to inform members of BSSRS
activities and to be a forum for political debate on its work and aims.
• A Hazards Bulletin to support trade union struggles to improve the
conditions of work in British industry.
We are in the process of drafting a new Policy Statement. When this draft
was discussed at our AGM in November it raised some basic questions
about the nature of BSSRS, its
political position and its constituency, including:
• the need for BSSRS to serve as an 'umbrella' group for individuals of
varying political positions.
• BSSRS's task is not so much to radicalise scientists and technicians as to
pro·vide a focus for the activity of radicalised scientists and technicians.
• BSSRS's present structure with a National Committee and central office
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combined with autonomous local groups should be maintained. • BSSRS

must increase its membership amongst indus·trial scientific workers, i.e.
our membership is still too college·based.
• We must avoid becoming bogged down in theoretical debate, i.e., our
theory should be closely linked to our action.
Sound interesting? You can contact us c/o BSSRS. 9 Poland St, London WI
(01·43727281· Members receive our quarterly magazine Science for
People,and reductions on pamphlets. There's plenty of work to be done.

how to get there
Windscale is eleven miles south of Whitehaven, Cumbria due west of
Wasdale and the Scafell Pikes (from which it can easily be seen in clear
weather). Get to it via the A595, turning off at Gosforth (from the north) or
Holmrook (from the sou·th). The meeting will probably be in the car park
outside the main gate (British Nuclear Fuels permitting) starting about 1
pm. The Nuclear Excursion leaves London at 7.30 am_ It will stop at
Watford, Birmingham, Crewe, Warrington, 'and Preston, and arrive at
Sea·scale at about 1 pm. Return fare from London will be £5. There may
still be a few seats left. Contact Czech Conroy at the FOE London office
for details (9. Poland St, W1, phone 01·434 1684). Coaches will run to
Windscale from other parts of the country. Contact your local FOE group
for details.
Torness is five miles south·east of Dunbar and twentyfive miles northwest
of Berwick on the A 1. FOE will be running a soup kitchen Buses run
every two hours and will stop anywhere en route to put you down or pick
you up. Edinburgh FOE will probably be running some coach·es. Contact
Mary Mclintock for details (031 2257752 office or 031 5572516 home)
Assemble at the campsite at Thorntonloch. Coming from Dunbar, get to it
via the road running east from the second of the two road junctions
signposted to Crow·hill and Thornton.
Size well is on the Suffolk coast six miles east of Sax·mundham. Get to it
via the A 12 London to Lowestoft Road, turning off at Saxmundham
(B119) from the south and Blythburgh (B1125) or Yoxford (Bl122) from

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the north. Coaches will run from Cambridge. from the South Coast, and
probably, from Milton Keynes. Groups from other parts of East Anglia may
run their own coaches or they may make their way to Cambridge,
depending on numbers. The Cambridge contingent will leave from the
Senate House at 9 am. For further details contact Rob Edwards at Jesus
College (room K11). You can leave a message on Cambridge 68611.

Education Media Lash Out

The Open University's course on Man·Made Futures is going public from
the start of 1977. The course · which looks at crises in food, housing and
jobs, .and suggests alternative living systems· is joining the list of
post·experience courses which can be taken in isolation without
registering for an OU degree. An important part of the course is the
project. Potential projects can cover a wide range of familiar ideas such
as solar heating, food growing co·operatives, or using waste materials in
farming. More details from the au: Walton Hall. Milton Keynes_ It is
possible to buy the course books, which are specially written. in
bookshops. or with other materials. from the OU.

National Health Prevention

With the National Health Service gasping for funds, it .might have been
thought that the government's Consultative Document Prevention and
Health: Everybody's Business might have come up with one or two
positive ideas on how people might take their health into their own hands
and reduce the burdensome queues in the GP's surgery and at the
Hospital gates. But apart from regurgitating the arguments for and against
screening (with minimal cost benefit analysis), and identifying the effects
on health of people's life styles·from smoking, drinking, and doping to
'the sexual revolution and the changing environment' the document has
little to offer in the way of ideas for stimulating the physical and mental
well·being of the community.
The report devolves responsibility for preventive medicine on the
individual himself. 'There is a danger that people are led to think they
have discharged their respon·sibility for their own health if they have
taken this test or accepted that procedure. Important though these are,
there is more to it than that. Much of the responsibility for ensuring his
own good health lies with the individual. We can all influence others by
our'own actions.'

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A bit of a cop out considering the continuing official embarrassment and

blind eye turned towards the first comprehensive experiment' in
community preventive medicine, the Peckham Health Centre. When this
was started just before the war it was equipped with gym, swimming
pool, theatre and recreation rooms. Consulting surgeries were
conspicuously unfeatur·ed. The idea behind the project was that health
was just as powerful and infectious as disease. Children would encourage
their parents to come along, and the health of the whole family would
But by 1951 the Centre was closed and one of its founders, Scot
Williamson was writing, 'The sequence of events which have led up to
the ending of the Peckham Experiment makes it impossible to escape the
observation that a 'Welfare State' must be the sale arbiter of its nation's
destiny. To maintain its integrity it can brook no influence that comes
from outside its own programme of compelling 'care.' It stands upon the
ground of cure and prevention of disease, disorder and vice. It is not
ready to consider the possibility that the cultivation of order, ease and
virtue in society might prove an even greater power for the welfare of the
people than the abiding 'care'of the administrator. '
Since the closure of the Centre a small group of medics under the name
Pioneer Health Centre Ltd. have been trying to keep its ethos alive.
Currently the University of St Andrews is talking of running a
Peckham·style project in the new town of Glenrothe in Fife But the
Peckham concept has never been happ·ily accommodated by the
administrators who hold the purse strings. Current financial difficulties in
the Health Service only exacerbate their disinclination to investigate new
departures in medicine. But the savings, not to mention the intrinsic gains
of Peckham type experiments are not the sort that can be calculated by
the economists of the DHSS.
What's On
Technical Meeting and AGM on April 22, from 1)".45 ·17.30. This will
take place at the Main Hall of N.E. London Polytechnic, Forest Road,
London EI7, and the theme is European Solar Houses. Included will be
talks on the Philips House, in Aachen, the Euroc House, Sweden, and the
Milton Keynes Solar House. Tickets are available from the Secretary,
UK·ISES, The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London WIX 4B5.
There is to be an EASTER CONFERENCE ON LAND at Laurieston Hall,
April 16·23. The object of the conference is to survey the work people
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have done relating to the politics. of land, to exchange experiences and

question our aims. The weekend will be devoted mainly to discussion on
the politics of land tenure, followed by a greater emphasis on the
practical side of living off the land. Some suggestions for workshop
discussions are: how to make a small plot of land viable, and also the
production of a manifesto of agricultural policy. You can also visit some of
the local groups. For more details, write to Land Conference, Laurieston
Hall. Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. It will cost £1.75p per
day and you will be welcome for all or part of the week, Book now, as
numbers will be limited.
MUSTARD SEED · a Festival of Alter·native Living in Ireland will happen
from 8 pm April 23·25 at the Glencree Peace Centre, Co. Wick low ,
which is 12 miles from the centre of Dublin. There will be
workshops, demonstrations of self·sufficiency skills, intermediate
technology, celebrations, music and a market. Accommodation will be
rough, as this is mountain country. For more information write to Michael
Walsh, Fieldside, Knocklyon Road, Firhouse, Dublin 14. Telephone:
Dublin 977741.
SERA (Socialist Environmental and Resource Association) will be holding
a one·<day conference on 'Alternatives to the Dole Queue·Socially
Useful Work', on May 8 in Greenwich. See Features p.39.
Conference on June 19. The theme is Medical Ethics. one title so far being
'Half Alive, Half Dead in the Technological Age', from Dr. John Bickford.
Details from the TFCM. St. Marks Chambers, Kennington Park Road, SEll
BSSRS are holding meetings every fortnight at Adam's Arms, Conway
Street (opposite the Post Office tower) at 6.30 pm. The next few titles in
these Science and Socialism discussions are: April 6·He.alth and Safety;
April·20· The Politics of Ideology; May 4·ideology in Physics; \·fay 18·
The Proletarianism of Scientific Workers; June I·Science, Ideology and the
Real World. More information from Dot Griffiths. 01·452 6249.
There will be an ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY WEEK at Merton
Technical College, sometime in May. They hope to have outdoor exhibits
and demonstrations of various machines as well as many interesting talks
and films. We don't know which dates they have chosen, so if you wish
to know more phone Geoffrey Leigh, Dept. of General Education and
Science, 01·640 3001.
Go on a NUCLEAR EXCURSION AND RALLY to Windscale organised by
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FOE, on Saturday April 24th. See article elsewhere in Eddie s.

DESIGN FOR NEED is the title of a conference at the RCA to be held on
April 12·1 ... It will look at a variety of projects aimed at meeting social
ENVIRONMENTAL HUSBANDRY is the theme of a course to be held at
The College, Danebank A venue, Crewe, Cheshire, from April 29·May 1.
It is organised by the Soil Association and will cover the principles and
practice of environmental husbandry, organic farming, nutrition and
economics. Lecturers include Dr. E. Schumacher, Dr. B. Latto, and Mr.
Sam Mayall, whose organic farm will be visited. Course fee is £ 12. or £5
per day all inclusive. Write fOT a programme and form to Don farmer. at
the college.
The Alternative Society is holding a NEW COMMUNITIES EXCHANGE
weekend June 18·20, at Celmi, Tywyn, Merionethshire. This weekend is
to act as an exchange where those interested in joining new community
endeavours will be able to link up with those who are already taking part
in such work, and will gain from the wide range of experience they have
accumulated. Write to 9 Morton Ave., Kidlington, Oxford, for details.
MEGALITHIC SITES is an exhibition at the ICA, Nash House, the Mall,
from April 7 to May 2. It is about astronomical and geometrical
indications in standing stones, circles and avenues in the British Isles and
France, with Prof. A. Thorn's drawings and plans, and photographs by
others. Also included in this exhibition will be the results of the computer
study of the megalithic alignments of Lands End by Pat Gadsby and Chris
Hutton·Squire of Undercurrents
Concurrently with it is Wind and Water, an exhibition of aspects of
Geomancy. This was the way in which the Chinese used a geo·mancer's
compass in assessing the landscape and topography for architecture and
engineering of landscape. Both exhibitions are FREE, so don't miss them!
PEOPLE'S HABITAT (see article in Eddie's) will be at Surrey Docks from
29th May to June 6th.
In STOCKHOLM, the ARARAT group are holding their exhibition (see
Undercurrents 14) on Alternative Research in Architecture, ReSources Art
and Technology. The exhibition runs from April lst to June 10th. ARARAT,
Skeppsholmen, Fack, Stockholm.
ORGANISING AN EVENT?? Please send any information for inclusion in
this section to Barbara Kern at Undercurrents.

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
ICATTY letter
Since Mr l:Godfrey Boyle, writing about the ICAT conference, displays a
passion for washing dirty linen. I gladly present him with the following
sad lapse for his laundrette. For I 100 have a passion. one no! shared by
Mr Boyle: it is for truth· fulness in reporting. Very much depends on it if
we are ever 10 get anywhere. I was Chairman of the final Plenary· Mr
Boyle says that I "failed to allow any time for an attempt to reach a
constructive synthesis" and that "this contrasted strongly with the careful
organization of the rest of the event." Alas: e,"'en in this backhanded
compliment Mr Boyle's fascinating capacity for getting it wrong shines
forth. I should have thought that 'careful organisation' was about the last
description which would have occurred to anybody who was there·. It
was in fact a revoltingly badly organised event, and had it not been for
the frantic efforts of a handful of last·minute volunteers, I doubt whether it
would have started at all. This sadly mundane reason was the cause of
half the messup in the final Plenary. The other half was caused by the
supporters of Mr Boyle. The facts are these:
I. The Plenary had about Sill hours' work to get through in three. I
explained this at the start and asked ·or co·operation. For the most part I
got it and was grateful: but even with that I had no hope of ensuring a
hearing for all, or even most, of the matters chat should have been
brought forward.
2. With one exception all reporters from commissions went overtime and
I don't blame them, for the time they were allowed was derisory. But Mr
Boyle's men really turned the timetable into a dog's dinner. Not for them
a single reporter; they must have three, I assume because they did not
trust each other: and all of them went overtime. Nor, in fairness, was
theirs the only commission to adopt this wildly impracticable fad.
3. Once, when the discussion had degenerated into personal
mudslinging, I sought guidance from the audience, as I had said I would
do; and they, having made it quite clear that they had had enough, I
terminated the discussion. No doubt, Mr Boyle disapproved of me; but,
even at such heavy cost, that is what I would do again.
4. Finally with regard to the washing of linen: Commission 8 approached
me in the lunch·break, i.e. immediately before the Plenary, to ask for my
help in getting their statement photocopied for circulation. I at once
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reached for my typewriter and took it down at their dictation; that is how
it got OUt and I am glad it did. In fact I disagreed with the criticism of the
ICAT organisers in its first paragraph; but had I. because of that, wanted to
suppress this document all I needed to do was to continue placidly
munching my Civil Aid lunch.
All of this is perfectly well· known to Mr Boyle, but not to those of your
readers who were not at the Conference. These might be tempted to
believe what he writes, a risky thing to do without independent
I'm glad that Mr Boyle was pining for a constructive synthesis. Maybe I'm
dim; but the actions of the radicals somehow failed to suggest this to me.
They seemed to have thought that the way to make progress was to pUt
up as many backs possible including, mistakenly, _ my own: for the really
funny thing about all this is that I was privately in favour of the radical
view all along, though as Chairman of a highly disparate conference I
was not entitled to say so. The view, yes; the tactics, never. What I
privately suffered up there, longing to rescue a good policy statement
from the hamfisted fools who were mangling its chances! With better
sense · and a lot less persecution·mania · it could have won a lot of
support; it could have been the partial resolution of differences which Mr
Boyle says he was seeking; I am personally hath sad and angry that it
didn't happen. but for that the gutter·tactics·of some · though by no
means all · of the radicals are to blame.
D.G.Arnott The Holt, Chorley Wood, Herts WD3 SSQ

Don Arnott's wild over·reaction to my relatively restrained comments on

his ICAT chairmanship serve only to confirm my suspicion that my shafts
of criticism touched a nerve of truth. To take his points one by one. The
Conference may·not have seemed "carefully organised" to Mr Arnott:
organisers of conferences tend 10 see only the backstage chaos. But {or
us participants, the impression given by the elaborate registration
procedure, the advance documentation, and the generally regimented air
of the proceedings was definitely one of order. not chaos.
I utterly reject his assertion that I and my 'supporters' (and incidentally ·
though conspiracy theorists like; Mr Arnott will not believe me · I had
never met any of my 'supporters' until the Conference) somehow
sabotaged the timetable. I timed the various com·mission reports very
carefully, and the only one to keep reasonably on time was the one in

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which I participated. We overran our allotted 10 minutes by only 2

minute· but Mr Arnott allowed some of the other reports to lost for half·an
hour. If he had been as strict with the other commissions a.t he was with
us 'radicals', there would have been at least an hour left for synthesis at
the end. There is insufficient space for me 10 rebut the rest of Mr Amott's
unfounded assertions. I left Mr Arnott's name out of my original report
because I did not want to indulge in the pointless personal mudslinging to
which he now seems to have descended. AII I can say is that at no time
did any band of 'hamfisted' 'radicals' armed with 'gutter tactics' attempt
to make a 'dogs dinner' out of the event. And if Mr Amott believes they
did, well, I feel sorry for him. Godfrey Boyle

Visiting my son recently in Western Australia, the land of the bore·hole
and wind·pump, I noticed that Perth's affluent city dwellers were
adopting solar heating· of water. This is hardly surprising: on December
30 at 0 noon my thermometer read 70 C under glass in a sealed air cavity
with a dark grey absorption slab of concrete under it. For about a year a
small panel about 5 metres square has been on the market for about
£600; the cost is said to be recovered in 5 years. The unit is simply
planted on the roof and plumbed directly to mains pressure. Water now is
by convection. However, installation costs are high because plumbing is
considered to be highly·skilled work not to be done by amateurs.
A number of those who approached me for advice concluded that a
BRAD·style pumped system would be better value; most already had
corrugated iron roofs and so decided on a trickle system with a storage
tank below the roof. Efficiency is not crucial in these latitudes and they
thought they could opera Ie such a system manually, without thermostatic
Bill Crowe 179 Strand Road Merrion Dublin 4 Eire


Unlike the various critics, I thought Woody's style was a model of clarity.
Having recently read a lot of Ivan Illich's work, I was glad to find
someone who does use more than the absolute minimum of words. It is
easier to read and understand a longwinded essay on a difficult topic than
something as tightly written as llIich's stuff. I suspect thai the reason the
var·ious moaners found Woody's style incomprehensible was really that
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they found the subject unfamiliar. Sorry, but I consider anyone who
expects to understand one article on an unfamiliar topic without doing
any background reading is a fool. Understanding rarely comes without
effort, and your typical genius Who understands anything instantly has
typically devoted many hours of eyestrain to reading countless books on
every topic imaginable, and a few others.
Sandy Morrison Dun Romin 47 Church Road Dover


We were a bit disappointed with the tone of the article on the Fiskeby V
soyabean (Undercurrents 11) We have grown this bean here (70 kms.
from Stockholm) for two seasons now and can say that we are veT)'
happy with it and feel that it is a very significant development · especially
for AT oriented agriculturalists. AT cannot stand by itself · it must be
combined with some decentralisation of society and the development of
rural self·sufficient communities. This means vegetable protein which in
northern climates is not easy. So we are grateful for this bean. The first
season we had about 50% germination and good yield (we're not into
recording exact figures) comparable to the other beans we grew. The
second year we used the previous year's crop for seed. The result was
better: about 80% germination and resistance to strong frost in which
other beans were lost . We recommend starting with commercial seed
bUI keeping back some of your own produce for seed thus developing
better strains for the particular conditions. Also it makes you more
self·reliant and keeps you out of the clutches of big business.
Brian Porter Tim Ohlund Box 559 A 19063 Orsundsbro Sweden


Have you ever thought about the potential of disused railway lines? We
have been living on one in a 20' geodesiC dome for three months.
No·one seems to mind. We were protected from the storms at New Year
because we were in a cutting. It would be no problem to try it on with a
caravan. Thanks to Dr. Beeching such lines are to be found all over the
Macintyre of Spoilbank and Claire c/o Alford PO Lincolnshire


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I hope the following may promote thought about an alternative energy

source. It came from a countryman whose wrinkled cynicism became
positively prunelike when I attempted to get his assistance with a slurry
source for a possible methane digester. His comment · "There's more heat
than you could use in the haystack, if you can find a way of getting it
out." He's right · or else my thermometer, jury rigged on a long stick, is
being sucked by hot·blooded rat. In my case, the house is alongside an
old barn permanently used for hay storage, but when one thinks of the
millions of haystacks built every year up and down the land, the mind
boggles. Are they primitive thermopiles or am I being romantic? Could
any of your more scientific readers advise me of the prospects here, or at
least steer me towards someone who has looked into it?
R. Brown 73 Deodar Road London SW1S


Inset in my kitchen window is a small plastic rotary extractor fan, which
whirls away ceaselessly all day. It uses no electricity, and is caused to
revolve · or 50 I'Ve always assumed · by the difference in temperature,
and Therefore of air pressure, between the two sides of the kitchen
window. At any rate, it stops abruptly when the kitchen door is opened
onto the yard. Otherwise, even the most negligible pressure differential
seems to start it spinning. Now, I'm writing in the hope that someone will
disillusion me by saying that the rotor does not work for the reason I'Ve
assumed; that it could not be used to charge a battery; that even if it
could, it would not be economically practical; thai one could not build
'air engines' consisting of large, black·painted boxes or tubes with rotor/
dynamos set in them. Please let me know why it won't work · I',n
beginning to day· dream on the cooling·tower scale!
Frank Adey 130 Victoria Street Willenhall West Midlands WV 13

I read with interest your Communesense Guide to Planning
(Undercurrents 1.1). This area certainly presents problems if you are not
familiar with planning applications, building regulations, improvement
grants, and so on. The fact is that there are no hard and fast rules: the
correct tactics will vary according to the circumstances of each case.
Remember that Local Government keeps files on everything and each
department may have its own 'history' of your property. Do not let on to
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anyone what you are doing until you have worked out your tactics. I have
considerable experience of both sides of the problem: I have worked in
Development Control Planning for 2 1/2 years; al the same time, with
some friends I completely renovated a 17th century cottage without
having even applied for planning permission; I have also advised on a
number of similar projects.
Go into it thoroughly before making an application and get good advice
from someone who knows what he is talking about. The best advice is
obtainable from the Planning Officers themselves but you may find it
hard to convey your ideas without giving too much away. Emphatically,
do not attempt to study the Planning Acts: they are so incomprehensible
as 10 be of little value; I have not read them myself. Instead, read 'The
Town and Country Planning (General Development Order)
1973' (HMSO) which tells you what you can do without applying for
permission. To find out what your Council's policies are, look in the
Written Statement attached to the Development Plan or Structure Plan.
If you decide to apply for Building Regulations Approval (in the right
circumstances there are ways of avoiding it) try to get on friendly terms
with the Building Inspector. He may make several visits to inspect the
work and he can offer valuable advice and more. Those I have known are
very human bureaucrats and do enjoy a cup of tea and a fag. You can
familiarise yourself with the basic rules of this game by studying the
Building Regulations 1972 (and the subsequent amendments) or 'The
Guide to the Building Regulations 1972' by A.G. Elder (Architectural
Press 1972).
Regarding communes, in most cases there should be no problem. The
Planning Authority is only likely to be alerted when a 'change of use'
application is made; it is not concerned with how many people live in a
place, though the Public Health Inspector might be interested if he
suspects there is overcrowding. I would be pleased to advise any
Undercurrents readers on specific planning problems.
Gary Burton Rox Pole Thornbury Nr. Bromyard Herefordshire

On the question of milk yields from goats (Undercurrents 11 and 12): the
figures are available for those that care to enquire. Anyone who keeps
goats seriously either has them officially recorded or does it himself to see
that feeding and breeding are carried out on a rational basis. A goat

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giving much less than 200 gallons will eat as much as one giving 300, so
why keep a poor yielder'? If you go in for buying scrub goats then don't
complain if they don't milk welL
Tom Kewell Little Pook Hill Farm Burwash Weald Sussex


I am writing a standard popular book on leyhunting. It will be published
by Fontana in February next year. I am writing to ask leyhunters to send
me examples of leys they have found for inclusion in the book. I want 10
include leys from all over the British Isles. Each ley should take in at least
four points on a 1:50,000 O.S. map. As I have to complete Leyhunting by
the end of April please send them to me as soon as possible.
Michael Balfour 32 Egerton Gardens London SW3

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Harper Radical Technology
Radical Technology is the name of our just·published book. 'Radical
Technology' is also the name we've given to an eclectic collection of
concepts which began life a few years ago under the
increasingly·unsatisfactory banner of 'Alternative Technology'. We've
been trying to clarify them ever since. Here, from the Introduction to the
book, is Peter Harper's latest attempt to nail them down .
GIVEN THAT modern capitalist industrial societies are morally
contemptible, ruthlessly exploitative, ecologically bankrupt, and a hell of
a drag to live in, is there anything we can do to change them? Let us grant
that remedial gimmicks such as economic growth jags, foreign aid, Billy
Graham, catalytic afterburners, and lobotomy on demand are not going
to do the trick. Let's face it, nobody has all the answers. But something
has got to be done, and this book is a compilation of proposals which we
think are going in the right direction. 'We' are a group of friends who for
the past four years have been producing a magazine (Undercurrents)
under the slogan Radical Science and People's Technology'. It always
saves a lot of trouble to have a strong party line, and trying to work this
out, we are per·petually tracking the elusive beast which we now call
'Radical Technology' in order to cage it once and for all. In spite of all our
efforts it remains at large. (Who knows where it will strike next?)
But to resume the hunt: the word 'radical' literally means 'going to the
root', and accordingly 'radical technology' implies a fundamental
re·examination of the role of technology in modern societies. It also
implies a commitment to the ideals of the political Left. Let's say we're
into liberation. We have to break through the political, economic, social,
and psychological forces that constrain and oppress us. The trouble is
these forces hold one another together in a web of mutual reinforcement
so consistent that it's hard to know where to begin loosening their grip:
patterns of ownership, status games, the way you work, what you learned
at school, what the neighbours think, who gives the orders, what turns
you on, what you see on TV, what you can or cannot buy .... Technology
is one of these also, but we think it's a good place to get your fingers in
the crack. Out of that assumption a syncretic model is developing which
is both descriptive and normative, and suggests that real socialism will
require a reassess·ment of the whole basis of productive activity:
machines, methods, products, work·places, work·patterns, training,

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allocation of work, loci of control, reward systems, distribution, pricing,

economic co·ordination, attitudes, engineering principles, conventional
scientific theory ....
Where does this 'model' come from? You can only ever see it out of the
corner of your eye, so it's difficult to say. But we can identify a number of
influences which have accumulated over the years, starting in the febrile
days of the late '60s, when young scientists and technologists·and even
some old ones · were dropping out like flies into spaces of personal and
political discovery they never dreamed existed.
Critics of industrial society
Industrialisation hasn't always been an easy pill to swallow, and it has
had its critics. In the past few decades, as Western capitalism moved into
high gear for its assault on the consumerist Parnassus, a new version of
19th century pessimism emerged, with critics arguing from several
different standpoints that the whole thing was quite intolerable. Writers
like Huxley, Mumford, Ellul, Marcuse, Roszak and Iilich hardly
constituted a coherent school of thought, but they had in common a
belief that modern technological·industrial society itself engendered most
of the problems, not just particular forms of it, such as capitalism. This
implied dismantling the technostructure and decentralising into a simpler,
more spartan and generally rural,form. Some critics went even further and
asserted that the scientific world·view itself · objective, analytic,
reductionistic, dispassionate, manipulatory · was the root of modern
alienation. Th is implied a romantic, even mystical, reconstruction that
drew inspiration from pre·industrial technologies and primitive' culture.
Well, some of us fell for this and some of us didn't, but it certainly made
us think about technology and 'modern consciousness' and what being
human was all about.
Meanwhile, it was hard to be young in the sixties and not get caught up
in the wild cultural revolution against the dominant values of industrial
culture reliability, ambition, obedience, technical rationality, privacy,
competitiveness, consuming, mask·wearing etc. · influencing and
influenced by the anti·industrial intellectuals. The freaks were into
relationships, communalism, head .trips, being rather than having or
doing. Their technologies (apart from domes, beads, and candles) were
inner technologies·, for exploring worlds in the head, and creating a
mode, a mood, a vision, a way of seeing and feeling more alive. It was

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true the freaks tended to be parasitic on society as a whole, living in the

interstices. But they were cheap to run and they pioneered a whole new
life style of hedonic poverty. Some of us got into that trip and were never
the same again.
Another plague of the late sixties was the Apocalyptic Mania. Some of us
caught this very badly. We did get over it eventually, but what remained
was an awareness the Old Left never had, and still hesitates to take into
account, of the physical and biological constraints on global human
action. You can't go on growing forever, increasing energy consumption,
use of raw materials, population; and you can't treat the biosphere like an
infinite rubbish dump. Suspecting a basic incompatibility between
industrial technology and long·term environmental stability, many people
felt that the only really safe technologies in the long run were those
which imitated 'Nature' as far as possible, or at least treated her with
appropriate deference. This led them to the familiar criteria of arcadian
technology in smallness, frugality, antiquity, rural setting, use of natural
materials, and the cult of 'self·sufficiency'. More pragmatically, it
spawned 'biotechnics' or 'Low·impact Technology', and all the familiar
gadgetry of renewable·resource devices like windmills, solar collectors,
methane digestors etc, of which this book has its due share.
The Third World
The spectacle of advanced technology applied in the non·industrial
countries was extraordinary, even under the aegis of a 'benign' aid
programme. It reduced rather than increased employment, produced
luxury goods for the ruling class rather than essentials for the masses,
accentuated the disparity of city and countryside, eroded old skills and
exchange patterns, and created a tremendous dependence on foreign
supplies of material, parts and technical assistance." 'Development' did
take place, if GNP is any witness, but in a hideously distorted form. As an
alternative it was suggested (originally by Schumacher) that smaller scale,
labour·intensive technics based on local skills and resources ·
'intermediate technology' · would allow more even development,
production geared to real needs, and greater self·reliance. This impressed
us as further testimony of the evils of Big Technology and of the
remarkable 'Taming Power of the Small'.
The only missing ingredient was socialism. At this point, inevitably, China
enters the story. She was practising many principles of radical technology

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in a strikingly original way, reviving the old arts and blending them with
the new; decentralising factories; judiciously combining big and small
technology so as to get the best out of each; using natural materials and
waste·products; encouraging self·reliance at all levels; and creating a
balance of mental and manual work in a context of rigorous equality and
guaranteed welfare rights. What was important to us was that the Chinese
seemed to invert the conventional strategy. Instead of putting the sole
emphasis on economic growth and hoping that social benefits would
accrue as a side effect, the Chinese set out to establish social justice and
minimum living standards, and found that economic growth appeared as
if from nowhere. They put people before economics and the heavens did
not fall down, even at a GNP per capita of under $200 · whatever that
might mean in China's case. It can be done. The Chinese were, and
remain, an inspiration.
The anarcho·utopian tradition
Right from the beginning we were all socialists of one kind or another.
We didn't need any persuading that capitalism had to go. And yet, many
of the things we felt were most wrong in capitalist society were heartily
approved by many others who called themselves socialists. We began to
realise that there are two great streams of socialist thought. One,
represented by Marxists and social democrats, however deep its
disagreement with capitalism, at least shared its rational, materialist
values of Progress, Science, Efficiency, Specialisation, Growth,
Centralised Power, and fascination with the numbing achievements of
smart·ass technology like Apollo and Concorde. And this was not all.
They seemed to have a model of social development similar in many
respects to the ideology of corporate liberalism: that society should be
organised for maximum production, with the products themselves being
the principal rewards, offered as compensation for the inevitable
alienations of life and work in an industrial economy. Of course, under
these tough·and·realistic forms of socialism, distribution would be fairer,
work safer, products more rational, and public services much better. This
was not in question. But the basic separation of production and
consumption, the assumption of alienation·with·compensation, and
technocratic criteria for social priorities;was broadly the same as liberal
capitalism. Even the projected future was similar. Provided we all worked
hard and behaved ourselves, eventually a state would arrive
('post·industrial society', 'communism') in which machines would take
over most of the work and we could all go out and play.

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But the other great stream of socialist thought, represented by the

anarchists and utopians, looked at things quite differently. At first one
could hardly take them seriously. They seemed to believe that the subtle
human satisfactions should be given priority over production
require·ments; that life should be satisfying in all its aspects; that power
should flow from below; that the action is not all in the city; that
production and consumption need not be segregated in the factory and
the home, but could be fused in the .& community; that revolutions are
born of e hope, not despair. It is probably true that in the 19th I century
all this was hopelessly impractical · premature as they say · but later
examples of local or regional economy run by anarchist collectives,
although short·lived for external reasons, encouraged us a great deal. It
became obvious that there were no technical or economic reasons why
decentralised, participatory producer· and consumer· control production
systems could not be set up which would be quite 'efficient' enough to
provide all the necessities and a good deal more. The main obstacle to
realising it may be merely that people hardly dare believe it could be
true. It became clear that part of our task was to persuade them that it
was. What do we do while waiting for the revolution? We let out
imaginations off the leash and get on with building parts of the
post·revolu·tionary society wherever and whenever we can.
What emerges from these varied influences is a jumble of theories and
elements: A theory of technology and society which insists that we con
control technology, but if we don't it will control us; Recognition of
physical and biological constraints on human activity; Social structure
emphasising group autonomy and control from the bottom UP' A bias
towards simplicity and frugality in life and technology wherever possible;
Preference for direct gratification in production rather than through the
medium of commodities; An exploratory rather than a dogmatic
application of the theory (such as it is ... ); Willingness to learn from
unlikely sources such as 'primitive' cultures and technologies, 'mystical'
experiences or abilities, and even liberal social theory. This may seem a
strange chimera. Well, we have no monopoly on radical technology.
Make up your own criteria if you don't like these. Two topics deserve
more comment. One is the question of romantic sensibility in technology,
and related to it, economic restraint as a positive and deliberate life style.
A focus on 'inner life' may be far more rational than we think in terms of
buzzes received for effort expended. Neither need it be incompatible
with a fine command of the hardware · as Robert Pirsig demonstrated in

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Zen and the Art of Motor·cycle Maintenance. Likewise, frugal life·games

may be far more efficient than opulence·games in terms of resources
needed for satisfaction gained · down there in the lower reaches of the
marginal utility curves.
The other topic, in many ways complementary to the last, concerns the
nature of production and how small·scale community technologies can fit
into a wider national or regional economy. Some goods must be
mass·produced centrally. It is possible but unlikely that 'alternative
technologies' could be introduced in factories. What is really needed is
change of ownership; change in the patterns of immediate control;
change of work·organisation on the shop floor; and change of products.
And this in a context of reduced factory work, as useless production is
progressively cut out, and the output of useful goods and services
increases at .the community and household levels. Of course, rotation of
work, adjustments of money and other rewards, consultation with
consumers, variable hours, and so on, all have to be continually debated.
The aim is an optimum balance of public, community, and private
What's the next step? Most of the ideas that have been around for some
time can be found in this book. The programme continues in its ad hoc
way. We finish this little hunting party with a few of the ideas 'we are
working on/thinking about/ wondering if.
• Community projects: self·building; community workshops (see Vision
No 5); community gardening (see Vision No 1); patient·controlled
medical centres; zeroprofit enterprises; self·organised projects by
unemployed people; swap·shops and recycling depots; tool·sharing
schemes; food conspiracies; consumer takeovers of established co·ops.
• Industry: workers' co·operative takeovers in existing firms; alternative
product possibilities; campaigns for the right to do socially useful work;
community and consumer consultation; special retraining schemes;
support for strikes and sit·ins.
• Alternatives for scientists and technologists: a network of 'free range'
technologists engaged in community work, repairs, evening classes, and
research; science·based living collectives; wandering technical tinkers;
new courses in technical colleges; universities, polytechnics, and schools;
directories of alternative work for scientists and technologists.
• Land reform: campaigns for measures to break up large holdings; forms
of collective ownership, community land trusts; repopulation of

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countryside; national self·sufficiency. in food; city allotments.

• Rural communities: conversion of conventional farms and derelict land
to intensive husbandry; new rural villages (see Vision No 3); clearing
house for information on available land; small industrial projects;
directories of part time work; exchanges between city and country;
courses in new techniques.
• Legal and economic changes: campaign for guaranteed annual income;
flexible work times; new laws concerning communal groups and
collective ownership; alternative finance, credit unions, community
• Analysis: economic analysis of , particular alternatives; radical
Technology Assessment; 'mal·employment analysis' what work is actually
useless? Planning for transition to a low·energy society; encouragement of
radical technology and radical economics thesis topics for students. That's
all. There is a lot of work to do, but one of the nicest discoveries one can
make is to realise that work is the biggest turn·on of all if you think it's
worthwhile and you control it yourself. Kropotkin said something nice
about this:
"Struggle that all may live this rich, overflowing life, and be sure that in
doing so you will find a happiness that nothing else can give."

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Jeavons How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought
on less land than you can imagine
A system of agriculture which could make it possible to grow an entire
balanced diet on between one quarter and one twentieth of the land
required by present agribusiness techniques sounds almost too good to
be true. Yet Ecology Action of the Midpeninsula, a non·profit
environmental education group based in California, believes that such
yields are possible using the 'Biodynamic/French Intensive' system which
they have been researching for four years.
Compared with present commercial agricultural techniques, the system,
they claim, uses only one half to one sixteenth of the nitrogen fertiliser,
one half to one sixteenth of the water, and just one hundredth of the
energy, per pound of food produced. You still don't believe it? See if John
Jeavons can convince you .
THE BIODYNAMIC/French intensive method of horticulture is a quiet,
vitally alive art of organic gardening which relinks man with the whole
universe around him · a universe in which each of us is an interwoven
part of the who Ie. Man finds his place by relating and co·operat·ing in
harmony with the sun, air J rain, soil, moon, insects, plants and animals
rather than by attempting to dominate them. All these elements will teach
us their lessons and do the gardening for us if we will only watch and
listen. We each become gentle shepherds providing the conditions for
plant growth.
The method is a combination of two forms of horticulture begun in
Europe during the late 1800s and early 19005. French intensive
techniques were developed in the 1890s outside Paris on two acres of
land. Crops were grown in an 18·inch depth of horse manure, a fertilizer
which was readily available. The crops were grown so close to each other
that when the plants were mature their leaves would barely touch. The
close spacing provided a mini..climate and a living mulch which reduced
weed growth and helped hold moisture in the soil. During the winter,
glass jars were placed over seedlings to give them an early start The
gardeners grew nine crops each year and even grew melon plants during
the winter.
Rudolf Steiner

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The biodynamic techniques were developed by Rudolf Steiner, an

Austrian genius, philosopher and educator in the early 1920s. Noting a
decline in the nutritive value and yields of crops in Europe, Steiner traced
the cause to the use of the newly introduced inorganic, chemical
fertilizers and pesticides. An increase was also noticed in the number of
crops affected by disease and insect problems. The inorganic, chemical
fertilizers were not complete and vital meals for the plants, but single
physical nutrients in a salt form. Initially, only nitrogen fertilizers were
used to stimulate growth. Later phosphorous and potash were added to
strengthen the plants and to minimize disease and insect problems.
Eventually, trace minerals were added to the chemical larder to round out
the plants' diet. After breaking down nutrients into their component parts
for plant food, man found it necessary to recombine them in mixtures to
approximate a balanced diet. This attempt might have been more
successful if the fertilizers had not caused chemical changes in the soil
which eventually destroyed its texture, killed its beneficial microbiotic life
and ruined its ability to make nutriments in the air and soil available to
Rudolf Steiner returned to the more gentle, diverse and balanced diets of
organic fertilizers as a cure for the ills brought on by inorganic, chemical
fertilization. He initiated a movement to explore scientifically the
relationship which plants have with each other. From centuries of farmer
experience and from tests, it has been determined that flowers, herbs and
weeds can minimize insect attacks on plants. Many plants like each
Raised beds
The biodynamic method brought back raised planting beds. Two
thousand years ago, the Greeks noticed that plant life thrives in
landslides. The loose soil allows air, moisture, warmth, nutriments·and
roots to properly penetrate the soil. The curved surface area between the
two edges, of the landslide bed provides more surface area for the
penetration and interaction of the natural elements than a flat surface. The
simulated landslides or raised beds used by biodynamic gardeners are
usually 3 to 6 feet wide and of varying lengths. In contrast, the planting
rows usually made by gardeners and farmers today are only,a few inches
wide. The plants have difficulty growing in these rows due to the extreme
penetration of air and the greater fluctuations in temperature and
moisture content. During irrigation, water floods the rows, immerses the
roots in water and washes soil away from the rows and upper roots.
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Consequently. much of the beneficial microbiotic life in the roots and

soil, which is so essential to disease prevention and to the transformation
of nutriments into forms the plants can use, is exterminated and may even
be replaced by harmful organisms. After the water penetrates the soil, the
upper layers dry out The rows are then more subject to wide temperature
fluctuations and air penetration. Finally, to cultivate and harvest, people
and machines trundle down the troughs between the rows, compacting
the soil and the roots beneath, roots which eat, drink and breathe · a
difficult task with someone or something standing on the equivalent of
your mouth and nose!
These diffi·culties are also often experienced at the edges of biodynamic/
French intensive method raised beds prepared in clay soils during the first
few seasons. Until the soil texture becomes friable (easily crumbled), it is
necessary to level the top of the raised bed to minimize erosion and the
soil on the sides of the beds is too tight for easy planting. Increased
penetration of the elements occurs on the sides and the tighter soil of the
paths are nearby. The plants at the edges do not usually grow as
vigorously as those further inside the bed. When raised beds are prepared
in friable soil, the opposite is usually true. The top of the bed is curved
and the soil is loose enough for plants to be sown or transplanted along
the sides and the plants thrive at the edges. This is because the
mini·climate·effect is added to the sides of the beds and the water that
runs off the inside of the bed provides extra water for the sides.
Sometime between the 1920s and the 1960s, Alan Chadwick, an
Englishman, combined the biodynamic techniques and the French
intensive techniques into the biodynamic/French intensive method.
*·A nutriment is "something that nourishes or promotes growth and repairs the natural
wastage of organic life." It differs from a nutrient which is merely "a nourishing substance or
The biodynamic/French intensive method may eventually allow an
individual to, raise a complete, nutritively balanced diet for one person in
only 15 minutes a day. The diet would require as little as 1,250 square
feet in most arable soils and in most climates where food is grown. This
would assume a 12·month growing season with the use of inexpensive
miniature greenhouses for the planting beds where necessary. The 2,379
'Calorie a day diet used in these calculations is vegetarian with
supplemental goat milk and represents a significant upgrading of current
nutritional levels. The goat fodder required would also be grown on the

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1,250 square foot area. Since the use of miniature greenhouses is to some
extent capital·intensive and their proper use requires a high level of skill
still to be developed, most areas would initially use only a 6·month
grow·ing season and no miniature greenhouses. Under these conditions,
2,500 square feet would be required to grow a 2,379 Calorie diet. In
figure 1, this diet is compared with the others grown in different parts of
the world in 6·month growing seasons, using typical food production
Meat diets can·also be grown with the biodynamic/French intensive
method with correspondingly high savings in the land area used · though
study has only just begun on this subject.
Yields: Actual
Some actual biodynamic/French intensive method test yields during the
1972 through 1975 period are given in figure 2. Comparison is made
with United States national averages for the years cited. In the case of
zucchini, the comparison is with the Santa Clara County, California
average. Under reasonable test conditions, Ecology Action yields have
varied between 2 and 16 times the national, California, or Santa Clara
County averages. In some cases, yields have doubled from year to year as
the original clay subsoil test area has improved in texture and fertility. An
improvement in the skills of the test group has also assisted.
Generally, it appears that the bio· dynamic/French intensive method will
produce on the average 4·6 times the United States national per acre
average of protein source beans, grains, and rice. These yields should be
independent of climate and original soil conditions. Once the soil system
becomes mature and balanced, vegetable and soft fruit yields will
probably average 8 times the national per·acre average and seed yields
may be 4·8 times as high. In comparison with world averages the
method's expected yields would be 14.5 times higher for beans, grains,
and rice, 12.3 times higher for vegetables and soft fruits, and 8.9 times
higher for seeds.
Because foreign yields, especially in developing nations, are much lower
on the average than those in the United States, the method may have its
greatest impact in these areas. In fact, the world low in the bean, grain,
rice category is 203 times lower than the yield expected with the
biodynamic/French intensive method. Testing under natural rainfall
conditions still needs to be performed, however, as the method usually

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uses light daily watering as an essential aspect of the technique · though

its very low water use record, leads Ecology Action to believe these tests
may prove favourable. At the least, yields 4 times greater than those
already being obtained in many developing countries using natural
rainfall may be possible.
Most of the projected yields are already being obtained somewhere in the
world by good farmers in countries where good agricultural techniques
are practised and good conditions for a given crop exist. The biodynamic/
French intensive method should make it possible to recreate these
conditions in many parts of the world.
Figure 1
DIET India United States Japan B/FI·Projected
TYPE 2.424 Typical 2,410 Typical 2,432 2,379
Vegetarian meat) Veg. meat Veg. Veg.
Square Footage Required 32,280, 21,649 10,114 7,260, 4.842, 2.500
Figure 2
Crop . u.s. Average Biodynamic/French Intensive Method
1972 1973 1974 1975
Beans. Snap 100% 390% 520% · •
Cucumbers 100% · 360% 900% •
Lettuce. Bibb 100% 230% · 560% •
Soybeans 100% · 25% 91% 225%
Wheat 100% · · 106% 190%
Zucchini 100% 550% 650% 1640% •
• Data in preparation
Why does it work?
Certain biological factors indicate that the projected yields are entirely
feasible. They are:
• Arithmetic. A simple, 24·inch deep soil preparation allows the plants to
be spaced more closely so that their leaves touch or almost touch. Such
spacing would not normally be successful since there would not be
enough space for the roots to develop adequately. With deep soil
preparation, however, the roots find sufficient room for vertical
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development in the absence of horizontal space. This factor alone would

make fourfold yield, possible, because four times as many plants as usual
can be planted in a given area. Such fourfold increases can be and have
been obtained with vegetables even in the first year of planting.
• Root Health. Research performed at the University of California,
Berkeley, has indicated that the overall root health level in agricultural
soils has declined. A further conclusion of this study has been that even a
two to four percent increase in plant health could result in a two to
fourfold increase in harvests among field crops. This conclusion has
received general support around the world. The biodynamic/French
intensive method's soil preparation makes such an improvement Possible
by optimally texturising, aerating, fertilising and watering the soil as part
of its standard practice. I n one control test performed by Ecology Action,
where the only variable was the preparation of the soil, each broccoli
plant raised in a 24·inch deep biodynamic/French intensive bed weighted
an average of 2.5 times those grown in a 12·inch deep plot with standard
row spacing. ,
• Combination. The combination of the arithmetic spacing and root
health factors could make a sixteenfold yield possible. Such a yield has
already been experienced in 1974 with zucchini. The zucchini yielded
16.4 times the Santa Clara County average, or 5.5 pounds per square foot
· equivalent to about 250,000 pounds per acre. As the soil. our
conceptual understanding, and the availability of trained people have
improved so have our yields, and the plant health. Whenever one of these
variables has been lowered so have yields and plant health. In 1976
Ecology Action hopes to obtain yields which are two thirds of the optimal
by using a new soil preparation technique. To date, 62 different crops
have been tested with varying degrees of thoroughness. Some failures
have been experienced due to non·optimal test conditions, and Ecology
Action is looking forward to the day when it can test under optimal
Probably the most important element in assessing agricultural systems is
whether or not the yields are sustainable in an environmentally balanced
way. For hundreds of years the Chinese practised a manual, organic form
of intensive farming using only fertilizers grown or produced on the
farmstead. It is not yet clear whether or not the biodynamic/ French
intensive method with its correspondingly higher yields will eventually
exhaust the soil. The yields should be higher than those provided by
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Chinese agriculture. But the method's sustainable yield level may be

lower than the optimal yield level. Research on sustainability and
optimum fertilizer types and levels is necessary and will require many
years. Fertilizer availability is a question vital to the sustainability of all
world farming systems. Indications from the first years of testing show that
yields increase and are sustainable as soil quality is improved.
Resource use
An additional advantage of the biodynamic/French intensive method is its
low consumption of water, fertilizer and energy, per pound of food
Vegetable production by Ecology Action has required only Y, to l/S the
water consumed by commercial agriculture per pound 01 food produced
\1\s experience has been in comparatively poor soil. The Community
Environmental Council in Santa Barbara has experienced approximately
1/10 the water consumption growing vegetables with the biodynamic/
French intensive method in comparatively good soil. These differing
consumption figures have led Ecology Action to speculate on lower limits
of water use. Research by academic institutions has shown that soil which
has active organic matter as 2% of its volume, uses only about ·the
rainfall or irrigation required for poor soils. (Poor soil contains about y, of
1 % active organic matter). The biodynamic/French intensive method,
with its emphasis on thorough bed preparation and a high level of
organic matter in the soil, fulfils this requirement well. Secondly, even
under arid conditions, soil which is shaded can decrease water
evaporation by as much as 13·63% depending on the soil type. The fact
that the plants are so closely spaced in intensive farming provides this
kind of shade. The leaves provide a kind of living miniature greenhouse,
or microclimate, and this decreases the amount of evaporation
significantly. Third, transpiration of water through the plant can be
reduced as much as 10·75% in soils which contain large quantities of
nutriments in the soil water. The intensive method prepares the soil in a
manner which provides such a high level of fertility.
It is projected that the method may ultimately consume as little as 1/16 as
much water per pound of vegetable pro·duced as current agricultural
practices require, when all the above waterconserving factors are working
together. Not enough testing has yet been performed to know to what
degree this reduced water consumption will apply to grains. although

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some testing on wheat, soybeans, rice and peanuts has been done. It is
this likelihood of significantly reduced water·consumption that leads
Ecology Action to believe that the method will perform well under natural
rainfall conditions. If yields 4·6 times the United States national average
for protein crops are not possible under natural rainfall condition" yields
at least 4·6 times as great as those existing should be possible. This
efficiency should apply in arid lands such as the African Sahel, as well as
in countries with normal rainfall.
Vegetable crop production has required only ·to %6 the added nitrogen
fertilizer consumed by commercial farmers per pound of food produced.
Limited testing on beans, grains and rice still makes it unclear to what
degree this reduced fertilizer consumption will apply to these protein·rich
crops. Some kind of parallel is expected. The fact that the method is
manual and uses less fertilizer makes much of the reduction in energy
consumption possible. This reduced energy use will be especially
important in countries who cannot afford today's high energy costs. But
the savings may also be. critical in the United States. It has been
estimated that in the year 2000, 20% of all the energy consumed in the
world will be required to produce just nitrogen fertilizer! Natural gas is
the main source of energy used for its production and the United States
has only a 9·year reserve of this raw material.
Mini·farming: a new concept The possibility of using the
biodynamic·French intensive method anywhere in the world on a limited
acreage with accompanying high yields and low resource consumption
has created a new concept: the mini·farm. Widespread mini·farming
could eventually allow 3·6% of a population to grow all a country's food.
A mini·farmer, working a 6·hour day, 7 days per week, should eventually
be able to grow enough food for 24 people on about ·of an acre. A family
working eight person·hours per day, 7 days per week, could grow enough
food for 32 people on a little less than an acre. For a family of four, this
would mean only 2 hours a day work per person. An individual could
grow a complete diet in only 15 minutes a day in his or her own
Of course, these stunning efficiencies will not be reached immediately.
Improvements must be made in most soils and the skills of most
mini·farmers. Much basic information, both conceptual and practical,
about the actual workings of the method is still to be discovered and
delineated. Moreover, many countries are experiencing such a shortage of
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firewood that agriculturally·valuable manure is being substituted. In these

instances, organic matter for soil improvement will first have to be grown
in order for the soil to be properly prepared.
It is estimated that a mini·farmer in the United States could earn as much
as $8,000 in a 12·month growing season working as little as 20 hours a
week on 4,400 square feet growing certain vegetables. This would be up
to 10 times the income earned with the same crops by his conventional
counterpart. Generally speaking, a diversified vegetable mini·farmer can
manage about lis of an acre, or about twice the 4,400 square feet and
twice the income.
One or more min·farmers working, a total of 56 hours per week on a little
less than an acre may be able to grow a complete 2,379 Calorie diet
(grains, vegetables, fruit and fodder for dairy products) for 32 people. This
would be during a 12·month growing season, using inexpensive
miniature greenhouses. The food grown in this manner would be worth
$9,600 at wholesale prices (Wholesale prices are about 50% retail costs).
Or, in a 6·month growing season. a 4·person mini·farming family would
be able to grow the same amount of food and income on twice the area,
a little less than 2 acres, without mini·greenhouses. Each individual
would have to work only 23 hours per week.
The figures for both these kinds of mini·farmer assume that the produce
would be grown by skilled farmers work·ing in good soil and marketed by
them locally and directly. It would probably take three to five years for a
mini·farm to be operative at peak effectiveness, although more research
needs to be done in this area. Both income figures are for gross income.
However, the expenses for small·scale mini·farming are very low. Not
much in the way of land, tools, water, fertilizer, energy and other
materials is required. The method is not capital·intensive.
The homeowner mini·farmer may be able to grow the $600 worth of
vegetables, grains, fruit and milk required for a complete diet for one
person on as little as 1,250 or 2,500 square feet in 15 or 30 minutes a
day, depending on the length of the growing season. The savings to a
family of four growing their entire food supply on 5,000 and 10,000
square feet would be about $2,400 per year. The total time required
would be 1 or 2 hours a day and the value of the family's labour would
be about $6.50 per hour. These figures also assume a skilled individual
and good soil. All the figures used here are based on current food prices.

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World·wide use
It is easy to see why the biodynamic/ French intensive method may be
appealing to developing countries. The method requires low capital
expenses for shovels, hoses and other low·technology tools and needs
only minimal fertilizer, water, and energy. Its diversified approach to
cropping, which lends itself to the use of local foods and plants; its
non·dependence on hybrid varieties (which require ·increased amounts of
water and fertilizer) for increased yields; and its emphasis on producing a
healthy soil able to create its own fertilizer through nitrogen·fixation; · all
these factors make the method worthy of serious research for possible
incorporation into these countries. The fact that it uses less water, fertilizer
and fuels may even make it possible to open marginal lands to
Operational limits
1975 yields at Common Ground, Ecology Action's Research Garden,
were at about 1/3, the levels necessary to produce a diet on 1,250 or
2,500 square feet, even though this is a 100"10 improvement over 1974.
Therefore, it would require approximately 3,750 or 7,500 square feet to
grow the complete 2,379 Calorie diet with the present condition of the
test garden soil. The difference between the
actual and projected yields is due to the following limitations:
• Poor soil. The test area was originally subsoil consisting of about 1/)
rock arid
1/, stiff clay with almost no plant nutrients. Good agricultural soil is about
5% rock and rich in plant nutrients. Though much improved, most of the
test beds are still in below·average condition. This has kept root systems
from developing properly. Root crops such as carrots and beets exhibit
this most clearly. The best yields of these crops to date are only 2.5 to 3
times the national average. Another example is soybeans. The 1973 yield
was only 25% of the national average. By 1975 the best yield climbed to
225% of the national average and is expected to go much higher on a
repeatable basis. (This very high soybean yield of 57.3 bushels or 3,B9
pounds per acre was obtained in only partially improved soil. In
comparison, 50 bushel soybean yields are among the highest normally
obtained by a good US farmer, 60 bushel yields sometimes OCcur and 70
bushel yields are very rare.) Other examples of yields increasing annually,
as the method improves the soil quality, are shown in figure 2. It now
appears that 2·5 years are necessary to improve the soil texture and life to

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an optimal point where a mature balanced soil system exists. Work has
begun on a new soil preparation tech·nique which may reduce this
period to 18 months or less. But.optimal test conditions have still not
been reached at the research site.
• Scarce Information. Little inform·ation on the method's techniques and
concepts exists. Until spring of 1974 there were no detailed written
instructions on how to perform its techniques and Ecology Action is only
now beginning to understand the scientific principles underlying its
• Few Trained People. At present there are few thoroughly·trained
individuals committed to investigation of the biodynamic/French intensive
method, due to its recent development. Also, because of the method's
unorthodox techniques (for instance, the use of deep manual soil
preparation and light overhead watering) many new mini·farmers have
difficulty with the relearning process. The techniques are simple, but the
concepts involved go against the grain of many people's experience.
Many people modify the techniques with habitual agricultural or
gardening responses when something goes awry. This limits the
effectiveness of a method that depends on an integrated approach.
Insect and disease problems are cases in point. The occurrence of most
such problems can usually be traced to inadvertent errors in soil
preparation. Use of pesticides and chemicals by some to control insect
and disease problems masks faulty techniques and prohibits the overall
system from developing to a point where disease and insect difficulties
are negligible. Much of Ecology Action's attention to date has been
focused on determining the origin of these problems and the
identification of the simplest preventive measures. Currently, 2·3 years are
needed for an individual to develop the level of understanding and
sensitivity necessary to provide for good plant health. Ecology Action
plans to develop a manual of intermediate skills, perhaps in 1977, which
may enable a mini·farmer to reduce the learning time to one year.
• Compost. Limited time and funds have prevented the research project
from preparing or purchasing sufficient amounts of compost. Often it has
been of poor quality, sometimes there has been none. Compost is
essential to the proper functioning of the biodynamic/French intensive
method. Only during the fall of 1975 was the first properly composted
test bed prepared. The improved health, vigour and yields of the plants in
this bed has further demonstrated the importance of quality compost use.

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• Grain spacing information. When testing began, almost no information

on spacing for grains and other high·protein plant sources was available.
Therefore, much time has been spent determining optimal spacing
patterns. For example, wheat yields increased from .9 to 1.9 times the
national average when spacing was changed from 1 inch to 2 inches in
one test. Much more work remains to be performed in this area.
Basic Techniques
Some basic techniques of the biodynamic/French intensive method are:
• Double·dug, raised beds in which the soil is dug thoroughly the first 12
inches and loosened an additional 12 inches by a simple manual method
using a shovel. This loose soil enables roots to penetrate easily and allows
a steady stream of nutrients to flow into stems and leaves. Moisture is
retained well, erosion is minimized and weeding is simplified because of
the looseness of the soil. Also, since yields are about 4 times as
high, ,only}4 the area need be prepared, dug, watered and weeded for a
·given yield.
• Intensive planting. Seeds or seedlings are planted in raised, 3·5 foot
wide beds of varying length using a hexagonal spacing pattern. Grains are
often grown in wider areas. Each seed is placed the same distance from
all seeds nearest it so that when the plants mature their leaves barely
touch. This J:'provides a miniclimate under the leaves which retains
moisture, protects the valuable microbiotic life of the soil, retards weed
growth, and helps provide high yields.
• Companion planting·Many plants grow better when near other kinds of
plant. Green beans and strawberries, for instance, thrive better when
grown together. Some plants are useful in repelling harmful insects while
others attract beneficial ones. Borage, for example, repels tomato worms
while its blue flowers attract bees. Also, many wild plants and weeds
have a healthy effect on the soil. Their deep roots loosen the subsoil and
bring up pre·viously unavailable trace minerals and nutriments. The use of
companion planting aids the gardener and farmer·in producing fine
quality vegetables and helps create and maintain a healthy, vibrant soil.
The placing together of symbiotic companion plants itself does not
appear to produce significantly increased yields, but rather promotes the
soil life and health necessary to sustain increased yieIds.
• Compost. The high yields and lowered water requirements made
possible by intensive planting would not be possible without a way of
maintaining the health and vigour of the soil. Garbage, vegetation,

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manure and many other forms of readily available organic matter, when
properly composted, provide most of the elements necessary to maintain
the bio·logical cycles of life that exist in the farm or home garden. The
texture and micro·biotic life of the soil is improved by the compost which
creates better aeration and water retention. • Promotion of microbiotic
life. All biodynamic/French intensive techniques promote healthy
microbiotic plant and animal life in the soil. These not only fix
atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, but also produce antibiotics that help
enable plants to resist diseases. Standard farming techniques tend to
destroy these life forms.
It is important to note that the bio·dynamic/French intensive method is a
whole system and that the component principles of the method inter
mesh in actual use to create complex living units. Farmers in Europe
experimenting with only the intensive spacing factor in com·bination with
commercial techniques are finding themselves beset with deteriorat·ing
soil fertility. nitrate toxicity in plants, soil and water, lower quality
produce, diminishing populations of beneficial insects. and lowered plant
resistance to disease and pests.
Many people have described the bio·dynamic/French intensive method as
labour·intensive. More correctly it should be described as skill intensive,
because only about 15% of the time expended can be considered
moderately hard labour. The initial soil preparation, when a person is
changing over to the method, can be more difficult. however. Also.
performance of the method is not monotonous since all the varied tasks
of soil preparation, compost preparation, fertilization, planting,
harvesting, weed ing, watering, and marketing are per·formed by the
mini·farmer. Farmers using the method may want to form co·operatives to
facilitate the marketing process and to. share experiences. Marketing
would probably be best per·formed at a co·operative level, since often it
may be difficult for one person to maintain all the contacts necessary for
proper crop planning and marketing.
A manual on the method's general techniques. How To Grow More
Vege·tables Then You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can
Imagine, is available from Ecology Action, 2225 EI Camino Real, Palo
Alto, California 94306. Post·paid in the United States and Canada for
$4.00 (surface book rate). $4.24 in California (including state sales tax) or
$5.00 airmail. To other countries the cost is $5.00 for surface mail or
$6.00 for airmail. Prepayment in US funds is needed for all orders.
Memberships in Ecology Action are available for $5.00 per year, or free
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for working staff and volunteers. Members receive a monthly newsletter

on classes and other projects and are entitled to book circulation
privileges on many of the library's books.
John Jeavons

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Roy Wholefoods at Half the Price
The price of food has risen alarmingly in the last year. Yet much of the
increase in price has nothing to do with the production cost of the food
itself. Import costs, packaging costs and distribution costs all get passed
on to the consumer. But there are ways of buying and eating more
cheaply: a food co·op is just one, as Robin Roy explains ....
OUR FOOD CO·OP, in the new city of Milton Keynes, is composed of
about 25 households, representing nearly 70 adults and children. About
once every two months one or two members of the co·op drive to a
wholesaler in London and buy between £75 and £120 worth of
whole·foods which they then divide up and distribute to the other
households according to written orders received during the previous
week or two. Doing it this way we can expect to get at least some of our
food at between two·thirds and a half of the shop or supermarket price.
Belonging to the co·op also means that we can get a constant supply of
foods that are not available locally and share the experience of working
together with others to provide ourselves with a basic necessity.
We happen to deal in whole· foods, (including nuts, wholemeal flour,
rice, oats, dried fruits, beans, lentils and honey), because many of us are
interested not only in cutting our food bills but also in eating food that is
economical and . healthy. Whole foods also are non·perishable and fairly
easy to handle · a distinct advantage when it comes to storing and
dividing up. However, there are food co·ops which deal in everything
from fresh vegetables to wine, buying their supplies not only from
wholesalers but also from local farmers, markets cash·and·carry
warehouses · indeed from any cheap supplier. So the first thing any group
wanting to start a co·op has to decide is what foods they want to deal in
and where they will obtain them. In general, the greatest savings can be
made on perishables, especially fresh vegetables, and on the more
unusual types of food, such as wholefoods.
The organisation of our food co·op works like this. There are three stages:
ordering, buying and distribution. Responsibility for co·ordinating a 'buy'
rotates informally amongst member households according to who is
willing and able to do it.
Since we take orders in advance it is necessary to find out beforehand

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from a supplier what foods are available and at what prices. With the aid
of the supplier's price·list the co·ordinator draws up an order form and
circulates it to the other members. The members are expected to return
their order together with their payment (rounded up to the nearest pound)
by a specified date. After gelling back the order forms the co·ordinator
makes up a large chart of food items against the amounts ordered by
various members. Part of the chart might look as shown in the diagram.
The chart helps the co·ordinator to decide what to buy and how the
orders may have to be juggled to make up the total amounts in which the
food is sold. For example, rice is sold in either 28lb. or 1101b. sacks. If
the total order is, say, 941bs. the co·ordinator would have to decide
whether to bump up a few orders to buy the 110lb. sack or reduce a few
and buy three 281b. sacks. The adjusted orders are then entered onto the
chart The co·ordinator can then make his or her shopping list to take to
the wholesaler.
There is not much to say about buying except that it's hard work, but
quite fun. Of course you'll need enough money and some form of
transport, preferably a van. It"s worth bearing in mind that family cars
have a limited carrying capacity. Our Morris 1100 estate, I've discovered
can, with the roof·rack on, carry 5001b. of food plus three people · just.
This is perhaps the trickiest part of the whole operation. Food takes up a
lot of space, so you'll need somewhere to store it, at least temporarily.
Some co·ops call a meeting to divide up the goodies. We have found it
easier (although perhaps less sociable) for the coordinators, plus any
volunteers they can persuade, to weigh, bag up and deliver the food
We don't need to keep accounts or have a bank account because
everyone pays in advance and any settlements are made at the time a
member gets their order. The disadvantages of this simple system is that it
is necessary for a member to be able to afford to pay at the time the order
is made. A better system might be to collect subscriptions on a regular
basis, but this of course would require accounts.
Being co·ordinator is undoubtedly hard work and quite time·consuming.
But, if the co·op is working properly, it should be at least another year
before our house·hold has to do it again, and in the mean·time we should
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be gelling a regular supply of cheap food.

Other types of co·op
Our co·op, being based in a new city, draws its members from a wide
area, i.e. it forms a 'network' of friends and acquaintances. However, in
an established community a more locally·based 'street' co·op is possible,
with obvious advantages for easy communications and social
Not all co·ops depend on orders made in advance. Some with suitable
premises for storing food operate more like a co·operative shop. buying
supplies from the cheapest sources (wholesalers, markets, cash·and·carry
warehouses, farmers, even supermarkets) and selling to members only .
Perhaps the.main problem with any type of co·op is keeping the level of
membership right. If a co·op gets too big, (say more than 15 to 20
households), then a minority of members tend to find themselves doing
an unmanageable amount of work. If too small, (say below 4 to 5
households), then the co·op can't take full advantage of bulk·buying.
Some suppliers of wholefoods
Community Wholesale, S Prince of Wales . Crescent, Camden Town,
london NWt (01 2615845)
Uhuru, 3S Cowley Road, Oxford (086548249)
Arjuna Wholefoods, 12 Mill Road, Cambridge (0223 6484S)
Earth Exchange, 213 Archway Road, london N6 58N

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Boyle New Charger For Light Brigade
At long last, we've some real progress to report on the evolving design of
the Undercurrents·LID Wind Generator, described originally in
11 and 12.
The problem with the original 'Mark I' design, as we discovered, was that
the dynamo would not begin to charge the battery except in pretty high
winds over 20 mph; and that, when the dynamo did begin to charge, the
current was too small (2·3 amps) to 'cut in' the relay in the standard car
'control box' which we were using. The difficulties, in short, were entirely
electrical: the mechanics of the design worked very well. We soon
realised that to solve the electrical problems, we would either have to
buy a specially·wound dynamo or alternator (or rewind an existing one)
which would give a significant charging current at relatively low 'revs' ·
say between 300 and 500 RPM; or we would have to gear the propeller
to increase the effective number of 'revs' and use a conventional car
alternator or dynamo.
Originally, we were worried about using gearing because we feared it
would increase the overall friction in the system and make the propeller
difficult to start in low winds: and there was already a considerable
amount of friction in the bearings of the 'Mark I' dynamo. Gearing
increases the 'starting' problem not only because of the friction in the
gearing system itself, but because the frictional resistance to starting is
effec·tively multiplied by the ratio of the gearing. We've overcome both
these difficulties, however, in two ways. Firstly, we're using toothed,
rubber 'gear·belts' (otherwise known as 'timing belts') which!> transmit
power between notched pulleys rather like a chain, without relying on
friction (as do Vee·belts, for example) and which work very efficiently
with hardly any losses. They also, unlike chains, require virtually no
greasing, adjustment or maintenance.
Secondly, we're using a car alternator, rather than a dynamo, because
alterna·tors exhibit less inherent friction than dynamos (they have slip
rings instead of carbon brushes). Using an alternator also solves the other
main problem of the original design · the 'cutting·in' problem. Modern
alternators have built·in electronic voltage sensing circuits which
automatically 'cut in' in the field when the rotor is rotating fast enough to
charge the battery. No 'control box' with its insensitive relays, is needed:
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the alternator is just wired up to the battery via a small 2w bulb (which
imposes only a negligible drain on the battery) which, like the dashboard
warning light on a car, goes out as soon as the alternator begins to
'charge.' The big snag with using fancy alternators, gear belts and toothed
pulleys is, of course, cost. Such components are virtually unobtainable as
scrap, so we've had to abandon our original 'scrap technology' ideal,
reluctantly (though other viable scrap technology designs for cheap
windmills are probably still quite feasible). The cost of the alternator,
belts, pulleys, pillow blocks, shafts and so on has added about £45 to the
original price.
A working version of the new, Mark II, Undercurrents·LID Wind
Generator design was built recently by Gerry Metcalf, John Willoughby
and their students at the Architecture Department of the Cheltenham and
Gloucester College of Art. Here's their own account of how they did it.
'A group of Architecture students, without much knowledge of the
subject, were presented with the problem of making a wind generator in
two weeks. They were offered the Undercurrents·LID Generator (Mark I)
as a prototype, but were initially critical of its design. However, after
looking at some of the alternatives, and accepting the basic criteria of
cheapness, scrap materials, simplicity etc, they found it difficult to
improve on the basic concept and its related com·ponents · scaffolding
pole, half·shaft bearings, car dynamo directly driving a two·bladed prop,
and so on.
Some developments did emerge as the thing began to be put together:
* The braking system was improved by gluing, with Araldite, a length of
car fan belt to the inside of the pulley (instead of just a ring of rubber).
This increased the braking friction and seemed to work well without
causing the brake to 'stick' in the 'on' position as might have been feared.
* The propeller, instead of being carved from a cedar plank, was built up
with laminations of 2mm 3·ply wood, to produce a more sophisticated
aerofoil section (see photograph). This technique resulted in a nice shape,
with improved starting characteristics · but with, if anything, a lower
tip·speed ratio (ratio of blade tip velocity to wind velocity) than that of the
original design. Also, the metal plates used to .form the joint at the centre
increased the propeller weight considerably;
* Instead of sliding the end of the car half·shaft into the top of the scaffold
tube, as was done in the original design, we used a standard scaffold tube
'internal connector' which clamped on to the inside of the casing of the

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half shaft (the half shaft itself was then not needed). One system is as
good as the other: your choice depends mostly on the design of scrap
half·shaft you have available.
* The mast itself was made by welding two 10ft scaffolding poles together.
This provided a reasonable height for the propeller, but meant recruiting
about 10 people every time we wanted toerect or dismantle the mill. The
original 15ft prototype mast (see UC 11) could be erected by 3 people ·
an important consideration during the development stage when constant
attention is required. The structure, and the guying system, seem very
sound, however. It weathered the recent freak gales with virtually no
* One idea · substituting a counterweight, on the end of a rope passing
over a pulley mounted on the main member, for the original tail spring,
wasn't fully developed, but might well prove worthwhile.
As an educational exercise, the Mark I machine was very successful · but
it probably generated more interest than electricity. Also it cost rather
more than we anticipated (see cost breakdown), mainly because we
didn't have the time to do enough scrounging.
Developing the mill to the Mark II design has virtually doubled the cost.
In the new prototype, the alternator is driven by a toothed belt and
pulleys which give an 8:3 gear ratio. The main propeller shaft is located in
two pillow block bearings, mounted on a rectangular angle iron frame,
bolted underneath the main member, to which the alternator is in the
same way as the dynamo bolted in the earlier design. Most of the details
are clear from the photographs. The alternator is a Lucas 17·ACR type,
which, according to Lucas graphs, has the lowest 'cut·in' speed of all the
standard alternators made by the company (theoretically 800 to 900 rpm).
This alternator is the one Lucas are upgrading (and rewinding to cut in at
500 rpm) for their own small wind generator design (see UC 14). When
available to the public, the special version will cost about £60, however,
compared to about £26 retail or £22 wholesale for a standard 17 ACR.
We kept the gear ratio fairly low because we were worried that the
propellor would not start easily if the ratio was too high: but in practice
the system works so smoothly and friction·lessly that we feel sure the ratio
could be increased to, say 5:1. This would make the 'cut·in' speed of the
system much lower.
These modifications took about three working days to complete. But we
still haven't got round to constructing a suitable housing to weather·proof

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the alternator and gearing; this task is be·coming urgent since the main
shaft is already starting to rust. We also haven't developed a suitable
braking system for the new arrangement.'
Test results
Infuriatingly, the Mark II machine has been up aloft now for more than 2
weeks, (mid·March), but at no time have there been winds of more than
10 mph for long enough to enable tests to be made (honest!).
Occasionally, the charging light has flicked out during a 'gust', indicating
that all is well, but so far that's all we can report.
Assuming a propeller tip·speed ratio of 8 (as in the Mark I machine) and
an alternator cut·in speed of 1,000 rpm, the cut·in windspeed, at which
the system begins to charge the batteries, should be about 10 mph ·
corresponding to a propeller speed of just under 400 rpm. The propeller
on the test machine at the moment is the somewhat slower laminated
ply·version described above, so cut·in windspeed might be as high as 15
mph. We hope to test the original, faster, propeller as soon as we've
devised a suitable method of fixing it to the new shaft.
In the next issue, we'll be giving test reports of how the new machine
actually performs · assuming there's going to be some wind in the next 2
months. We also hope to try a higher gear ratio, and to have adapted the
braking systems from the Mk I design to the new Mk II version. One
additional braking system we're considering is based on mounting one
side of a centrifugal clutch (hopefully, from an old moped) on the end of
the propeller shaft, and fixing the other end to a stationary point on the
framework. At the clutch's cut·in speed (which we're hoping ,,!i11 be
about 1,000 rpm: otherwise, another set of gears would be needed) it
should engage, and act like a brake to stop the shaft from spinning any
faster than the maximum rated speed in high winds.
Pulley & gear system specifications. We got our pulleys, belt, and pillow
blocks from J H Fenner & Co of Barton Manor Trading Estate, Bedminster,
Bristol·Phone (0272) 558454. (Ask for their comprehensive catalogue).
Fenners have branches all over the country: see your local Yellow Pages.
We bought one 48·toothed, 14 inch wide (about 6 in.·diameter) cast iron
pulley, and one IS·toothed, 14 in.·pulley (about 2 in.·diameter), plus the
associated taper·lock bushes' with keyways, to attach the pulleys to a 5/8
in. shaft.
The pulley and belt 'pitch' we chose was 'light' since the belt does not
have to transmit much power, by industrial standards. The pillow blocks

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were standard, self·aligning types to fit a 5/8 inch keyed shaft, and the
belt was chosen to suit the other characteristic of the system (see
catalogue). The shaft and keyway were made up by a local engineering
In retrospect, we probably overdid things a little. The pillow blocks and
shaft could be of the type supplied more cheaply by Picador Engineering
(who have a shop in Euston Rd, London NW1) for use with Vee belts.
The pulleys and belts could just as easily have been }1 in. wide, which
would have been cheaper, and the pulleys could have been of the
cheaper, aluminium variety supplied by, among others, Anderson Power
Drives of Bedminster, Bristol· phone (0272) 668141, or see your Yellow
Pages. One trouble with the cheaper pulleys, however, is that you may
have to have the hole in the centre specially drilled for you · especially if
you want to use a large pulley with lots of teeth in conjunction with a
small pulley with few teeth, as you would if you want to increase the gear
ratio. A local engineering firm will probably be able to do a job like this
for a small charge, however.
Another intriguing possibility is using the timing pulleys from a crashed,
fairly recent Vauxhall or Opel (General Motors) car; but we haven't taken
this notion much further than a furtive peer under the bonnet of a
Alternator Note Alternators come in two different types: one to fit on the
right hand side of a car engine, the other on the left. They also come in
two versions suited to clockwise and anti·clockwise rotation, respectively.
Make sure the alternator you buy suits your structural configuration and
the rotational sense of your propeller. Scrapped alternatorsJ unless you're
sure they work and they're cheap, are probably not a good buy_
That's all for now. For more information, just keep takin' the
magazine .....
Godfrey Boyle
List of Parts. and costs:
Dynamo, from scrap yard £2.70
Scaffold tubes free
Three pieces of angle iron & 2 x 3/8 in flat plate £2.70
Cable, collar for tower, guy tensioners & hook belts £8.16
Half shaft (scrap) SOp
Bolts 62p
Concrete £2.04

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Diode (used experimentally instead of control box: not very successful) 42p
Plywood, resin and paint £2.50
Brake £1.90
Scaffold Connector 80p
Evo Stik 72p
Bolts 21p
Angle Iron 54p
Rope £1.40
Cable £2.00
12 volt battery (exchange) £12.00
Pulleys, belts, shaft, pillow blocks etc. £25.00
Alternator I Lucas 17 ACR) wholesale £22.00
Total cost so far about £87.00

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Graham DC·AC? Step Right Up!
An Invertor of some kind is an essential accompaniment to any wind
generator which provides a 12·volt D.C. output, to enable conventional
mains·powered appliances to be energised. Dave Graham now describes
a relatively simple, medium·powered, low·cost design, capable of being
built by anyone with a little knowledge of electronics · though complete
novices should seek the advice of their local electronics fiend before
attempting construction.
The energy input to a home powered by renewable energy sources is
usually discontinuous. Both wind and solar energy, for example, are
subject to short and long term interruptions and hence a form of
long·term storage is required if the house is to have a continuous supply
of energy. This implies the use of some form of rechargeable battery J and
battery storage in turn implies the use of direct current (D.C.).
However the need for a normal 50hz 240v supply in the home is almost
selfevident. Most electrical equipment is designed to run from such a
supply and although lighting and other equipment is available for
operation from 12v or 24v D.C., it would be difficult, for example, to
obtain a deep freeze that would operate on D.C. Also, a high voltage
dis·tribution system is more efficient and simpler to implement than a low
voltage system as a higher voltage V implies a lower current I for a given
load W (W=V.I) and hence thinner and cheaper cables (because the
power dissipated in a cable is W=I'.R, where R is the cable resistance. So
for a given cable resistance the lower the current I the lower the loss). The
most probable uses of a 240v source are
(1) Power for audio and communications equipment which requires a
pure 50hz sine wave·and a high degree of·frequency stability (for
example, record decks) and
(2) a high power (say, SOOw) source whose waveform and frequency
stability are relatively unimportant, for driving power drills, pumps and
similar equip·ment.
Since the only way to increase a voltage is by using some form of
transformer, transformers work only with alternating current, some way of
changing the D.C. supply from a storage battery into A.C. is required. A
system that performs this function is known as an invertor.

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There is an engineering dilemma associated with invertors · the choice

between efficiency and flexibility. If one tries to design a stable. high
power sine \IW wave invertor to encompass both (1) and (2) then a high
level of technical expertise Q is involved in the construction and the cost
of components is large. However, by building two invertors most
problems are solved. As the output requirement for (1)
is likely to be less than lOOW then
a simple design may be used and the component cost may be kept low.
Also the unit may be made up as a portable assembly and used next to
the equipment being powered. Unit (2) could be considered as a
semi·portable unit and its output applied to a normal house distribution
system for use in powering
lights, motors etc. It would conveniently be situated next to the heavy
duty batteries supplying its input.
To obtain a rated SOOW (2A at 2S0v) output, the power input to the
invertor must also be SOOw · assuming 100% efficiency. To draw SOOw
of power from a 12v battery means a current of 40A ·
a large current for a normal car battery to supply. If, however, a 24v input
is used then the current required is 20A. Hence, for ease and cheapness
of construction, it was decided to use a 24v input to the invertor. This can
easily be obtained by connecting two 12v batteries in series.
Redundant car batteries are easy to obtain as they are usually discarded
when they can no longer supply the 200·300A required to turn a starter
motor. A fair

price for car batteries from a scrap dealer is £2/cwt as he gets £I/cwt for
them. Batteries can be described by two factors·
(I) Their terminal voltage
(2) Their storage capacity measured in ampere. hours.
Almost all car batteries are of the 12v variety and the important variable
is the amp. hour (A.h) rating. If a battery is rated at 50A.h then
theoretically it should supply a current of 50A for one hour, or 25A for
two hours, etc.
So. running at full output. the invertor will draw over 20A from the supply
and a 40A ·hour battery would run it for only two hours.

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In order to increase the working time of the system, the capacity of the
battery storage must obviously be increased. At first sight, it might appear
that this can
be achieved simply by placing a number of batteries in parallel. But
unfortunately, because each battery has a slightly different terminal
voltage, the higher voltage battery will discharge through the lower
voltage battery, and the system will gradually 'run down'.
A suggested method for connecting batteries in parallel which overcomes
this problem is shown in fig 1. The blocking diodes prevent a reverse
current into the battery. In order to charge these batteries a further set of
diodes is required. The diodes should be of a type capable of
withstanding at least the maximum charging or discharging current.
An invertor must contain a switching mechanism to apply the D.C. supply
alternately in one direction and then the other across the primary of a
transformer. Most designs use a form of circuit in
F;g 6
which the switch driving ('oscillator') circuitry is arranged so that when
the switch is in one position it is driven into the other position, and
vice·versa (fig 2). This approach is somewhat hazardous because if, for
some reason, the circuit fails there is effectively a {short circuit' across the
battery · which is almost always catastrophic.
A safer approach is to separate the switch and oscillator circuitry (fig 3)
hence have the switches being driven into their two positions. I n the
even of
a failure of the oscillator the circuit fails safe and no short circuit results.
Also, the circuit is relatively immune to 'stalling'
· which, as the name suggests, is stopping under load.
A circuit for a high power invertor is shown in figs 4 and 5. Fig 4 is the
oscilla·tor section and consists of an integrated circuit oscillator driving a
coupling trans·
former through a pair of power transistors. This transformer is the only
item not easily available, but it can be constructed readily by dismantling
any transformer with a core area larger than one square inch and
rewinding it with
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a 90 turn primary and two 14·turn secondaries.

This transformer then supplies the drive to the circuit shown in fig 5, the
output section of which consists of a 24v·0·24v to 240v transformer with
the switching performed by two sets of three heavy duty power
transistors. These transistors should be mounted on large heat·sinks.
A suggested layout of components is shown in fig 6.
The invertor has been tested to an output of 500w, powering lighting, and
will perform quite safely at these loads as long as a few simple rules are
(1) The invertor should always be running before a load is connected. (2)
The battery supply should not be connected or disconnected whilst the
invertor is running.
The output is not a sine wave and hence the unit will not drive certain
motors quietly, but this can only be checked by
experiment. [We hope to carry con·structional details of a low·power,
sine wave invertor in the near future.·Ed.]
Construction and setting up
The oscillator may be constructed on
a piece of veroboard and mounted on top of the transformer. After the
circuit has been checked for incorrect connections
a 24v source is connected and the resistor VR2 adjusted to the correct
frequency. This can be checked by connecting the invertor to a record
deck and checking for the correct record speed. V R 1 is then adjusted for
minimum 'buzz' from the transformer.
All components except the driver transformer are available from
advertisers in magazines such as Wireless World and the total cost should
not exceed £5:00 excluding the output transformer. The cost of this item
will be roughly pro·portional to the output required: for
a lOA transformer (Le. a maximum output of 250w) it should be in the
region of £10.
Dave Graham
© Dave Graham/Undercurrents 1976.

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Boyle Let’s Have Some More Radio-Activity
WE'VE GOT our foot in the door. In all the major industrial countries of
Europe and North America, the nuclear power industry is on the
defensive. In Britain, Energy Secretary Tony Benn has 'opened the door',
just a little, to a public debate on the country's possible energy options:
our aim must now be to force that door wide open.
Now is the time for the anti·nuclear protest movement to adopt new and
more positive tactics. Instead of pUlling al/ our efforts into
whistle·blowing about the dangers inherent in nuclear waste storage. or
the high cost and low net energy yield of national nuclear programmes,
or the dangers of plutonium hijacking and nuclear weapon proliferation,
we must go on the offensive and show the public that not only are there
alternatives to nuclear power, but that those alternatives are simply better
from every point of view, in both the short and long term.
National Domestic Insulation Campaign
In this issue of Undercurrents we're concentrating on the simplest and
most immediately·obvious of the alternative energy strategies: a national
domestic insula·tion campaign.
As we hope to show, such a campaign would save more energy than
would be generated by Britain's projected Steam Generating Heavy Water
Reactor (SGHWR) programme over its lifetime, would cost less, would
create more jobs, and would carry no risks to the environment. We also
touch on the energy and job·creating potential of a major programme of
solar council house construction.
But there are many other possible energy conserving strategies, ranging
from the adoption by the CEGB of the more efficient fluidised·bed coal
combustion technique, through the increased use of district heating and
waste heat from power stations, to controlled ventilation and heat
recovery. The potential for energy conservation outside the Domestic
Sector · for example in the Industrial and Transport sectors · is also
immense. And as Amory Lovins puts it: 'saving a watt is nearly always
cheaper than increasing supply by a wall.'
Alternative Sources
Having 'cleared the decks' by making a water·tight case for energy
conservation, we
can then turn to the case for the various 'alternative' energy sources ·
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wind generators, heat pumps, water, tidal and wave power, solar energy,
photobiological energy from wood and plants, geothermal power,
hydro·thermal power, methane from waste products, the hydrogen
economy and so on
Recent Government Reports, such as that of the Energy Technology
Support Unit at Harwell, have tried to discredit the potential of such
sources by a simple but effective device. It works like this:
Sam Lovejoy
On George Washington's Birthday,1974, Samuel Holden Lovejoy toppled
a 500·foot·tall weather tower in Montague, Massachusetts. The tower had
been erected by the local utility company as part of their project to
construct one of the largest nuclear power plants ever planned. Leaving
349 feet of twisted wreckage behind, Lovejoy hitched a ride to the police
station, where he turned himself in and submitted a four·page written
statement decrying the dangers of nuclear power. Six months later,
Lovejoy defended his act of civil disobedience in court as 'self·defense';
he was ultimately acquitted.
First of all, you extrapolate from the previous rate of increase in demand'
(ignoring the fact that energy use in the past couple of years has actually
dropped by more than 10%) to show that by the year 2,000 we will be
'needing' two, or even three times as much energy as we use now. Then
you take each alternative energy source, one·by..oneJ and show (being
careful not to use optimistic assumptions) that on its own it could not
hope to meet more than, say, ten per cent of the demand you've just
You then look at the present cost of each alternative source, and show
how it could not possibly compete with nuclear..generated electricity ·
ignoring such considerations as the enormous hidden subsidies given to
nuclear energy by the atomic weapons programme, and the fact that with
a fraction of the Research and Development money spent on atomic
power, the cost per kilowatt of the alternative energy sources could be
reduced enormously.

Rigged Estimates
We must work to expose the rigged estimates of the pro·nuclear lobby,

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and to show that the alternatives we are proposing are meaningful in their
proper context. For many of us, of course, the ultimate context is (to
over·simplify it) a
decentralised, equitable, ecologically·conscious, libertarian socialist
society, powered mainly by renewable energy sources and having an
overall rate of non·renewable resource usage close to zero. But that
particular dream won't come true tomorrow·and maybe not even the day
after. So we've got to put forward 'transitional strategies' that will keep
nuclear·powered totalitarianism at bay while at the same time stimulating
people into thinking more deeply about the kind of society they really
want, how it should be run, and what power sources are most
appropriate to achieving that end.
In the articles which follow, Amory Lovins argues eloquently the case that
there is, indeed, a non·nuclear future for the world · a future a good deal
brighter and a great deal safer than the nuclear one · if only we can make
our rulers grasp it.
Dave Elliott then looks at Britain's present position and examines in detail
the case for a domestic insulation programme as an ideal means of
creating jobs quickly, at a time when unemployment is at a scandalously
high level. He also looks at the longer·term possibilities · such as the
programme for converting' Britain's high·technology armaments industry
to socially·desirable production.
Tony Emerson, of SERA, the Socialist Environment and Resources
Association, then highlights the political implications of such 'conversion'
programmes and outlines some reformist strategies for avoiding same of
the most obvious pitfalls.
But to begin with, here are the results of my own preliminary analysis of
the likely yield of Britain's planned SGHWR programme, its estimated
cost, and the employment it would be likely to create, compared with the
energy savings, cost and job creation potential of a national domestic
insulation programme.
APART FROM the programme of Advanced Gas·Cooled Reactor
construction, which started 10 years ago and has only just begun to feed
a few megawatts of un·needed power into the grid, years late and
hundreds of millions over budget, Britain is planning to embark on yet
another nuclear programme.
The Government last year gave the go·ahead to the CEGB to build one
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large Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor of 2640 Megawatts

capacity at Sizewell, Suffolk, and granted the South of Scotland Electricity
Board permission to build one 1320 MW station at
Torness, not far from Edinburgh. The total planned capacity of these two
stations is, therefore, about 4,000 MW.
Let's be conventional and say that
their lifetime would be about 30 years. If the stations operated at full
for all 8760 hours each year for all 30 years, their output would be 1.05 x
1012 kilowatt hours · but of course no station can operate flat out all the
time. Let's be optimistic and assume that the stations achieve a load
factor' (the fraction of the potential energy that is actually delivered)
equal to that achieved by all the nuclear power stations in England and
Wales during 1974·5·namely 76.6%. Then they would produce, over
their 30 year lifetime, about 0.8 x 1012 kilowatt hours of energy
(ignoring, for simplicity, transmission and distribution losses, which
would in practice reduce this figure by about 10%).
What would the two stations at Sizewell and Torness cost? The CEGB in
its recent publications has quoted a capital cost for nuclear power of
£230{kw, which would imply a cost of £920 million for 4,000 MW of
capacity. But anyone who has watched the incredible escalation of
nuclear costs in Britain's AG R programme, or the similar increas·es in US
nuclear costs, will view such
an optimistic figure with extreme reserve. Friends of the Earth suggest that
the actual cost of Sizewell Band T Torness
is more likely to be £1500 million · but to give the CEGB the benefit of
the doubt, let us assume that the cost will just be £920 million.
The capital cost element in each kilowatt·hour of energy generated by
these two stations will, therefore, be £920 million divided by 0.8 x 1012
kWh · namely 0.115 pence per kWh. The cost to the consumer, of course,
would be much higher than this.
How many jobs created by these nuclear plants?

Well, according to CEGB statistics, the number of employees working its

eight nuclear power stations in 1974·5 was 3,565. That works out at 445
employees per station. We would therefore expect the two stations,
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Sizewell Band Torness, to employ some 890 people · let's say

a round 1000, including ancilliary staff. These people would be employed
permanently during the entire 30 year life of the station, so 30,000
'job·years' would be created.
As for the jobs created by the building work on·site during construction,
FOE has estimated that, optimistically, the peak on·site employment for
B would be 4,000 jobs, and for Torness 2,000 job. These jobs would last,
at most, 4 to 5 years. Let us be very optimistic, then. and say that there
would be 5,000 jobs for 5 years · a job creation effect of 30,000
job·years. The total direct employment likely to be created by the planned
S(;HWR programme, therefore, is 60,000 job years. Of course there
would be the so·called 'multiplier effect', whereby the creation of one job
leads to the creation of others (when a worker spends his money, for
example, he indirectly creates jobs for others by increasing demand). An
analysis of the detailed multiplier effects likely to be generated by the
nuclear programme would take several years of research and is
unnecessary if we are comparing the direct employment generated by the
SGHWR programme with the direct employment generated by an energy
conservation programme. Moreover, there is every reason to suppose that
the multiplier effect of a large energy conservation programme would be
greater than that of the
nuclear power programme. Just as the latter would lead to increased
employment in the heavy electrical industry·
the building materials industry and local service industries, so also would
an energy conservation programme lead to increased jobs in the
manufacture of insulating materials, foam injection equipment, double
glazing, local service trades, and so on. These jobs, further·more, would
be far more evenly dispersed around the country than the jobs created by
the nuclear programme, and would help to alleviate unemployment
in the worst·hit regions.
In the case of the SGHWR programme, the capital cost per job·year of
work created is £920 x 106 divided by 60,000 · i.e. over £15,000 per
job·year created.
Let me turn now to the energy savings possible given an enthusiastic
programme of energy conservation. The Building Research
Establishment's recent report on energy conservation in buildings gives
some idea of the enormous magnitude of the savings that could be made
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by a fully·fledged conservation campaign in buildings alone.

The report concluded that:
'by undertaking the technically feasible options it should be possible to
achieve an ultimate saving of over 15 per cent of annual consumption of
primary energy, by measures in building services which would not impair
environmental standards.'
The measures envisaged by the BRE include cavity wall and roof
insulation, double glazing, controlled ventilation and heat recovery,
improved heating controls, replacement of electric space and water
heating by more efficient methods, replacement of electric cookers by
gas, and the use·of heat pumps,
waste heat from electricity generation, solar collectors for water heating,
and aerogenerators in special circumstances.
A saving of 15% of the nation's primary energy consumption would
amount to 15% of 2!?00 x 109 kWh a year, or 11.25 x 10' kWh· over 30
years · about fourteen times the energy generated by the SGHWR
But even if we don't have such a fullyfledged programme and limit the
energy conservation measures to simple cavity wall and roof insulation,
the savings are still very large indeed. As the BRE Report puts it:
'If the existing housing stock had
been cavity filled where possible, if
the loft insulation had been improved, and windows double·glazed, the
UK energy consumption would have
been 3 to 4 per cent less, taking account of the past evidence that some
of the potential fuel savings in older properties with only partial heating
would have been taken up in increased comfort
If we subtract, for simplicity, the savings possible through double glazing
which the BRE estimates to be
about 0,8% of national consumption, the savings attainable by cavity and
loft insulation work out at about 3% of primary energy consumption,
or 2.25 x 1012 kWh over 30 years·nearly three times the energy
generated by the SGHWR program,."e.
Costs of Insulation
What would such a programme cost? The BRE Report estimates that cavity
filling and loft insulation in an existing house would cost, on average,

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around f120;
and loft insulation in an old house in which there are no cavity walls
would cost £45. According to Tyneside Environ·
Undercurrents 15 mental Concern's recent Waste·Not, Want·Not Report,
there are some 5.5 million houses without cavity walls in the country. Loft
insulation in these dwellings at £45 would therefore cost £247 million.
The remaining 13 million houses would cost, at £120 each, some £1560
So the total cost comes to just over
£1800 million.
The capital cost per kilowatt hour saved is, therefore, £1800 million
divided by the energy saved, 2.25 x 1012 kWh
= 0.08p/kWh, or 30% less than the capital cost of SGHWR power. And if
we remember that insulation carries no running costs, whereas nuclear
power carries fuel, handling, operation, administration, distribution,
metering and sales costs, there's no doubt about which is the better buy.
Job Creation
Finally, let's look at the manpower (sorry, person·power) of a national
energy con·servation programme:
The National Cavity Insulation Association says that it usually takes one to
two people between half and one day to
cavity fill a typical house · let's say one·person·day per house, on average.
As for loft insulation, Durham FOE reckon it takes two of their people
about half a
day to install loft insulation · say one
day person·per house.
So to cavity fill and loft insulate the 13 million suitable houses would
require 26 million person·days · ignoring, again for simplicity, the jobs
directly created among the administrative staff required to back up the
workers actually carrying out the insulation. In addition, the job of loft
insulating the remaining 5.5 million houses without cavity walls would
require a further 5.5 million person·days.
The total effort required, then, would amount to 31.5 million person·days.
A person can work, say, 48 weeks of five days each in a year · say 250
persondays a year. So 31.5 million person·days amounts to 120,000
job·years. This is twice the direct employment created by the SGHWR

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If we spread the insulation effort out over 30 years (implying a rate of
600,000 houses a year) the direct employment generated would be 4,000
jobs a year for 30 years. A crash programme to do the same thing in 10
years would create 12,000 direct ten·year jobs.
In summary then, a modest programme aimed at insulating the cavity
walls and lofts of Britain's housing stock would, in direct contrast to the
SGHWR programme:
*have a 30 per cent lower capital cost, per kilowatt of energy
*incur virtually no running costs *make available nearly three times as
much energy
*generate twice as much direct employment
'imply virtually no risks to the populace and
*have a negligible · or even positive effect on the environment.
Who Needs Nukes?
Godfrey Boyle


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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Lovins Towards A Non·Nuclear Future
THE ISSUES at stake in the debate about nuclear power cannot be
considered in isolation from a complex tangle of broader issues of energy
and social policy · any more than automobiles can be considered in
isolation from the wider patterns and values of human settlements and
mobility . To do so would be a common but serious error. The most
impor.tant and difficult questions of energy policy are not primarily
technical or economic but rather social and ethical, and cannot be
properly framed by people whose vision is purely technical.
Which energy policy makes sense for a given society depends on what
sort of society it is to be, what values are important in it. where people
want to live, what they want to eat, and what they want to get out of their
lives and to leave behind for their children. All these things can to a large
extent be chosen through the political and economic pro·cess. But people
cannot choose options that they do not perceive, and often cannot
perceive options that they have not experienced. One job of the energy
strategist is thus to present and assess some alternatives, as carefully and
credibly as possible, with enough imagination to see how wide the range
of choices really is. People suffering from a three·day week in Britain, or
going without hot water in Stockholm, or deprived of their accustomed
air·conditioning in sealed New York buildings, may believe (or be led to
believe) that they are having a taste of life in a low·energy society; and
this may be true. But it may equally be true that it would not be like that
at all · that disruption and privation are instead
a taste of life in a vulnerable high·energy society. The energy strategist
must not only develop tools to help the political process to explore such
choices; he must also encourage a fundamental re·examination of the
social role of energy, of the difference between demand and need,
and of the possibility of achieving liberal social goals without rapid, or
even any, growth in the rate of consumption of primary energy stocks.
Self·fulfilling prophecies
Our energy choices have traditionally rested on a series of self·fulfilling
prophecies · forecasts based on correlation, not causality. OUf forecasters
have assumed that rapid energy growth is essential for a healthy economy
and full employment. Yet there is no evidence
that this assumption is true; indeed, in the only country (USA) where it
has been carefully studied, it appears to be untrue. So entrenched is the

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dogma nevertheless that most people in the countries with the grossest
national products find it hard to imagine what li·c would be like with
more efficient use of energy but with the levels of primary energy use that
prevailed only a few years ago. For example, some Danish economists
say that a civilisation in Denmark using only half as much electricity as
now would be impossible; but one existed in 1965, when Danes were at
least half as civilised as now. What would 1965 have been like with
greater efficiency and more equitable distribu·tion for more rational ends?
Surely it could have been more agreeable than life in Denmark today.
Likewise, what would life in the United States be like at percapita energy
levels vaguely comparable to those of, say, 1910 (half the present US
value, or about the same as the present UK value), but with much better
distribution with our best modern technologies of energy use, and with
some important but not very energy·intensive amenities such as modern
medicine and telecommunications? These are the sorts of question we
should be asking now. No energy future, least of all a future deriving from
'business as usual', will be free of social change, but we have to ask what
kinds of social change we want. Low·energy futures can (but need not) be
normative and pluralistic, whereas high·energy futures are bound to be
coercive and to offer less scope for social diversity and individual
Fundamental to any discussion of energy alternatives is a choice · usually
tacit but nonetheless real · of personal Nuclear reactors burn money
values. The values that make a high·energy society work are all too
apparent today. The values that could make a lower·energy society work
are not new; they are in the societal attic, and could be dusted off and
recycled. They include thrift, simplicity, diversity, neighbourliness,
craftsmanship, and humility. They also include the clear thinking needed
to avoid a prevalent confusion between growth and distribution (the 'let
them eat growth' theory), between movement and progress, and between
costs and benefits. For example, many people today count personal
mobility as a benefit even when mobility is reduced to the involuntary
traffic made necessary by the existence of cars and by the settlement
patterns which cars create. If, in order to live in the utopian slurbia, we
work in order to buy a car without which we cannot get to work. the net
benefit of the transaction may be insubstantial. Ivan Illich has calculated
an illustrative number, and whether or not the number is correct, the idea
is undoubtedly important: that the average American man drives about
7500 miles a year in his car, but to do this and to earn the money to

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finance it requires his spending about 1600 hours a year, which works out
to about 4Y2 miles an hour, and we know another way to go 4Y2 miles
an hour.
Growth in things that count
We are learning, increasingly and irreversibly, that many of the things we
had been counting as the benefits of affluence are really remedial costs)
incurred in the pursuit of unstated intangible benefits which might be
obtainable in other ways without those costs. This perception seems to be
gaining ground in many industrial societies where consumer ephemerals
are losing their allure and more people are wishing that advertising
copywriters would go back to being poets. Conspicuous consumption
including its ultimate form, war · is not our only or necessarily our best
path to happiness. We need instead to have, as Herman Daly puts it,
growth in things that count, rather than in things that are merely
countable. Such discussion of values and goals may seem fuzzy and
unscientific; but it is the beginning and end of any energy policy, and
must be explicitly considered if policy is to do what is expected of it.
No matter what patterns of energy use are considered desirable, the best
energy sourCe is that energy which is spared by not being wasted on
inefficiency or nonessentials. Increasing energy supply in the usual ways
tends to be slow, costly, risky, and of temporary benefit, whereas
decreasing demand tends to be comparatively fast, cheap, safe, and of
permanent benefit (but unpopular with energy·mongers)_ It is hard to find
a method of saving energy that does not also save money. For example,
from the work of the Energy Policy Project (EPP) of the Ford Foundation it
can be shown under conservative economic assumptions that the US
could afford to spend, on 'technical fixes' to save energy, about $200,000
million initially plus
$200 million per day · and that would still cost less than increasing
supply by the amount which would otherwise be projected. What is
more, one would still have the fuel but not the environmental and
political problems of extracting and using it. In short, saving a watt is
nearly always cheaper than increasing supply by a watt.
Energy shrinkage feasible
Three simple facts from Britain suggest useful questions for all countries,
and suggest too why energy shrinkage · not just energy stability · may be
quite feasible. First, the energy needed to produce a unit of value in the
British economy varies at least 600·fold depending on what good or
service is being produced; so how much energy it takes to run the
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country depends very much on the shape of the economy. Second, since
1900 the gross UK energy consumption has doubled (it has grown so
little because a lot of coal used to be inefficiently burned in open grates),
but in those 7S years the energy at the point of end use has only gone up
by half (or by a third per capita); the rest has been swallowed up by the
energy industry itself and never reached the consumer. Gross energy
consumption for heating houses grew rapidly, but the heat grew scarcely
at all. (In the US, analogously, half the energy saved by the EPP 'technical
fixes' would have gone to fuel the fuel industries.) The largest energy
consumer in Britain · the energy industry · could consume far less if its
technologies were more appropriate. Finally, if British end·use energy is
classified not by economic sector but by physical type, the very
approximate result is: SS percent low·temperature heat, 2S percent
high·temperature heat, 15 percent mechanical work, and only about 5
percent requiring special forms such as electricity. These rough estimates
might be S to 10 percent off either way, but they cannot possibly bear any
sensible relation to the thermodynamics of the energy systems we are
now building, where for 'convenience' we use our highest·grade energy
resources · often in the upgraded form of extremely high·quality
electricity · to perform low·grade functions such as space heating, thus
guaranteeing that most of the original primary energy will be thrown
Once we decide how much energy we really need, want, and can afford
to have, we must consider the supply patterns that various constraints ·
environmental, geopolitical, sociotechnical, economic, and so on · will
allow us. Instead of blindly following incremental ad·hocracy in the hope
that it will lead in the right direction, we need to ask where we want to
be a long time hence, and then to ask what we must avoid now in order
to get there. This approach immediately
· eliminates many short·term policies that might otherwise seem attractive
within politicians' limited time horizons_ Moreover, we are now entering
an era when discontinuities and instabilities probably matter more than
the fragments of trend in between them; yet our forecasters still cling to
extrapolation of a surprise·free world. We are therefore foreclosing certain
valuable options by committing scarce money, skills, and time, which is
not recyclable, to other options.
Two policy paths
The implications of these ideas for our future energy supplies can be
stated concisely: two main policy paths for the rich countries are now

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rapidly diverging, and we must jump for one or the other. The first is
high·energy, nuclear, centralised, electric; the second is lower·energy,
fission·free, decentralised, less electrified, softer·technology based on
energy income. If we choose the first of these paths, we shall have to
continue spending on fast breeder reactors money and skills that could
instead develop all the non·nuclear energy options, especially the
soft ones, to commercial usefulness, so they will not get developed. They
are really an option only if we recognise them now.
It is true that the soft energy technologies take much time and money to
develop and deploy. But nuclear power requires so much time and
money that the softer policy path leads to the same place (or rather a
nicer place) at similar or better rates and costs. The more modest scale
and lesser technical complexity of the soft energy options makes them
much quicker in principle to demonstrate and
Undercurrents 15 build than the huge high·technology devices on which
we now rely: for example, scaling up a fast breeder reactor to commercial
size requires several stages, each of which is likely to take the best part of
a decade and billions of dollars, whereas if the basic building·block is
an assembly of selective·black solar panels perhaps the size of a house
roof, the corresponding requirements are likelier to be a few months and
thousands of dollars.
Land of Rising Sun?
To illustrate the danger of not realising
how wide our range of choices really is,
consider Japan, widely regarded as the
industrial country most desperately short. of energy and land. A line of
sound reasoning suggests that Japan can
attain an economy of energy income (as
opposed to energy capital, or fuels)
directly · without an intervening stage of
reliance on nuclear fission · merely by
devoting her resources to the former rather than the latter.
There is probably less scope for energy
conservation in Japanese industry than in d that of many other countries;
for d example, the remarkable savings made in
the Japanese steel industry can only be

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made there once. There is, however, much scope for redeployment of
Japanese economic activity towards light and
service industry, with some existing and nearly all future heavy industry
being exported to countries that want it.
Efficiency can also be much increased in
the residential, commercial, and IP
electricity·generating sectors. Japanese s,
policy is now moving in these directions S;
(as well as towards hidden energy imports d
in the form of materials rather than overt d'
energy imports in the form of fuels). But s' what of energy sources? With
respect to almost all the unconventional sources,
Japan is the best situated of any major industrial country · and doesn't
know it. Japan is at low latitude, and
receives much energy from the sun at all seasons. Japan has exceptional
on· and offshore wind resources. Japan is in
an excellent geothermal (and, if these t,
technologies prove attractive, sea thermal T
and wave) zone. And Japanese settlement patterns are peculiarly well
suited to converting domestiC, agricultural, and industrial wastes to clean
It is not hard to calculate the sort of energy economy that might be
constructed from a diverse mix of presently available soft technologies of
these types, taking due account of land·use and other constraints and
assuming that most of the present coal and hydroelectric production can
be maintained. Conservative calculations of this sort, paying special
attention to the thermodynamic matching of energy sources with energy
uses, suggest that unconventional sources of the types now available,
together with wide·ranging energy conservation, can then give Japan
a sustainable energy future within a few decades. Meanwhile,·of course,
Japan must rely on Persian Gulf oil, Indonesian and Australian coal,
Indonesian and
South China Sea oil, and belt·tightening; but nuclear power could not
improve this medium·term outlook significantly faster than could the
programme suggested here, and nuclear power would probably even
make it worse.
Those who believe that traditional Japanese patterns of rapid energy
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growth must be extrapolated decades hence. and hat Japan must, in the
next three to five decades, find a new long·term source of large blocks of
industrial energy, may say
that only nuclear power can then suffice. This, too, is incorrect. For
example, at rates and costs comparable or superior to those of nuclear
power, Japan could lease some of the Aleutian Islands, build there some
high·velocity aero·turbines, and
ship hydrogen to Japan. We are not formally advocating this idea; but it
suggests that if Japan wants to stay energy·intensive in the long run, there
a way to do it (and we can think of others) that is technically feasible, that
I on present knowledge looks economically acceptable, and that the
Japanese Government has not studied. There is a manifestly unsound
alternative: installing·. in a densely populated and politically volatile
earthquake lone, an unforgiving technology with enormous capacity for
devastating accidents and for the
deliberate or inadvertent spread of nuclear weapons.
Similar calculations could be done for, say, the Scandinavian countries,
the large installed hydroelectric capacity of Norway and Sweden could
meet all the region's electrical needs if there were modest conservation
efforts and if heat pumps were substituted for resistive space·heating in
some areas. Even in the Scandinavian climate and latitudes,
diffuse solar collection by sophisticated devices already developed could
i supplement conventional space·heating with surprising speed and could
take up nearly all the space·heating load (roughly half of total energy
demand) by early in the next century. Wind power offers
a significant decentralised, and probably non·electrical, resource
throughout the region, particularly with the new vertical·axis designs:
there has been much technical progress since the decline of the Danish
wind·power economy. The many wastes from agriculture, forestry, and
cities could be readily and efficiently converted to methanol and
methane. Scandinavian industry, including the auto industry, provides the
technical resources needed for complete self·sufficiency in designing,
mass·producing, and even exporting energy hardware, including
transitional technologies such as fluidised bed combustors and gas
turbines (especially those that offer neighbourhood·<:centred district

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heating) and heat pumps. Excellent research in these areas is seeping into
official consciousness and will soon be reflected in policy.
Fission economy can be bypassed
Two common) threads run through all these examples. The first is that by
prompt redirection of national resources, the fission economy can
generally be not merely superseded promptly but bypassed altogether.
The second is that in order to realise in time that this is possible, one must
imagine where one wants to be in fifty years or 50 and then work
backwards to see what must be done when and what must not be done at
all. This method reveals the existence of radically different policy options
which would be completely invisible to anyone working forward in time:
such a person could only see in hindsight, say thirty years from now, that
he might have implemented certain policies if he had thought of them
twenty years earlier before it was too late.
Too often the present method of energy planning consists of regretting
opportunities missed, options foreclosed, necessary steps not seen soon
enough to take them. This approach is not likely to yield sustainable
energy systems that will fulfil our social goals. It is, however, the method
implicitly relied upon by many proponents of nuclear power who follow
a fallacious argument similar to that of Hans Bethe and Alvin Weinberg:
that since (1) coal, fission, and solar technologies are the only obviously
feasible longterm sources of large amounts of energy, but (2) the solar
technologies can allegedly play no significant role during this century,
therefore (3) we must now undertake a huge commitment to fission and
coal. This argument ignores the obvious possibility that the more
intelligent and sophisticated use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, can form
a fission·free bridge well into the next century, by which time the solar
technologies can be fully developed and deployed.
How fast?
Modern thinking about energy strategy requires us to examine
'rate·and·magnitude problems', the practical constraints on how fast we
can do how much. Rate and·magnitude arithmetic can be done (but too
seldom is) on the back of an envelope. On a global scale, for example, if
energy use increases 5 percent a year and if we commission one" large
reactor (1000 electrical megawatts) per day, starting now, then in 2000
we shall have spent approximately 10 current US GNP·years on reactors ·
and we must still get most of our primary energy from fossil fuels and
must burn them more than twice as fast as now.
The same is true on a national scale: after thirty years and many billions
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of dollars worth of research and development, nuclear power in the US

has probably just passed firewood as a national energy source, for
national energy use is so prodigious that we can scarcely catch up,
especially if it keeps growing. likewise, if Danish energy use and
electricity use grow by 3 percent a year and 4 percent a year respectively
(both far slower than historical rates), and if a major nuclear programme
(one large reactor every other year} is begun now, then in 2000 nearly as
much fossil fuel will be burned in power stations as is now used for this
purpose, and Denmark · the Japan of the West · will still be more than 90
percent dependent on imported fuels, burned at nearly twice the present
rate, for her national energy supplies.
Here is another way to look at rate·and·magnitude problems. In any
industrial country (except a few unusual ones like Norway) the
exponential growth of energy supply has been made up of successively
added curves, each initially exponential, and each introduced as the
previous one · representing the previous 'new' energy source · matures or
begins to falter. In such a system, each source must be capable of faster
growth than the preceding one. The traditional succession of sources ·
wood, coal, oil, gas · permits this because of its trend towards increasing
technical simplicity per unit of output, culminating in gas, whose relative
simplicity at large scale has let it account for about'!, of US energy
growth in the past few decades. What, then, is the next big source,
simpler than gas and therefore capable of even faster sustained growth? It
certainly isn't nuclear fission, which is far too complex. Both
rate·and·magnitude constraints and the other side of that logistical coin ·
the net·energy constraints discussed in the second part of this book · lead
one irresistibly to conclude that the comparatively simple,
low·technology, decentralised, non·electrical energy technologies make
the most sense.
Every assistance short of actual help
These technologies are small·scale. What matters, though, is not
aggregate or even unit energy production, but ability to meet the energy
needs of people in particular circumstances. Indeed, the energy
technologies that most people in the world need are those which perform
basic end·uses such as·heating, cooking, lighting, and pumping; and
these can be done admirably by simple devices using sun, wind, and
organic conversion. These are not glamorous technologies, are ideal for
poor as well as rich countries, and have no military applications, so
people seriously interested in developing them tend to receive every

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assistance short of actual help. Moreover, so long as the main industrial

countries remain officially committed to the equally exciting·to·develop
and far more difficult fission technologies (which are also not so useful to
poor countries), many first·rate technologists will be reluctant to commit
their careers to developing the soft options.
Of the criteria mentioned above for practical energy systems ·
small·scale," simple, low·technology (which does not mean
unsophisticated), decentralised, non·electrical · the last is perhaps the
most controversial and, to thoughtful analysts, the most obvious, because
electricity is the costliest form of energy to make, store, or transport in
bulk. Electrification of most end·uses in an industrial economy is simply
too expensive for any major country outside the Persian Gulf to afford it.
Building the capacity needed to deliver a unit of energy to the consumer
now requires approximately twenty times as much capital investment
with a typical nuclear·electric system as with, say, a North Sea oil system
(including pipelines, refineries, distribution, etc), and this in turn is
several times as capital·intensive as most traditional oil and coal systems.
The social implications of centralised electrification, too, are as
disquieting as its capital intensity: it is the most complex and slowest kind
of technology to deploy, is remotely administered by
a highly bureaucratised technical elite with little personal commitment to
their clients, is vulnerable to large·scale and extremely expensive
technical mistakes and failures, and is entirely at the mercy of a few
people. (A handful of power engineers can turn off a country, and
a single rifleman can black out most cities_) Finally, very few end·uses of
energy in modern societies actually require electricity, and they. require
little of it at that.
There is no accounting for what some people think
Some people have a remarkable facility for ignoring these obvious
features of centralised electrification. Some people still think that nuclear
capacity in, say, the United States will increase about 20·fold by the year
2000 and that the equivalent of the total present US generating capacity
will then be built every 29 months. (The USAEC was still predicting in
December 1974 that US electricity demand would increase 15·fold by
2020.) Some people think that only the most complex, costly,
unforgiving, and vulnerable major energy technology known is capable
of doing this. There is no accounting for what some people think.
The special environmental and social risks of fission technology need not
be previewed here. These risks include not only the obvious hazards of
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accident and sabotage, or of failure to contain radioactive wastes, but

also the hazards of nuclear violence and coercion through misuse of
toxic or explosive materials in the nuclear fuel cycle. Proposed safeguards
are likely to be repressive or ineffective or (probably) both. The profound
and permanent social commitments and controls that adoption of nuclear
power requires deserve special note: persistent nuclear materials may
damage social diversity and personal freedom as much, if not for so long,
as they damage the wider biological environment. Moreover, in our
increasingly inter·dependent and unstable world, the mere creation of
atomic·bomb materials endangers every·one. Robert Heilbroner thinks
that some poor countries may resort to nuclear blackmail or 'wars of
redistribution'; and it is conceivable that some poor countries which have
great economic needs and no other assets might be tempted to sell bomb
materials or designs to other countries with great assets and military
ambitions. Obviously, a decisions by any one country to forego and
discourage nuclear power will marginally diminish, not solve outright, a
worldwide problem of this sort. Exceptionally, such a decision by the
United States in the next few years could virtually eliminate the problem
everywhere, while technological dependence is still great and
technological metastasis small. Yet such a principled decision by even the
smallest country could have a profound political impact everywhere.
Social and political innovation is unfortunately a less obvious element of
energy policy than is technological innovation. But what is most often
lacking in the latter is a sense of why one wants a particular technology. Is
it con·sidered a stopgap, a mainstay, or a permanent solution? Part of a
diverse mix or a single panacea? Transitional or final? Something to do
while we look for something better, make·work for a powerful industry, or
a result of institutional momentum and political sloth? Is it capable of
doing what we wan t, when we want it? Can we afford to pay for it? Have
we hedged our bets in case it doesn't work? Is it a worthy way to invest
the fossil fuels needed to build it? Does it supply energy in the forms and
patterns in which people need it? These crucial questions are seldom
Forget fusion
Consider, for example, the two main classes of energy technologies (other
than nuclear fission) which are generally regarded as permanent or
semipermanent supply options: terrestrial nuclear fusion, and its
extensively tested, remotely sited sister · solar conversion in its numerous
direct and indirect forms. Terrestrial nuclear fusion has the same problems

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as fission except that the risks are smaller by perhaps tens or thousands of
times and are somewhat different in kind. The radioactive inventories and
leftovers may well be too big for fusion to be an attractive energy source,
though they, like the potential fuel supply, would be more attractive than
for fission. Fusion technology is probably (not certainly) feasible, is bound
to be complex and costly, will place heavy demands on some scarce
resources, can be used to make atomic·bomb materials, is several
decades behind fission in its development·and once available could be
demonstrated and deployed at similar rates. More to the point, though ·
and one that is often overlooked in purely technical discussions · is that
fusion is probably a very ingenious way to do something that we don't
really want to do, namely to find yet another slow·to·deploy, complex,
costly, centralised, high·technology way to generate electricity. Directors
of two national fusion programmes have recently told me that if fusion
turns out to be a rather dirty energy source. as they half·expect, then
knowing us we'll have put all our eggs in that basket and we'll use it
anyway; whereas if it turns out to be a marvellous clean source as
advertised, we'll lack the discipline to use it with restraint and the
resulting release of heat will change global climate unfavourably and
irreversibly; so, they conclude, on a pragmatic view of the wisdom of
future decisionmakers, we should forget fusion and go straight to solar
technology, because we know it works and because it limits the amount
of mischief we can get into.
Solar technologies ... could meet virtually all our energy needs
These are only two of the many advantages of diverse and decentralised
solar technologies. Some others are that solar technology is reliable, not
easy to disrupt, sufficient for our needs, simple, low·technology,
transferable, flexible with respect to cultural and settlement patterns, safe,
with· minimal environmental and climatic impacts, has free fuel, tends to
resist commercial monopoly, has a high thermodynamic source potential
(5500·K), is well matched to common energy end·u,es, reduces
international tensions arising from uneven distribution of fuels and of
high technologies, is a spur to decentralisation and local self·sufficiency,
and helps to redress the severe energy imbalance between temperate and
tropical regions. And these benefits are not impossibly remote. Technical
assessments by expert panels of the US National Science Foundation/
National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1972, of the USAEC in
1973, and of the Federal Energy Administration in 1974 broadly agreed
that a significant fraction of, say, US energy supply could be taken up by

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diverse solar technologies (including wind and organic conversion)

within this century. For example, the FEA estimate, which was regarded as
realistic, would have direct and indirect solar collection supplying about
5 percent of all US primary energy needs in 1990
and 31 percent in 2000 if the US followed the 'Technical Fix' scenario of
the Energy Policy Project; and with the EPP 'Zero Energy Growth'
scenario (which, despite its name, would entail about 33 percent energy
growth to 2000 with steadily increasing efficiency as well), the solar
fraction would be about 39 percent in 2000.* Starting in the 1990s, these
solar supply estimates considerably exceed the USAEC's most sanguine
projections of the contributions of nuclear fission: these presume 1400
thousand electrical megawatts of installed nuclear capacity in 2000, but
even if the reactors sent out 70 percent of their theoretical capacity as
projected instead of the 55 percent observed so far, they would produce
only three·quarters as much energy as the FEA's solar projection for 2000.
Indeed, the USAEC's WASH·1535 (December 1974) conceded that in
2020 new non·fission technologies could supply five times as much
electricity as the US now uses. In short, relatively simple and small·scale
solar technologies, starting decades after fission, could quickly overtake
it, and within a few decades could meet virtually all our energy needs.
Think twice as hard and waste half as much
Whether these soft supply options are made available or not, traditional
energy growth cannot continue. People in countries like the US, Japan,
and the Netherlands will learn, in David Brower's phrase, to think twice
as hard and waste much, whether they want to or not; they can
only decide whether to do this by deliberate normative choice now or by
frantic improvisation later in the face of imminent shortage. Alwyn Rhys
says that when you have come to the edge of an abyss. the only
progressive move you can make is to step backward: he might equally
have said that you can turn around and then step forward. Planners
whose thoughts revolve around econometric extrapolation, economies of
scale, centralised electrification, and marginal mills per kilowatt·hour are
not the planners who can most constructively address the problems of
turning around. That process, too, will require the thoughtful intervention
of concerned citizens in order to ensure that technical experts do not lose
touch with more widely held social goals. How we, as citizens and as
nations, meet the challenges of energy strategy is a crucial test of our
ethical values. our political institutions, and even our conception of

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We can per.haps see the ethical issues more clearly if we imagine, as

Hugh Nash has done, some of the questions we might ask our
grand·children about our nuclear decisions: for example, we might ask
them, "As a by·product of nuclear power we may generate more
radioactive waste than we actually need; would you like us to set some
aside for you?" Or we might ask our grand·children, "Isn't it a bit selfish of
you to want some of our oil?" Or perhaps "How can we better show our
faith in your boundless technological ingenuity than to make sure you
need it?" To questions like these, I think we know what kinds of answer
we would get. But in the technicalities of abstract debate about
acceptable risks, economic growth, and the like, it is too easy to lose
sight of such simple moral issues; too easy to forget that energy problems
offer a useful integrating principle for thinking about the whole range of
values and goals fundamental to the sustainable society that our
descendants would be glad to inherit.
At the root of the issues we consider here is a difference in perspective
about man and his works. Some people, impressed and fascinated by the
glittering achievements of technology, say that if we will only have faith
in human ingenuity (theirs), we shall witness the Second Coming of
Prometheus, bringing us undreamed·<>f freedom and plenty. Other
people think that we should plan on something more modest, lest we find
instead undreamed·of tyrannies and perils; and that even if we had an
unlimited energy source, we would lack the discipline to use it wisely.
Such people are really saying, firstly. that energy is not enough to solve
the ancient problems of the human spirit, and secondly, that the
technologists who claim they can satisfy Alfven's condition that "no acts
of God can be permitted" are guilty of hubris, the human sin of divine
arrogance. We have today an opportunity · perhaps our last · to exercise
our responsibility to foster in our society a greater humility, one that
springs from an appreciation of the essential frailty of the human ·design.
Amory B. Lovins Copyright © 1975 by Amory B. Lovins.
* Since most of the soft energy systems would. meet principal end·use energy needs directly
at high efficiency. whereas roughly half the gross input to conventional energy systems is
lost before it reaches the consumer. the real impact of the soft sources in meeting national
energy needs would be substantially larger than these percentages suggest.
This article is an edited extract from Amory Lovins' introduction to the book Non
Nuclear Futures by Amory Lovins and John Price. published last Autumn in the USA
by Ballinger and Friends of the Earth and available in the UK from John Wiley.
Paperback price should be about £4.00.

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Elliott Job Creation: How Saving Energy Could Save Jobs
ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY enthusiasts usually justify their concern for
the development of alternatives to existing forms of technology and social
organisation on long·term social and environmental grounds.
AT, they say, is ecologically sound, and socially beneficial; it can help
provide the technical base for a sustainable decentralised society
organised on co·operative principles. Existing forms of technology, they
argue, have exactly the opposite characteristic · they are polluting,
resource·extravagant, humanly degrading and alienating, cannot easily be
controlled by society, and help to underwrite a basically·undesirable
materialist society.
However, important though these longer term environmental and social
concerns are, for many people there are more urgent and immediate
problems related to their existence in society as it is, and their experience
of shortages and failings in both public and private services · housing,
education, medical care underlain by continuing uncertainty and
insecurity in employment.
These everyday problems, obviously, are ramifications of the underlying
social and economic problems which the long·term view seeks to tackle.
For some, the only hope is to focus on these longer·term
issues, and they seek to 'politicise' the masses by polemic, exhortation
and so
on. But political 'consciousness' can only grow out of concrete
experience · combined with exposure to new ideas. What seems to be
needed is a process of 'ideological' development that helps to expand
awareness of the implications of these immediate problems and crises,
with the long·term aim of generating
more radical proposals and commitments.
Technology is one of the cornerstones of the status quo · it helps underpin
the economic system and, with science, helps legitimise and reinforce the
dominant pattern of social relations. Consequently a vital area of change
must be in people's attitudes to technology and in the general pattern of
development and use of technology in the future.
There are already some signs of this
kind of change · produced by experience of changed circumstances.
Pollution, impending resource scarcity, increases in energy costs and so
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on, have made many individuals consider the case for alternative
technologies and energy and resource conservation. And the current
economic crisis has forced some workers
·those at Lucas Aerospace·to campaign for the adoption of alternative
technologies as a way of saving jobs. Of course, these demands might be
seen as no more than reformist 'technical fixes' designed by
self·interested groups to head off immediate problems without tackling
the underlying causes, and contributing not to radical social change, but
to the reassertion ·and strengthening of the status quo. For example, many
AT enthusiasts are not moved by the demand for the 'right to work',
preferring rather the demand for the 'right not to work' or at least the right
to seek a new society in which work and play are fused.
Although the 'right not to work' and similar ideals may be the long·term
goal, we have to think in terms of practical strategies which are likely to
be effective now, After all, being made redundant by the hidden hand of
the market is not the same as choosing to 'drop out' yourself and many
people do nOt see the latter as attractive in any case. While the in·built
structural inequalities and irrational forces at work in capitalist society
persist, to demand the right to work is still radical. And although demands
of this sort are to some extent reformist, they can, in some circumstances,
lead to the development of a wider consciousness and more radical
demands, whereas utopian 'maximalist' demands, while they have
a vital educational and polemical role, can alienate people.
Transitional strategies
What is needed is a range of intermediate 'transitional' strategies and
developments, based on the existing problems, conflicts and
contradictions thrown up by the existing socio·economic system, which
will enable people to transcend the current, limited consciousness and
engage in a process of radical transformation.
Given this perspective, the demand for the right to work (for example)
can have radical implications, as the Lucas Aerospace Combines
campaign illustrates. Faced with possible unemployment these workers
have found it necessary to challenge not only management's unilateral
control over the deployment of labour and the means of production, but
also their right to choose what should be produced.
Many other workers currently faced with unemployment may follow the
Lucas workers' initiative and demand the
right to work on socially·desirable alternative technologies_ At the same
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time, the Government needs some way to reduce the redundancy figures.
With this background in mind it is worth considering the potential for job
creation of a programme aimed at developing AT
Job·creation and retraining
So far, Westminster has come up with
a number of relatively trivial short·term 'job creation' programmes, via
the Manpower Services Commission. These have involved beach·clearing,
tree·felling and similar activities, employing out·of·work youths. Th,e
retraining component is usually small · although at the same time the
government is embarking on a number of longer·term retraining schemes
designed to relocate unemployed workers in new industries; for example,
some car workers are being offered training in forestry work. The state
also provides mobility grants to individuals to contribute to the cost of
moving location. All in all, a considerable amount of government money
has been allocated to retraining. And in theory the National Enterprise
Board should now be beginning to provide funds to stimulate industrial
growth and the creation of jobs_
An alternative energy technology programme
However, most of these developments are concerned with conventional
industry. Little attention has been paid to the development of new ideas ·
such as small community·controlled co·operative enterprises, for
example. These are mainly the preserve of non·government philanthropic
institutions, self·help groups and volunteers. But this need not be so.
There is a wide range of possible alternative forms of employment which
could · in both the short and longer term · make
a substantial contribution to reducing unemployment.
Rather than throw good money after bad in another round of nuclear
power station construction, the government could beneficially invest it in
an energy conservation programme, for example, creating jobs and
training people in the building insulation and alternative energy system
fields. A national alternative energy technology development and energy
conservation programme would not only generate jobs but could also
make the nuclear power programme

unnecessary. The current investment figure for the nuclear power

programme" is something like £400,000 per job compared with about

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£25,000 per job even in modern, capital·intensive industries, and about

£5,000 or less in low·capital industries. If turned to other types of
programme this investment could surely lead to the creation of many
more jobs than the few thousand envisaged for the nuclear power
What would this mean in practice? It could mean the setting up with state
help, but under worker control, of a number of small firms in the
construction, cavity·wall filling, and insulation industries, organised on
co·operative principles. It could mean the conversion of some existing
firms to AT production, following the lines of the Lucas workers
campaign, overseen by the workforce and with state cash aid. It could
mean the provision of funds to local authorities and local community
groups to develop programmes of
house insulation together with local·heating and power techniques for
new housing developments using heat pumps, windmills, solar collectors
and fuel cells. Already several local authorities are interested in this idea ·
for example, Wandsworth and Essex Councils, and the Milton Keynes
Development Corporation, are experimenting with solar houses.
There would also be considerable markets in the private, domestic and
commercial sectors · although there are dangers in exploiting these
markets. For if the development of AT is to have any radical implications
it cannot be used as just a 'technical fix', enabling a few well·off
individuals or organisations to buy themselves energy 'self·sufficiency'.
The aim should rather be to explore the idea of collective autonomy ·
through the development of medium·sized systems suitable for whole
council estates, small communities and so on. As Peter Harper argues in
Radical Technology, it makes sense in economic and technical terms, as
well as in terms of social desirability, to operate at this medium·scale
A national programme of AT development aimed at providing the
hardware for such schemes would obviously create many new jobs.
Equally obviously, it would imply a major problem in terms of retraining,
mobility and manpower planning. Britain's efforts in the retraining area
generally have so far been relatively minimal compared, say, to those of
Sweden. However, faced with
a possible 1.5 million unemployed it
seems likely that government efforts will be expanded even further than
the recent £60 million programme.

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Whether a joint job·creation and retraining programme of the type

proposed here will materialise will depend on the extent to which the
trade unionist,
the tax·payer and the environmental activist can work together and
oppose the plans supported by those with vested interests in the existing
pattern of labour deployment and technological development. This
implies grass roots organisation in industry and the community; careful
exposure of the counter·productiveness in terms of job creation · or even
prosperity · of programmes such as that being planned by the nuclear
power .lobby; and the development, dissemination and implementation
of technically·viable, environmentally·sound and socially liberating
A short·term job·creation programme
Unemployment is with us now · and we need immediate answers. In the
longer term, programmes of alternative energy technology production
and installation ·
solar panels, heat pumps for local heating and similar devices · may
provide a basis for a diversified industry, but for the present we need a
crash programme which can have rapid impact.
The Durham Friends of the Earth group have illustrated one possible
element of such a programme in their Insulate
a Pensioner project which, as its name implies, has provided cheap
insulation for pensioners, using voluntary labour and donations from
local organizations. The total cost to the recipient is £12 'and the Group
expects to have completed 50 homes by the end of March. The
Manpower Services Commissions Job Creation Programme is one
possible source of finance for such projects. The MSC will finance
short·term projects and provide for labour and training costs, and has
awarded a £6,200 grant to the Durham group to create five paid jobs as
part of
a Home Insulation Programme'. A small start, maybe, but it looks like
spreading. The National Right to Fuel Campaign is another promising
development. Organised by the British Association of Settlements and
Social Action Centres, the Campaign has provided 'Action Kits' advising
activists on how to help the elderly, young families, and others on low
incomes to keep warm by avoiding disconnection of their electricity and
gas supplies.
The Campaign's aims include:
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A warm home for every family

Fairer tariffs
No disconnections (arrears should be collected through the courts, like
other debts)
No deposits
Pay·as·you·go schemes which really work
Token meters for those who want them · at no extra charge
Realistic heating allowances for pensioners, the disabled and other
An urgent look at insulation and cheap alternative fuels.
In Edinburgh, the Heating Campaign for the Elderly is currently
examining ways
in which MSC funds might be used to boost its activities. And the
'Springboard' neighbourhood group in lewisham, in association with Task
Force, applied In November 1975 to the MSC for funding for 24
insulation jobs · though so far the go·ahead has not been given.
Other sources of funds are hard to find.
In view of the public outcry about hypothermia deaths and the 'Save It'
propaganda from the Energy Department, one would have thought that
the Department of Health and Social Services would be only too willing
to meet the cost of loft·insulation · through 'Exceptional Needs' payment,
for example. However, after lengthy wrangling, the Department still
appears only to accept 'draught·proofing' as important; loft·insulation,
while 'desirable' is not considered 'essential'. And in one test case which
would be amusing were it not so appall ing, the DHSS assessed that a
house required 99p worth of draught proofing but refused to meet the
cost on the grounds that DHSS Rules prohibit payments under £2!
local Authorities might be another source of money · except for the fact
that their funds are being savagely cut at present.
Hopefully, public pressure will free up
some of these bureaucratic log jams. But the recent Government move to
simply postpone electricity and gas disconnec·tions for pensioners who
cannot pay indicates that it is not interested in dealing with root causes ·
just in ameliorating effects.
In case this sounds too pessimistic, however, it's important to realise that
the Government has recently provided an extra £30m for job creation · in

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addition to the £4Dm allocated last June · plus £SSm for retraining, and
an extension of the 'Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme' to twelve
months duration. The aim of this massive transfusion of public funds is to
create 140,000 jobs or training places.
At least some of this money must surely be available for socially useful
projects ...
Longer·term programmes
Government cash has also been allocated to a number of relevant
projects with medium and longer·term implica·tions · notably the
building construction industry. £50m has been allocated for the
improvement of public sector housing over the next year.
Hopefully, some of this money will find its way into some of the solar
house projects being considered around the country · following the lines
of the Milton Keynes house, and the Essex county council project.
Another promising·development is that involving the boroughs of
Croydon, Lambeth, lewisham, Southwark, Sutton and Wandsworth,
who.have set up an 'Energy Conservation Working Party', to study solar
heating possibilities. Approval has already been given by Wandsworth for
a solar·assisted hot water system project. The appointed architects · the
South london Consortium · estimate that for an investment of £400·500,
the individual householder could save 2,230Kw per annum · which at
current prices means about a £53 cash saving, comparing with electricity.
"At a national level," as the Consortium points out, "if only one million of
the 19m dwellings in this country were to be equipped with such a
system, the total amount of energy saved per annum could be as high as
160,000 tons of oil."
Of course, it will be several years (3·5 say) before such projects can be
extended to national scale, but even so they must have some impact on
employment in the
interim. Certainly the various solar collector manufacturers are confident
of a promising future, and although their concern is obviously profit,
employment is another outcome.
I f we turn to domestic insulation cavity wall·filling, loft·insulation,
double glazing · the situation looks even more attractive, even in the
short term. As the recent report by Tyneside Environmental Concern
makes clear, "almost the entire housing stock (19 million homes) could be

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upgraded by 40%·50% · that is, the energy consumption required to give

currently acceptable comfort conditions almost halved."
Of course at present the home insulation field is inhabited by many
'cowboy' outfits · but the possibility exists of creating new enterprises,
ideally small·scale community·related co·ops using state funds.
Double glazing, loft·and cavity wall·insulation all have implications for
the industries which supply materials · glass, aluminium, plastics
insulation, etc. Peter Chapman estimates (in Fuels Paradise) that a major
programme aiming to provide double glazing for all new houses, offices
and shops, plus some existing buildings, would require at the very least a
doubling in output of the sheet glass industry. Although such a
programme might take some years to accomplish (it would take thirty
years at a conversion rate of 600,000 houses per year; the current rate of
new house·construction is only 300,000 per year) the employment
implications are clear. large·scale roof·insulation and cavity
wall·insulation programmes would require similar expansions in the
relevant industries .....
Solar collectors
Turning back to solar collectors, the implications for industry are even
more startling. In fact, as Chapman points out, if we wanted to provide
domestic space and water·heating by solar units for
18 million houses this would absorb one third of the annual world
production of aluminium. At a conversion rate of 700,000 houses/year,
"the material demands would use up half the UK·produced aluminium,
almost threequarters of the UK sheet glass production and more than
twice the UK copper production. "
Although Chapman has not taken into account the fact that some new
varieties of solar collector do not use aluminium, copper or steel but
plastic, the implications are clear: it will be some while before such a
programme could be completed · but at the same time it could create
many new jobs.
There have been, and are, a number of job creation projects around the
country based on the idea of setting up workers' cooperatives · building
in particular. Groups like COMTEK and the Swindon Centre for
Alternatives in Urban Development proVide technical aid to people in

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the local community Wishing to modify their own houses,

and there are many self·help building co·ops constructing their own
Setting up a formal cooperative enterprise is not easy · there are legal,
financIal and organisational problems. Some advice can be obtained from
Industrial Common Ownership MOvement (ICOM). In theory, the
National Enterprise Board could help support
a co·operative venture, although the relevant legislation seems not to
have survived in the post·Benn era: tI,e 'Co·operative Development
Agency' that Benn was trying to set up as part of the NEB seems to have
foundered · at least for the moment. However, a private members Bill is
currently struggling through its second reading in Parliament, piloted by
David Watkins and backed by ICOM. This would provide £60,000 in
grants and £1m in loans to pump prime new co·ops.

A recent report by Arthur D. Little Inc. estimated a $1.3b market for solar
conversions systems in the US alone by 1985. Apart from creating new
jobs in the primary and supply industries, the production sector would
obviously expand. The $lOrn being spent in the US on programmes of
solar power demonstration and development is another indication of the
likely scale of this industry. Current interest in the UK in windmills and
heat pumps (including the £5m windmill development programme) will
similarly have implications for the engineering and production industries ·
a point not lost on groups of workers like thOse represented by the Lucas
Aerospace com·bine, who are trying to defend their jobs by forcing their
management to diversify the product range and to link with the various
projects being considered by local authorities and government
departments. Fuel cell and heat pump units for domestic use are already
under intense development in various firms and research institutes:
several local authorities have expressed interest, including the Milton
Keynes Development Corporation ....
Lockheed have estimated that if windmills were used for only 10% of the
US power expansion planned for 198(}'90, this would represent an £8
billion market ... and although UK projects are somewhat less ambitious
than the US NASAl ERDA programme, the exploitation of windpower
could generate significant numbers of jobs for those with aerodynamics
and engineering skills.

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Other job creation possibilities include the whole field of environmental

protection and pollution control. This is already big business in the USA
amounting to a $2Sb market · with
a 20% annual growth rate being predicted for the next five years. (Again,
to propose the creation of jobs in environmental protection and pollution
control is very much a transitional demand'. In the fairer and more
ecologically·conscious society towards which we are aiming, industries
which make serious assaults on the environment would be few and far
Although the boom in US government and industrial spending on
environmental protection and pollution control programmes has been
affected by the current economic recession, it has nevertheless led to the
creation of many new jobs. The US Bureau of Labour statistics recently
estimated that each $1 million spent on
. pollution control created 66.9 jobs. It has also been estimated that
240,000 jobs could be generated in water pollution control if the federal
government moved swiftly to implement the $18 billion clean water
programme currently being dis·cussed.
Waste recycling is another potential growth area. In the UK, there are
signs of interest by several local authorities in various types of waste
separation and recycling projects; the government has set up a national
Waste Management Advisory Council and has put
£1.1 million towards two mechanised waste·sorting plants in the North
East. Of course these developments are perhaps too 'high
technology'·oriented for most AT enthusiasts. Furthermore, this type of
large·scale high technology is usually capital· rather than labour·intensive
and therefore is unlikely to generate many jobs. But there are signs that
scale recycling units may become popular. One suitable area is paper.
The main
trade union involved in the paper industry, SOGAT, is understandably
perturbed by the fact that 20,000 jobs have been lost over the past few
years, and they are currently campaigning for the development of
extensive recycling plants · using government funds under the current
special re·equipment scheme.
(The Government is currently planning

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to provide £25m for investment in the paper industry, including £3m for
deinking processes and other waste·recycling
techniques). The Intermediate Technology Development Group, the
University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Strathclyde
University, and Friends of the Earth are all currently working up plans for
small·scale low·cost·units costing £40,000 or so, producing 5·6 tons of
recycled paper per day and providing work for about ten workers each.
Some local authorities, inCluding Oxford County Council, have been
showing interest in the idea · for example to provide paper for the masses
of exercise books used in schools. It might even be possible to involve
school children themselves in the recycling work .... Of course there is
some consumer resistance to recycled paper: white paper · like white
bread, sugar and clear glass · has come to indicate a high standard of
living. But whether this will remain so is open to debate: preferences are
ITDG are also developing a small·scale glass·making plant · costing
around £30,OO(}'£40,OOO. If this employed say, ten people, the cost
per workplace would be about £4,000 · compared with the £5,000·
£25,000 job typical of modern large·scale plants.
In general, it seems that jobs can be
A 3 inch jacket can be bought for under ii and will save you money as
soon as you wrap your tank up. Even a I inch jacket means you are losing
£8 every year in wasted heat. If you rent your house, or flat, it is still
worth buying a 3 inch jacket, because after all you have to pay the
hot·water bill. It is also worth insulating hot·water pipes · particularly the
ones that are in the roof. A cheaper jacket can be made by wrapping the
tank up with some 3 inch glass fibre insulation which wasn't used up in
the roof, and tying string around it to hold it in place. Then wrap a
polythene sheet around the glass fibre in a similar manner. Total cost is
under £ 1.

created at a capital (hardware) outlay of say £2,000·£4,000 per

workplace: interestingly, this is about the same as the untaxed income of
the operator. Compare this with the vast sums invested by the nuclear
power programme and the meagre number of jobs so created ....
Production and distribution of these _ less complex alternative
technologies obviously has immense implications for the third world ·
there is potentially
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a vast market for cheap agricultural aids, glass·and paper·making plants,

small power units, small solar furnaces and collectors, wind plants and
the like. (Eventually, of course, third world countries would wish to
manufacture such plants themselves, but in the short term they could act
as vital 'pump·priming' devices to revitalise ailing rural
Swords into ploughshares
Among the firms that could well diversify to meet these needs, making
use of government financial 'adjustment assistance', are, of course, those
involved in arms production. The Armaments industry, like the nuclear
industry and advanced technology industries in general, is
capital·intensive, absorbing vast sums of money (5.5% of GNP in the UK)
and producing items of dubious social use.
Arms production creates many hundreds of thousand of jobs, and
provides the major driving force in the economy. As a US government
report put it:
"Heavy defence expenditure has provided additional protection against
depressions, since this factor is not responsive to contraction in the
private sector and provides a sort of buffer or flywheel in the economy."
Essential to manning this buffer is the
arms race. As one commentator has put it:
, 'The cold war increases the demand for goods helps sustain a high level
of employ·ment, accelerates technical progress and this helps the country
to raise its standard of living ... ".
Indeed it has often been suggested that the nature of the 'Russian threat'
has been played up or down over the years according to the needs of
industry and the economy:
"Government planners figure they have found the magic formula for
almost endless good times .... 'Cold War' is the catalyst. Cold War is an
automatic pump·primer. Turn a spigot: the public clamours for more
arms·spend ing. Turn another: the clamour ceases ..... Cold War demands,
if fully exploited, are almost limitless ... •
We seem to be facing just such a situation at present, with dubious
statistics as to the balance of military power between NATO and the
Warsaw Pact being bandied around to justify increases in military
spending and cuts in the (non·
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profitable) public and social services. (It should be pointed out that in fact
the West already has a much larger more efficient, more up·to·date, more
widely developed and deployed military machine than the Eastern Block
and that the recent cuts announced by the Labour Government are
cutbacks in the rate of growth, not absolute cuts.)
A Tory MP is quoted as saying in a 1945 election address:
"We will maintain full employment after the war. If necessary we will
build battle·ships, tow them out to sea to sink them, come back and build
some more."
If we want to shift from this insane form of production, diversify and
convert ·Quoted in F. Cook's 'Juggernaut: the Warfare State' in The Notion
20 Oct. 1961, p300.
industry to socially useful and job·creating products, then we need to win
over the work forces involved. And as Roy Hutchinson of AUEW/TASS
puts it:
"To convince workers they should change their jobs there has got to be
realism in what they are going to take part in afterwards. You can get
convincing arguments to say that arms are bad, but when you say you
have got to allow for a year on your redundancy pay, you haven't got
a job but we'll sort you one out in the future, we think we can diversify
into X·rays or whatever it may be · it doesn't work. Because he has still
got his kids and
. his wife to feed. So you have got to get the firms that are doing the work
to change the actual jobs that they are doing before they finally get rid of
their arms programmes."
This is of course exactly what the Lucas Aerospace Combine campaign is
all about ..... but it can only be spread if other workers can sec that the
alternatives are not only socially desirable, but guarantee them
employment. It is not enough to talk vaguely about shifting resources
from armaments or nuclear power. These resources are not just financial ·
it is people's livelihoods and skills you are talking about. And you can't
a nuclear engineer or weapons systems designer overnight to working in
hospitals, education systems, alternative transport or energy systems, or
A common argument against diversification/conversion is that the
technology limits the possibility for change.

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A modern car plant · it is argued · is designed to mass·produce cars, and

cannot easily be modified. And yet, during the war, production lines
switched rapidly to producing tanks, and even aircraft and back again at
the close of hostilities. The major problem is rather manpower·planning
and retraining. But a major recession, like the one we are in at present,
provides an excellent opportunity to undertake just this necessary
retraining: investment in education is the classic Keynesian economic
solution to recession. Which makes the current savage cuts in education ·
and particularly in Further Education · all the more ludicrous.
All in all, you cannot simply argue for the conversion of the armaments
industry, the nuclear business and the other high technology industries to
socially useful alternative activities without considering the manpower
implications and the wider social and economic issues · and this implies
some form of planning and protection for displaced workers. But as 1
have, I hope, illustrated, there are viable alternatives both in the short and
long term. The task now is to organise to implement them.
Dave Elliott

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Emerson The Politics of Production For Need
Production for need the socialist alternative
THE TIME IS absolutely right to build on the initiative of the Lucas
Aerospace workers' campaign and spread the demand for the right to
work on socially useful products to other industries. If it can be shown
that alternative or intermediate technology projects can not only create
jobs but also meet real and dire social needs, .then People in the
'mainstream' labour and community movements will be willing to listen.
And if the numerical and organisation strength of these movements is
harnessed to the demand for alternative technology, then an enormous
potential will be unleashed.
But if we are to sell ' AT' to the labour movement, we have to do our
homework: not only on the practical or physical details, but also on the
economic and political implications of this new technology. Otherwise,
the people who live in the world dominated by the ICls and the GECs, the
people forced into demanding reflation of the economy in order to
protect lobs, are likely to tell us to go back up the mountains and milk
our goats.
Of course the institutionalised bureaucrats of our movement are not
showing interest. Neither are the dogmatic sectarians · the 'revolutionary
vanguard' parties, as usual, are not in the van. But aside from those
whose minds have been irreversibly closed by training, by adherence to
'the line', there are enormous numbers who see the potential of
Lucas·type developments · as witnessed by the response to SERA·inspired
publicity about Lucas in the Guardian, Tribune, Morning Star, Voice of the
Unions and elsewhere. Support has come from the most unlikely places
old·style Communist Party activists, civil service trade unionists and
'straight' media journalists, as well as Co·operators, a local Labour
councillor, a paper trade unionist, and the representatives of a community
organisation and a claimants' union.
Alternatives to the Dole Queue
To build on this interest and enthusiasm, South East London SERA are
organising a conference 'Alternatives to the Dole Queue · Socially·useful
Work', on May 8. At the conference we hope to demonstrate various
possible technologies to trade unionists, local councillors, sympathetic
public officials and general activists, and to discuss the social and
economic implications. We shall be discussing small·scale recycling

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technologies, alternative (i.e. to the CEGB and hypothermia) energy

technology, urban farming, and similar topics. If you have ideas you want
to tell us about, get in touch. For instance, we hope to show that
small·scale paper·recycling can
(a) create needed industrial jobs in the London area;
(b) make feasible the ideal of 'worker ·and community control' thus
ensuring a decent working environment;
(c) do all this without harmful ecological impact; and
(d) at the same time save, say, the Inner London Education Authority
substantial sums if it decides to use this recycled paper for school
exercise books. We shall be asking trade unionists, local councillors, and
other labour movement people: "what about campaigning for some
government 'job·creation' money or better still, nuclear energy research
money · to set up such enterprises say, as small co·operatives?"
It sounds beautifully simple and sensible_ But, of course opposition will
arise from the vested interests. The above ·example, for instance,
threatens the interests of Reed International. (In the long term that is: in
the shorter term they have not the capacity to handle all the waste paper
available). Even more fundamentally, such ideas and projects run counter
to the ground rules of the existing political and economic system: this
conflict I shall now attempt to discuss.
How can we produce for social need if the 'socially·needy' don't have the
This dilemma can be exemplified by the Lucas workers' proposals for artificial
limbs and other aids for the handicapped. ,he handicapped, as a rule, have
little money. No matter how many want and need these aids, there is little
'demand' for them. 'Demand', in terms of capitalist economics, means money
(not people) chasing after goods: and as the moneymaking incentive is
essential to keep the wheels of capitalist enterprise in motion, money will
always accumulate in few hands, creating the 'demand' for goods superfluous
to need for the successful few in this rat race · rather than for necessary or
useful products for the many. Alternative technologists can only avoid this
problem by making ecologically·sound toys for the rich (in which case we in
SERA are just not interested).
The contrast at the international level is most striking. On the one hand,
Tanzania cannot afford some of the most basic agricultural appliances for its
decentralised, 'low technology' development programme. On the other
" ... what's exciting for Air France is the fact that a large number of Brazilians
want to come to Paris, and they have enough money and to spare to pay for
the Concorde trip ..... Most rich Latin Americans, indeed, reckon to come to
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Europe at least once a year ..... These, the pampered offsprings of the leisured
classes, the sons and daughters of the landowner, industrialist and banker;
these will fill fleets of Concordes for months to come and dine out for a year
on the story." (Richard Gott, Guardian, 21.1.76). Endless such examples arise
in the sick world in which we live.
Hence it is necessary (though not sufficient) to redistribute income and wealth
in order to level out market control over the production system, thereby
creating more 'demand' for the socially·useful products we are talking about.
Less extravagant top salaries, a more biting wealth tax and a more aggressive
income tax, with the loopholes in tax legislation tightened up · these are
possible means of achieving this end in Britain.
But, you may ask, would not the cart of capitalist enterprise stall, if the leading
donkeys no longer viewed the dangling financial carrots as worth their efforts?
On the other hand, maybe this is a good idea? If you so cut earnings for a
market·ing manager of a detergent firm. say. detergent sales · and therefore
production · would drop. And alternative uses for these resources could be
investigated. In other words, redistribu·tion can be a revolutionary measure in
that it stops the system functioning and opens up the way to alternative
Here are two other possible redistributive measures, both of which are likely to
have a favourable environmental impact:
• cut out the incentive to the well·to·do to hog as much housing space as
possible by abolishing the mortgage interest tax relief (except for. say, the first
£5,000 over the first few years).
• increase petrol tax, to get the rich guy who use's his (speedy) Jag a lot, and
thereby imposes severe social and environmental costs on the community. (If
you do not believe this is a revolutionary measure, wait for the Road Lobby to
Having deprived the rich of their excess demand on the production system,
however, is it sufficient just to raise the incomes of the less·welt·off?
No: apart from the fact that there may not be much to redistribute (incentive
having been reduced), all we have done is to increase the consumer spend ing
power of the less well·off individuals in the 'market·place'.
Such measures are inefficient firstly because the market responds poorly, if at
all, to collective needs · for communal heating systems, for instance. Secondly,
consumer 'choice' or 'preferences' can easily be manipulated by the large and
powerful firms who now dominate the 'market'. A consumer cannot exercise
real choice unless he has adequate information about all aspects of the
product in question. But the producing firms control this supply of information.
They play down or suppress unfavourable information (e.g. the health impact
of pharmaceuticals or food additives, the environmental impact of detergents,

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the facts of 'built·in obsolescence'): instead they supply a multi·billion pound

barrage of emotional, one·sided 'information' aimed at increasing
consumption of whatever they are trying to sell, through the medium of
advertising, pushy selling, 'seductive' packaging, etc.
In other words, I don't see much of the increased income of the less·well·off
going to buy the products or services of small AT co·ops producing for either
collective or individual real needs. Reed International, for instance. would
persuade all and sundry that they 'needed' the pure white paper that cannot be
produced by small ... scale recycling technology. Imperial Tobacco would step
up advertising to take advantage of new potential demand.
But given that we are likely to have a large market element for some while. one
'alternative service' suggests itself: a pub I it consumer information service to
do all the things that advertising does not · a poor man's Which. with wider
The alternative to simply raising the incomes of the less·well·off is to use this
money to run the alternative industries! services as a 'Public Service' and/or
increase public subsidies for need·related economic activity. In this way we
could move towards satisfying need directly and collectively. For example, the
AT co·op could be partially or wholly funded by the local council. accountable
to the community it serves, and could distribute its produce free or at
subsidised prices, according to need.
But: who decides 'need' and how? And how would the public in question
control this form of 'public service'? Existing public authorities are not exactly
noteworthy for either their responsiveness to human need or for their
amenability to democratic control. And the unaccountable bureaucrat is a
dangerous animal.
Ultimately, of course, economic activity would hopefully be dominated by a
large number of small·scale enterprises, where 'need' would be decided
directly and collectively, with all having equal say, by the enterprises workers
and its client' community; where, because of the small size and lack of
complexity, the enterprise could be readily controlled; where, because of the
increased direct control over resources, the importance of wages or money (i.e.
indirect market control) would diminish · for example, the electricity bill is
made largely unnecessary if you have a communal heating system using a
renewable fuel source. (Although of course job·sharing rotas for initial
construction, subsequent maintenance, and so on, would have to be
But, back to the world of money, multinationals and bureaucrats; back to
work·ing out a transitional strategy to facilitate the development of AT.
Given that public money and public institutions will be involved in this
development (for the reasons outlined above), what can be done to make these

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institutions more accountable? Certain campaigns suggest themselves: to

demand that such institutions 'open the books' and bury the 'confidential'
stamp (except for personal matters): for example, those concerned with an
urban farming co·op might like to know how much food the school meals
service buys, from whom, at what price, and so on, and demand that this
information is presented in an easily digestible, easily·accessible, form. to
demand a reversal of the trend to 'bigness' in public authorities · size and
complexity are barriers to understanding and control. to encourage the
development of tenants/ neighbourhood/community associations, through
which people can collectively articulate their needs and views.
Producing 'ecologically·sound' products
An AT enterprise aims to be 'ecologically·sound', that is, in harmony with the
laws of nature. But here again the odds are stacked against such an enterprise
under the laws of capitalist competition: the firm which maximises its output,
or minimises its (internal) costs, by maximising its external costs is likely to be
successful (as pointed out by Commoner in The Closing Circle and by K.W.
Kapp in The Social Costs of Private Enterprise.
For example, if Bloodsuckers Ltd. transport their goods on the largest possible
lorry, driven through built·up areas if that is the shortest route, spending the
minimum on vehicle·maintenance and driver training, they will be more
com·petitive than if they transport goods by rail. They have reduced internal
costs by externalising or dumping costs (in the form of pollution, noise,
congestion. accidents) onto the community. Similarly, a firm in a competitive
business cannot afford to spend the time and money on research into the
long·term or side effects of a new technology. Otherwise, a com·petitor would
beat it to the market. Hence, DDT, thalidomide and other tragedies.
Without changes in the political and economic structure, AT enterprises must
go the same sorry way. (Some of the worst polluters are small firms). Better
policing of industry is an obvious immediate demand. So is the demand that
the clause concerning "acting in the interests of the consumer and the
community" be written back into the 'Planning Agreement' legislation going
through Parliament (it has been dropped). But if a public agency is to police
industry effectively (and it is doubtful if it is at all possible to control
institutions as large and powerful as ICI or General Motors) then the public
agency must be subject to public scrutiny and control. So we are back to the
transitional questions raised in the previous section. Of course this problem
(the incentive to externalise com) would be greatly reduced if we moved away
from the production of commodities for sale in the competitive market, to
producing directly for need under the control of an informed community_ But
how do we get there?
Action on all fronts

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You may not agree with my particular suggestions. But what is clear is that all
these problems need to be tackled simultaneously and urgently: we need to
develop alternative job·creating. socially useful technologies; to create the
demand for them among trade unionists and community groups; to create
popular support for the initiatives taken; to work out the political and
economic changes needed to facilitate these developments; to link up with the
labour and other (potentially) progressive movements in the fight for these
changes, in the fight to fend off the inevitable reaction from vested interests.
And we need to believe we will win · in the end.
Tony Emerson
SERA exists to do all the things just mentioned. It is open to all who regard
themselves as socialists. Details of SERA and of the 'Alternatives to the Dole Queue ·
Socially Useful Work' conference, (on May 8 in Greenwich) can be obtained from
Ann Hutchinson, 147 Langton Way, London 5E3 (858 7414).
Amongst those attending the conference apart from SERA members and the
Undercurrents group · will be members of the Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop
Stewards Committee, John Davis of ITOG, several local government officers,
planners, councillors, members of the group involved with the Milton Keynes Solar
House project, people involved with the Hull Regional College of Art community
technology project, and friends of the Earth.
If you want to follow up the implications of the conversion of the armaments industry
you can't do better than buy a copy of CND's Arms, jobs and the crisis 1 5p, from
eND. Eastbourne House, Dullards Place, London E2.
A plan of AT ·based housing for an area of Hull is currently being drawn up at Hull
Regional College of Art. Undercurrents hopes to carry a full report on this project and
on the SERA conference in the next issue.

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• • • • • • • • • • • •
FoE If you don't dig it, share it!
FRIENDS OF THE Earth have launched a new 'Crops and Shares' scheme,
the aim of which is to put people who want to grow their own food, but
have no access to suitable land, in contact with those who find it difficult
to cultivate their own gardens, but would be glad to have them used.
The desire to grow food is evident from the fact that the allotment waiting
list has lengthened from about 27,000 in 1973 to around 57,000 in 1974.
There are about 15.million gardens in Britain and no·one knows how
many of them are under·used. What·is certain is that there are a large
number of disabled or infirm people who cannot garden, and many more
without the knowledge, inclination or time to cultivate their gardens.
Twenty Friends of the Earth groups, from such places as Stoke, Horsham,
Birmingham, Lambeth and Milton Keynes, have already started operating
such schemes. FOE has published a Crops and Shares manual which will
be used both to extend the campaign to the other 140 FOE groups and to
involve other com·munity organisations · tenants associa·tions, old
people's clubs, Task Force. women's institutes, community service
volunteers, and so on.
FOE aims eventually to persuade local authorities to take over the
running of their own schemes, following the recent example of the
London Borough of Camden. Growing food, they point out, is one of the
few defences against rapidly rising food prices. Government figures show
that food prices doubled between 1970 and 1975. Since then, the
increase has been even more rapid: one estimate of the weekly bill for
basic foods for a family of four is that it rose from £8.45 in January 1975
to £11.l2·p in January 1976. With last year's food import bill approaching
£4 billion there is every incentive for Britain as a nation, and for
individuals in particular, to produce more of their own food. The Garden
Sharing Scheme is the second phase of Friends of the Earth's campaign
for greater self·sufficiency in food. Their first step was last year's
allot·ments campaign, aimed at turning derelict land into allotments.
Crops and Shares by Colin Hines, a compre·hensive guide to organising a garden
sharing scheme. 25p from Friends of the Earth limited. 9 Poland Street, Wl V 30G.
(Tele·phone: 01·4341684).

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• • • • • • • • • • • •
Slowboat to Persia
Supership, Noel Mostert. Macmillan. £3.95 (Hardback).
In 'Supership' Mostert has rolled several themes into one. His basic
objective of showing the urgent dangers to the crew. to the environment
and to society as a whole, of transporting crude oil by huge modern
supertankers from the Middle East to feed the greed of the industrialised
nations, is watered down by the narrative of an actual journey and
unnecessarily long digressions into nostalgia over ships and seafarers now
long past. His facts on the tankers are compelling and frightening, but
tend to get lost and forgotten in a book of this length.
Mostert shows the rapid post·war growth of tankers from ships of a mere
18,000 tons to the superships of 250,000 tons or more, huge ships over a
quarter mile long and as wide as a football pitch. Half the shipping
tonnage now afloat is in tankers, and yet they continue to grow. The
Japanese have a million tonner on the drawing board. The ruthless
economics and politics of the oil business. mixed with that of the Middle
East itself and the Suez Canal, have resulted in these metal monsters of
the seas being cheap in design and construction, and often crewed to
appallingly low standards by unqualified officers, who are alienated from
the traditions and standards of good seamanship. These tankers, often
built with only one propellor and one boiler. are difficult to manoeuvre
and prone to failure on their long journeys. With his ship in trouble a
Captain under pressure will dump oil to lighten his load, or the hull may
rupture and oil spill. Mostert leaves out no detail of the horrors of oil
pollution in the seas. now permanently covering some 10% of the ocean
surface. It is curious to note that despite the advanced technology in the
of these ships, they can be left helpless to the mercies of the seas as a
result of penny·pinching economics in design·and construction.
One of the worst·polluted areas of the globe is the Southern Ocean
(Antarctic), .
and Mostert takes us there, on board the 200,000 ton P.O. tanker
'Ardshiel', on its 11,500 mile, 6·week journey from Rotterdam to the
Persian (or Arabian as it is now politic to call it) Gulf. We meet Captain
Basil Thompson and his crew. examine their personalities and the effect
the isolation of this type of ship has on them. We share their daily lives,
their leisure, their duties, their worries. and their boredom as the ship
progresses, not stopping once at any port. The ships life is one of long

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weeks of monotonous uneventfulness, separated by brief periods of

intense pressure.
On its outward journey, the ship's tanks are empty apart from ballast
water. and the possibility of explosion is very real. We share the fear of
the tank·cleaning operation and especially the fear of fatal 'gassing', from
noxious fumes, during inspection of the tanks. On average there are 14
tanker explosions a year, which Mostert tells us are simply accepted as
a matter of course.
The ship passes dramatically from summer to winter as it rounds Africa,
passing twice through the tropics. Off the Cape of Good Hope, Mostert
tells of many superships that have floundered in the huge 'Cape Rollers',
spilling millions of tons of oil. It is in these far distant seas that the worst
spills occur, and worse still it is in these waters that many ordinary ships
discharge their oily bilge water, posing an even greater threat to the
whole of marine ecological stability, and to the whole of life. By good
seafaring practice, a ship normally carries less cargo in rough wintry seas
than in calmer summers, yet fully·laden tankers, loaded in the intense
heat of the Arabian summer, pass through the treacherous seas of the
southern winter. Tales like the Torrey Canyon disaster may make the
headlines at home. but as Mostert says, they are only a small part of the
problem. The Southern Ocean has known more wrecks, dumps, spills and
slopping than any other sea area. 500·600 tankers pass the Cape each
month and slicks are forever present.
Mostert shows the total inadequacy of international maritime law to bring
pollution under control by standardisation and the application of a severe
code of practice. The impotence of the LM.CO. (International
Governmental Marine Consultative Organisation) in its slow bureaucratic
set·up within the U.N., subject to world politics and economics.
is pathetic and totally irresponsible to the environment. For various
reasons, mainly financial, a lot of the tankers sail under 'flags of
convenience', such as those of
Liberia and Panama, and with the laws as useless as they are, (a ship can
only be prosecuted in its country of ownership), owners and Captains can
get away with murder. And murder the seas they will, especially as
chemical and LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) carriers grow bigger with each
new ship.
Mostert could. however, have improved the impact and urgency of his
book had he kept it a lot shorter and to the basic point, leaving out a lot
of the repetition. At half the price the book would reach a much wider
audience. and thus, one hopes, help raise sufficient public awareness,
concern and outrage at the atrocities of these vessels, that the seas, and
we who use the oil, may be saved from a death by pollution. As Mostert's
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final comment says, the oil is replaceable, we will find a substitute; for
the seas we cannot.
Who Needs Managers?
The Feasibility of Worker Self Management, Mike Hill. Smoothie
Publications. 1974; Workers' Councils and the economics of Self
Management. Solidarity NoAO. 1973;Self Management: economic
liberation of man, Jaroslav Vanek. Penguin. 1975; Workers' Control, K.
Coates and A. Topham. Panther 1970; On Democratic Administration and
Socialist Self·Management, G.O. Garson. Sage 1974; Industrial
Democracy, P. Blumberg. Constable. 1968.
At a time when workers co·operatives are in the news it's well worth
considering the problems as well as the potential of self·management
within the capitalist system. Mike Hill's pamphlet, The Feasibility of
Worker Self Management, which is derived from an MSc thesis, gives a
good short account of the theory and practice of self·management,
focussing mainly on forms of organisation through which both
'democratic control' and 'efficiency' can be obtained. The conclusions
are that firms must be small and must adopt appropriate, easy·to·manage
technology. so that decision making can be relAtively direct and simple.
Both ownership and expertise. must be distributed throughout the firm.
However, the market will, as the pamphlet makes clear, still constrain the
firm: many decisions will be forces upon it by the need to compete with
nondemocratically organised firms who may opt for ruthlessly
exploitative forms of production. There are thus no final solutions at the
level of the individual firm; however, it is possible to imagine the gradual
decentralisation of the macro·economy into semi·autonomous units; but
then how would they be linked together into a regional or national
interactive non·capitalist economy? These crucial problems are not
discussed: the reader would therefore do well to look at the excellent (if
utopian) Workers' Councils and the economics of Self Management
which develops an ambitious blueprint for a decentrally·<:controlled
socialist society.
If you want to go further into the theory and practice of self·management
and workers' control, then Self·management (Penguin 1975). edited by
Jaroslav Vanek, is a good start ·although it's fairly heavy going. The focus
still tends to be on the 'micro·economic theory of the firm' rather than of
the problem of co·ordinating autonomous units at the macro·level, but
there are some fine polemical pieces by radical writers ·ranging from
G.D.H. Cole to Ken Coates. However, the main emphasis is on an
assessment of 'economic performance' and 'efficiency' rather than on
wider social benefits and desirability, which Vanek says are "only rarely
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Ken Coates has, over the years, put together a number of anthologies on
Workers' Control, of which Workers' Control, Ken Coates, Tony Topham,
Panther 1970, is the most accessible; it's essentially a collection of
articles by British activists and commentators over the past hundred years
or so.
Personally I've found a pamphlet entitled On Democratic Administration
and Socialist Self·Management: A Com·parative Survey Emphasizing the
Yugoslav Experience by G. David Garson, quite rewarding ·although it is
by no means an easy or comforting analysis.
Finally there's Paul Blumber's classic Industrial Democracy: the Sociology
of Participation Constable 1968, which still gives the best introduction to
the ideas of workers' control.
If there is one message that emerges from all these books it is that
'workers' control' is not just a matter of employee participation initiated
by management so as to ensure the smoother running of
an unchanged capitalist society ·rather it represents part of a fundamental
challenge to the goals and organisation of that society and as such cannot
be constrained within the boundary of
individual factories, whether they be cooperatively owned and managed,
nationalised or privately controlled.
Dave Elliott
Masterless Men
The World Turned UpSide Down: radical ideas during the English
revolution, Christopher Hill. 431pp. Penguin. 1975. £1.00. The Law of
Freedom, and other writings, Gerard Winstanley, edited Christopher Hill.
395pp. Penguin . .1975. 75p.
The 16th century had been a time of stability in England; it had also seen
the opening up of the Americas and new trade routes to the Far East, with
a growth of population and monetary inflation throughout Europe. Small
capitalist enterprises had sprung up and proliferated: there was easy
money to be made. These new social relations naturally gave rise to
tensions, which found their expression in the upheavals of the middle of
the 17th century. Here two forces were in opposition: conservative, as
seen in absolute monarchy, and progressive, as seen in the Dutch
republic. In England the clash came to a head over control of taxation
and foreign policy.
History, as it moves between archaeological inference and sociological
hypothesis, is the record of a gradually increasing proportion of the
population. For most of the time the majority is sunk in shadow, only
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stepping into the light at times of upheaval. The 17th century is perhaps
unique in the evidence it provides. In the 1640s parliament had to enlist
popular radical support in its struggle against the monarchy. Censorship
was relaxed. The fluidity of social relations gave rise to the wildest
conjectures. These factors, together with the fact that the owners of the
printing presses themselves belonged as like as not to the radical fringe,
gave rise to a great flood of pamphlets embodying the ideas of the
submerged half of the population.
Christopher Hill's book The World Turned Upside Down seeks to
document these ideas. He asserts that there were two revolutions in the
17th century. The first was successful, establishing the 'sacred rights of
property', giving political power to the men of property, and paving the
way for the protestant ethic ·the ideology of the propertied. The second
never happened because it was never organised. Yet movements for wider
democracy in legal and political institutions and freedom of religion were
active during the two decades 1640·1660.
It was very difficult to separate religious and political ideas at this time. It
was the same groups Hill calls 'masterless men' that provided both
political and religious radicals. Feudal society was a static agricultural
society where social and geographical mobility were extremely
limited. But as new manufacturing industries grew, as agriculture became
more efficient, moving towards more capital·intensive enterprises using
wage labourers, the bonds of feudal society were loosened. People began
to move round more. There were vagabonds and itinerant traders; the
rural poor squatting
on commons and in forests; sects who had seceded from the church.
Many of these gravitated to London to form
a casual labour force. The most important of all in the 1640s and 1650s
was the New Model Army, which probably drew on the other groups. It
produced a spontaneous outbreak of democracy, with units electing their
own 'agitators', in response to parliament's proposal to disband it. This
was the most dangerous moment for the bourgeois revolution,
because it seemed that its leaders would be called upon to fulfil their
promises to their soldiers or enter into a conflict which would pave the
way for a royalist victory. It was only the threat posed by Charles's escape
that allowed Cromwell
to restore order. Two years later demands were made to restore the
agitators and
the General Council of the Army, for people both within and outside the
army had realised they had exchanged one kind of subjection for another.
The mutinous regiments were beaten at Burford, and from that moment

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the revolution was

safe and the 'Leveller' movement was at an end.
The rising population of the 16th and 17th centuries led to the need for
more efficient agriculture. To make agriculture more efficient large areas
of common land and forest were claimed for agriculture. Land·holdings
were made larger, calling for greater capital investments. These measures
plus the introduction of root crops led in the long term to greater
agricultural production, sufficient to feed the growing urban population.
In the short term they meant hardship for those unfortunate enough to
rely on smallholdings for subsistence or on the grazing of the now
enclosed commons to supplement their diet. On April 1 , 1649, a Sunday,
a small group of men began cultivating the waste land on St. George's
Hill. The cultivation of waste land by those who were starving was the
poor man's answer to the food problem. But it was not allowed to work.
The leader of this group of Diggers was Gerard Winstanley, an able
pamphleteer. His writings present some difficulty to the modern reader
because his imagery and language are very biblical, but the effort to
understand is well worthwhile. The True Levellers' Standard Advanced
must rank as one of the classics of socialism, while The Law of Freedom
puts him in competition with Godwin for the title of father of anarchism.
He is the antithesis to Hobbes, the high·priest of competitive
individualism, the bright boy of nascent capitalism, who holds that, in a
society of competing individuals, there must be an ultimate authority_
But he opposes Hobbes not on his reasoning but on his assumption of
man's innate com·petitiveness: he holds that "the inward bond ages of the
mind, as covetousness, pride, hypocrisy .... are all occasioned by the
outward bondage that one sort of people lay upon another."
As a remedy Winstanley calls upon all the poor, oppressed and starving
people to cultivate the waste land, which he holds to be more than large
enough to support the population. Here they are to set up their own
communities, where no man is to employ another, and all property is
held in common. He gives us an extended picture of his utopia in The
Law of Freedom where he has worked out a whole framework of laws
and elected officers to sec they are carried out. These laws are to be such
that they are intelligible to all men, thus doing away with lawyers and
judges (for lawyers love money as dearly as a poor man's do his breakfast
in a cold morning",. In fact the whole movement
is away from specialisation for Winstanley saw such elites as scholars,
lawyers and churchmen as a burden, as an alienating force upon working
This is the keynote of Winstanley's writings. He is essentially a humanist
and a rationalist who sees each individual as the seat of reason. capable
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of obtaining knowledge by the use of his five senses. His utopia is

founded on the rights of the individual and his duties to his fellows
and the community. He is able to offer
a shrewd analysis of how his society had arisen, but his solution is for
isolated groups to occupy waste land and cultivate it. He is a pacifist who
wants to convert by example and who was bound to fail.
My criticisms of these two books are slight. The limited scope of 'The
World Turned Upside Down' means that one needs an adequate
knowledge of the historical background ·probably more than can be
provided in an introduction. while the variety of subjects touched on is
bound to arouse the reader's continuing interest in certain areas. But all
the sources and references are hidden away in footnotes ·often in
anonymous 'op. cits.' that one has to chase back for several pages. Surely
compiling a short bibliography would have been little effort compared
with these laborious footnotes. But for all that, Christopher Hill is a
historian who manages to convey facts in a lucid and interesting way,
while Gerard Winstanley is an iconoclast whose thunderings reverberate
powerfully in our own time.
David Ball
The Cream Of Society
Backyard Dairy Book, Len Street and Andrew Singer. Prism Press. E 1.
The Backyard Dairy Book declares its aim to be to persuade people to
become independent of the system in dairy products, and the reasons put
forward make the idea seem most attractive. However, in the economic
persuasion, al though home·produced milk products may save Mr and
Mrs Average Family (3 to £4 a week in bought·in dairy products. the
initial capital expenditure needed to achieve this has been overlooked
and this of course is much larger for a cow than for a goat_
The chapters dealing with goat management are most convincing, with
the authors readily giving references which go into the subject in greater
depth. A goat is an ideal animal for home milk production requiring less
land than a cow, and the quantity of milk produced is best suited to the
needs of an average family. Once a cow appears, it is a huge jump from a
pint per person per day to 4 gals which is 32 pints daily, so either more
stock must be kept to consume the surplus milk, or butter, cheese, and
creammaking activities will become quite largescale and
time·consuming. Before any dairy produce can be sold, lengthy Min. of
Ag. regulations for the buildings have to be complied with, thus involving
greater capital outlay. Either way
a pleasurable money·saving pastime can get a bit out of hand, so there is
much to be said for the advice given in the book to the beginner, to start
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off modestly with one goat

The various milk products and the various methods of their manufacture
are comprehensively dealt with, and a list of
useful addresses is given to assist in obtaining the elusive additives
required. Yogurt·making gets good coverage, even to describing the Dahi
which you can make from the milk from your backyard. buffalo.
The book gives a long list of references ,and addresses which
unfortunately omits any mention of the active breed societies of both
Jersey and Guernsey cattle. If contacted, these Societies would readily
provide a wealth of information for a would·be cow owner, and more
importantly the addresses of farmers and smallholders who could offer
practical advice which is worth far more than any textbook.
Although the book stresses the enjoyment aspect of backyard dairying
there is no getting away from the fact that dedication is needed too, as
milking is a twice daily task for 365 days a year in all weathers. J hope
that Len Street and Andrew Singer will succeed in encouraging more
backyard dairying: they have some good arguments but put forward a
more convincing case for goat·keeping.
May I end on a warning note. We started off with one Jersey house cow
four years ago and r have just staggered in from milking our Jersey herd
which now numbers 31. So beware. because things can easily escalate
where backyard dairying is concerned.
Angela Blackburn
Soggy Compost Solved!
Fertility Without Fertilisers and Down to Earth Gardening, Lawrence D
Hills, Henry Doubleday Research Association, Convent Lane, Backing,
Braintree, Essex. £1 and £2 respectively.
Organic gardeners will be pleased to hear that Lawrence Hills has now
published a new version of his earlier bestseller Fertility Without
Fertilisers. Sharing only the title and some analysis figures with the earlier
work, this book contains much new information resulting from the
research of the HDRA.
Although written for practising organic farmers and gardeners Hills starts
with the theory behind fertility and goes on to . outline the long·term
dangers of using artificial fertilisers. He brings home the point that not
only are we on the brink of exhausting the world's resources of fossil
fertilisers but much of what is so laboriously extracted is wasted. Due to
overspreading, surplus phosphates and nitrates are being washed into
watercourses resulting in the eutrophication of rivers and the loss of
fertility in vast tracts of land.

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The main part of the book deals with building and using a compost heap.
As important as the container is the type of activator and with the
rocketing price of all shop·sold items it is comforting to discover that the
cheapest and probably the best activator is that produced by every
household ·for details read the book! Linked with this is a chapter on
municipal compost and sewage sludge. The author outlines the dangers of
using this too liberally ·the long·term effects of the build·up of metals,
particularly lead and cadmium, in the ground are unknown. In most
areas, but not all, the farm use of sludge is monitored; garden use is not,
and until more work is done on the subject the organic gardener is
advised to use sewage sludge only as a compost activator.
Perhaps the most important section is that dealing with the Trace Elements
which are often locked up' by inorganic gardeners who use too many
chemical fertilisers. Most deficiencies can be cured by feeding with
compost or a foliar spray of seaweed. Other chapters deal with I .. mould,
peat and manure, green manuring comfrey and weed·control crops.
The book's main message is that we as guardians of the soil must look
after the long·term future of our land if we are to survive. "A week is a
lone. time in Politics next year is the foreseeable future to a businessman,
but good farmers farm as if they would live forever." The challenge of the
seventies is not space but sewage. If ways can be found to remove the
toxic: metals from sewage sludge not only will Britain's import·bill for
fertilisers be drastically reduced but we stand a chance of surviving in a
shrinking, hungry world.
For £1 the book is excellent value. It is unfortunate that it is only
obtainable direct from the HDRA and not from general bookshops as I
feel that it would sell well to the gardening world as a whole rather than
to the organic world in detail. At long last a solution to the soggy compost
For the flower·gardener Lawrence Hills has just published a new edition
of his book Down to Earth Gardening. Written in his original lucid style
the book is aimed not only at all those who garden and have a love of the
soil, but particularly at those who are taking up gardening for the first
time. In it, the novice gardener will find all he wants to convert a
builder's rubble·strewn plot into a flourishing garden; the more
experienced gardener will find much that is new, particularly in the
chapters on fertility and pest control. Although not an 'organic' book in
the strictest sense it will go a long way in persuading people that the
organic way of gardening is by far the best. The book is written as a
companion volume to the author's other general gardening book Down
to Earth Fruit and Vegetable Growing. The two provide a basic source of
reference and advice and are available from most good bookshops.

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Charles Harries
Person, heal thyself
Health is for People, Michael Wilson Darton, Longman & Todd £1.95.
In this book Michael Wilson describes his misgivings about the concept
of health in Western society: "It has been claimed exclusively for the
medical professions f. too long, and it is time it was spread around more
widely." In Britain our understanding of health is based on our experience
of illness. and institutions in the national health service are founded c the
same idea, that health is obtained by getting rid of disease. But health is
not just a question of eliminating disease: it possible to feel well and
happy while approaching physical death, so what is health? Margaret
Mead describes the Navaho concept of health in this way:
"Health is symptomatic of a correct relationship between man and his
environment, his supernatural environment. his world around him and his
fellow man. Health is associated with good, blessing and beauty, aI/ that
is positively valued in life ...
In the west we are concerned with the quantity of life, not the quality. We
seem unable to come to terms with the fear of death, being constantly
preoccupied with such problems as heart·transplants and when to allow
the aged and severely injured to die. Instead we should examine the
alternative choices. whether to spend money and resources maintaining
the biological life of one person, or making life possible for thousands.
Enough hygiene, food, clothing and·shelter are pre·requirements for
health. Man may not live by bread alone, but he certainly won't live
without it. Can we really consider ourselves to be healthy when we know
that a vast proportion of the world's population is denied the basic
materials to maintain life? Health is not isolated in one person or one
nation; the is no such place as the third world ·this, is one world, the
resources of which must! be shared. People are interdependent
upon each other for health; one race",,, cannot be healthy without the
Western society excludes. either by its attitudes. by segregation,
institutionalization or execution, the bad, the mad. the black, the widow.
the leper, the aged, thE underprivileged. the mentally subnormal) the
rebel and the dying. This exclusion system of dealing with 'pollution'
results in a 'safe' and 'sanitary' society, but not a healthy one.
In a healthy society exclusion would b, recognised as instrumental to
spiritual death:
"Health does not even exclude suffering) health positively include
suffering and stress as a creative way of dealing with hostile and

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destructive feelings. "

Community health is dependent upon people being educated to take
more responsibility for themselves and their families. Birth and death
should not take place in hospitals; they are family events and should be
included in our pattern of life.
Gradually our method of providing health·care in hospital is giving
ground to preventive medicine, and this is giving way to community
medicine with local participants making the choices and decisions. This
increases social morale and enriches the quality of life. In his concluding
remarks the author says he
“ . . does not look for some simple solution to a complex crisis In our
understanding of health. We require
a new sense of direction at many points simultaneously. Whatever
situation we are considering, to speak of health always enlarges the
Sylvia Hyde
Leading Astray
Pontifex, Theodore Roszak. Faber and Faber
This is a very bad book indeed. Very, very bad. Objectively bad. It
measure five inches by nearly eight inches, contains 204 pages, and costs
£ But before I go any further, and indeed, as a condition of my
going any further, I must be allowed to repeat that this is a very, very bad
book indeed. When I rang up the publishers and asked them what the
reactions of reviewers to date had been, they were most evasive. That is,
they quoted me the Guardian's review which said it was very nice and
would appeal to sympathisers of the counter·culture.
The blurb describes it as a morality play and it is written in dialogue form.
and often very very boring and very rarely at all funny but the author does
try very very hard ·not only to be funny, but also to be ••••• what? I
don't know. There doesn't seem to be any meaning in the play at all. It
has no development, scarcely any beginning. and certainly no end. It is,
naturally, supposed to be about the revolution, that is, it contains a
'liberated woman', a 'military man', a young artist genuinely trying to find
the meaning in life and the meaning in art, there are some old socialist
sweats, a 'fastidious drug seller', and of course, Mr Pontifex himself, and
god knows who he's supposed to be, some sort of cosmic stage manager I
guess. Then there's (I almost forgot) a horrendous OLD MAN who roars
and farts, belches and bawls his falstaffian, bottomian, panian,
piedpipean, totally unactable way throughout the play, which is also
plentifully sprinkled with the most appallingly unskilful verse. Indeed,
brothers and sisters, the verse if anything is verse than the worst.
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Oh, it really is a terrible book. If Roszak tries to write anything more like
this, he'll kill the revolution stone dead.
By my hand, Nigel Gowland
Whose Folly?
The Follies of Conservation, Arthur Thomas. Arthur Stockwell Ltd. £1.75.
Despite its promising title this book is not the considered critique of the
environmental movement one might hope for. A much better title would
be The Prejudices of a Pragmatic Ecologist. Arthur Thomas is an ecologist
and agri·cultural consultant of many years experience. He clearly knows
a lot about plant botany and land use and he writes sensibly and
interestingly about the history of the British landscape and in particular of
the chalk downs and the peat moorlands. There is a good chapter on the
Cow Green reservoir controversy which aroused such furious passions a
few years ago. And he has some trenchant remarks about the ignorance of
other ecologists.
So far so good. But the rest of the book is rubbish, an incoherent and
intemperate parade of prejudice and half·truth, not worth cutting down
trees for. Dr. Thomas compares conservationists to Karl Marx: like him
they are doctrinaire, totalitarian, and misanthropic. And, like Marx,
they've got it wrong: .
"Why do conservationists continue to preach doom and destruction by
the reiteration of fallacies which have been disproved time and time
again? Do they know that they are lying? Can it be that the wish is father
to the thought and that in their subconscious they have a grudge against
their fellow men? ... Why do they not call themselves 'The Enemies of the
Earth'?" Poor old FOE: I never guessed your critics hated you so!
None, of these charges is pursued in any depth. Though the blurb, tongue
in cheek no doubt, describes the book as a 'long clear look at the
Conservationists', evidently in all his years as a consultant Dr. Thomas
never learned to set out compIicated ideas in a logical and orderly
manner. Instead we are offered what appears to be an unedited transcript
of his stream of consciousness that flits like a butterfly from topic to topic.
The environmental movement is indeed beset by contradictions ·between
rich and poor, ourselves and our posterity, wild life and food production,
and so on. But this book does nothing to resolve them. Dr. Thomas
obviously wrote it to relieve his exasperation at the stupidity, as he sees it,
of his fellow men. It does not seem to have occurred to him to doubt his
own common sense. One can only agree with the remark of Fraser
Darling, quoted (with scorn) iii this book: 'Pragmatic man ...... has his
world of illusion of his own making'. It is a pity that having got it off his
chest, as it were, he didn't throw. it in the dustbin and set·about writing a
more considered and tolerant book about the problems of land use in
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Chris Hutton Squire
Energy Choices
There are quite a few books around at present dealing with Energy
Options for the Future and suchlike topics. I looked first at 'Energy
Options in the United Kingdom' (Latimer 1975) which is an edited
version of the Energy Options symposium held in London on March 1st
1975 and reviewed in UC 10. The editor, Simon Cardoc Evans. seems to
have chopped out the contribution by Walt Paterson, of Friends of the
Earth, on district heating, but otherwise this is a fairly interesting book
·assuming you want to know what happened at this meeting. Personally it
was all rather too familiar for me. with the usual stern warnings about our
rakish use of energy, messia.nic enthusiasm for wind power, solar power
and so on. In the stern warnings department comes the remark
"Democracy, as we know it. may well be an early casualty" of the "drastic
changes in men's habits" that may soon become necessary. I would also
include some of the proposals in the (otherwise interesting) paper on
geothermal sources and techniques by Chris Armstead, in the 'grim
warnings' category ·for example the prediction that " ... by the mid·1980s
nuclear melt drilling will enable us to penetrate the Earth's crust and
enter the outer mantle." (How about that for a bit of male chauvinist
faustian arrogance raping mother earth again!)
Historic Necessity
Most of the contributors spent considerable (presumably renewable)
energy bewailing the lack of government support for their pet ideas and
offered only. "energetic lobbying of the decision makers" as a mode of
implementation. However, Hugh Sharman offered a some·what more
positive strategy. Conservation Tools and Technology. he said, "are trying
to force the right developments a little bit ahead of historic necessity."
He also made clear in answer to question·that he was not interested in
large·scale windmills ·there were both "technical and social reasons for
opting for small to medium sized units. His claim that he had not had any
problems obtaining planning permission for 20 wind plants, raised some
eyebrows ... perhaps the wind of change is blowing in the bureaucracy?
The star turn was of course Peter Chapman who presented a cut·down
version of the Future Options part of his book 'Fuels Paradise' (see
below), applying his energy·accounting skills to two opposed future
scenarios. The first was a 'business as usual' option ·relying on continued
growth underpinned tempor·arily by oil and then by nuclear power and/
or increased coal output. The second was a 'low growth·low technology
option ·with emphasis on solar domestic power, public transport,
'organic' fertilisers and prohibition of disposable packing. Chapman sees
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problems with both. The first requires a massive increase in nuclear and/
or coal power capacity which may not be feasible, even if desirable. For
example, nuclear power may not deliver any usable power in tim·e to
support the projected growth. As for coal ·who will be willing to man the
coal mines, and would they demand wages that would price coal out of
the market? On the other hand, the low growth option implies massive
unemployment with consequent social conflict. Furthermore growth
provides" ... the only socially acceptable mechanism for increasing
equality in our society". Now whether growth does in fact lead to
redistribution is, 1 would say, far from clear. There is considerable
evidence that relative deprivation and the imbalance in the distribution of
wealth and influence have increased during the last few decades of
'affluence'. And it is possible that continued growth within a capitalist
socio· economic order will lead to increasing social conflict rather than
the reverse.
The next book I looked at was a much more straightforward collection of
technical papers on specific items of energy and transport technology,
entitled 'Energy and Humanity' (Peter Peregrinus 1974). Edited by
Meredith Thring and Roy Crookes from. papers given to a conference in
September 1972 at QMC, this book contains a fascinating mix of
proposals ·varying from Thring's mining robots to plans for a giant nuclear
powered bulk fuel transport aircraft. As a guide to the various technical
fixes that engineers are considering it can't be beaten. Also included are a
historical account of windpower by Roger Tagg, a piece on 'energy and
the car' by Gerald leach, a paper on solar power by Peter Glaser
(including the infamous solar cell satellite, beaming microwaves back to
earth), discussions of the potential of coal gassification, nuclear fission
and fusion possibilities ·all in all a mixed bag of high and low
technological options, with little by the way of environmental, social or
political analysis.
In terms of providing an easy introduction to energy technology options, I
found two American books very useful. The first 'Energy and the Future'
by Allen.L Hammond, William D Metz and Thomas H Maugh II, (AAAS
1973) looks systematically at the whole range of energy options and is
written in the standard easy·to·digest way of a US high school text book.
It covers nuclear, solar and wind options, fuel from waste, geothermal
sources, energy conversion, transmission and storage systems and so on.
Obviously it's not a radical book, but it is iil good technical introduction.
The second publication is the result of ·the Ford Foundation's Energy
Policy Project. Entitled 'Exploring Energy Choices' (Ford Foundation
1974) it's a preliminary report, produced .by a large team of energy
analysts, economists and social scientists, using a 'scenario' approach. It's
packed full of graphs and tables and is sufficiently open·minded and

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critical to have raised a minor storm of controversy, including some

denials from the sponsoring organisation_
Fuel's Paradise
Amory Lovin's 'World Energy Strategies: Facts, Issues and
Options' (reviewed in UC 12) is obviously vital reading, as is also Peter
Chapman's 'Fuels Paradise' (Penguin 1975). This is aimed at the
concerned layman ·it provides a fairly easy·to·grasp although closely
argued treatment of the complexities of energy analysis, without losing
the 'popular' touch so evident in the flippant title and the colourful
introductory 'utopia', based on the Island of Erg where an enlightened
energy policy reigns supreme_ There are chapters dealing with basic
energy needs; methods of energy conversion and the implications of the
laws of thermodynamics (as Chapman points out there is no energy
conservation problem ·energy is always conserved: it's rather a matter of
getting the right grade of energy); the effects of our energy conversion
activities on the climate (thermal pollution etc); and finally an extended
and critical analysis of three energy options ·the business·asusual, and
'Iow·growth' options mentioned above, and an intermediate 'technical
fix' option. in which extensive use is made of conservation and energy
saving techniques and policies.
Chapman is critical of each. There are technical and political drawbacks
in each case. Although he uses his energy accounting technique to good
purpose as a tool to expose the long·term implications of each option, I
can't help feeling that energy accounting has become very much one
with what Marx called "that dismal science" economics. in shooting
down cherished dreams .... Nothing much seems to survive its glaring
scrutiny ..... except perhaps the low growth option. But then, says
Chapman, there are political and technical problems with this
·unemployment, resistance by vested interests, or simply the scarcity of
materials to enable the rapid construction of solar power units on a
sufficiently wide scale.
Although he is basically sympathetic to the low growth/alternative
technology option as a long·term goal, he eventually opts for the
'technical fix' option as an interim measure ·arguing that, if nothing else,
it will provide a breathing space and does not foreclose other,
sub·sequent, options. He seems then to be offering 'gradual reform' as the
only realistic prescription. Anything else is too risky. .
In a way it's a surprise that, after the relatively surefooted and strident
certainty of the energy accounting exercises, the political prescriptions
and conclusions are so limited and compromised. But as Chapman is
well aware, the socio·economic system does not admit of easy analysis.
Neither is there in reality one simple policy option: policies are not

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chosen once and for all: they change and overlap. Given these political
complexities and the often gloomy results of energy·accounting, it's not
surprising that Chapman ends on a fairly pessimistic and uncertain note
·calling for 'someone somewhere' to steer us out of trouble. Perhaps if he
had addressed himself to assessing the nature of, and alternatives to, the
existing mode of decision·making and policy·formulation, he might have
been able to come up with a more optimistic and therefore more fitting
conclusion to an excellent book.
Dave Elliott
Veg and Two Veg
The Vegetable Passion, A history of the vegetarian state of mind, Janet
Barkas. Routledge & Kegan Paul. Paperback £1.95.
Not an instant turn·on to vegetarianism.
Despite her sympathetic attitude to the subject, and her prophecy that
one day meat eating will go the way of cannibal·ism, I still find Janet
Barkas confirms my impression that the great vegetarians of the past have
been cranks. Fascinating as her history is, I'm not sure that Leonardo's
sentimental humanitarianism, Gandhi's masochistic self·denial, or Hitler's
hearty hypochondriasis have much to do with the decidedly uncranky
motives of most of the people who call themselves vegetarians today.
There :s now at last a generation of people who think it is normal not to
eat meat, and if the ecological crisis is real, such people will inherit the
Janet Barkas writes with wit and fluency, but she reflects the defensive
attitudes of vegetarians down the years. She should now write a book
about the question that puzzles me more than the 'vegetarian state of
mind': what causes the carnivorous state of mind? My own private theory
is that meat is a form of jewellery, something the ruling class has always
consumed conspicuously as evidence of its superiority. Among the
common people, natural class envy and consciousness of injustice
became sublimated as an irrational lust for meat, comparable with the
lust for gold or, in our own days, for imposing automobiles. That's my
marxist theory of meat·eating. Another day I'll let you have my freudian
Tony Durham

Dome Tomes
The Dome Builder,'s Handbook, edited by John Prems. Running Press,
Philadelphia, Penn. $4.
John Prenis of Philadelphia brought out a series of domefreak newsletters

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starting in May 1971. They consisted of about ten sides of basic rap,
duplicated three hundred times. This put him in touch with enough
projects to stretch to a hundred·plus sides offset litho printed N thousand
times, including short articles from some twenty contributors who have
had practical experience with domes. The Handbook aims to be a
supplement to Domebook Two which it acknowledges as the classic
dome tome. This it does, but along with the recent English Paper Houses
it has the ominous honour of introducing dome literature to straight
format publishing. The layout is neat and easier reading than the
encyclopaedic information jammed into Domebook
Two. However, I still prefer the messy Domecookbook by Steve Baer
which seems to have been written in a dome that had just gone up. The
tangential commentaries scribbled into the margins reveal the excitement
of a process not a product. The crossings.out and corrections show
knowledge as a living fallible process, not a commodity handed down
from us (experts) to them (glorious, masses). The parallel science fiction
fantasies show Baer's Zome geometry in the context of a critical vision of
better times. He links things together, smashing obsolete categories and
continually referring to the whole. 'Straight Format' pretends to be clear
and clean but its effect i, ultimately 'stultifying and mysteriously
professional. and apart from what most people realise as their immediate
There seem to be two reasons for the esteem in which dome .. are held by
people who are trying to find a better way of living. One is the pleasant
reappearance of curved space using a simple construction which does
not require sophisticated level, of ,kill. The other derives from the
geometrical triangulation of the surface which gives a crisply faceted style
that is impersonal and may be claimed communally. This patterning
suggests cosmic connections through its mathematical striving after basic
structural principles and is beholden to the 'new man'. However, the
dome, as with any form lacking content, is putty in the hands of
commerce. As soon as the lunatic fringe of inventors has discovered its
useful aspects it is pirated for profit. Our attention should not be directed
at an idealistic technological goal but at our actions in themselves,
otherwise the main result of our esoteric experiments will be to provide
the petty capitalists with a free ideas pool. What needs to be made clear
in this kind of book is that we are engaging ourselves in producing what
we want according to the criteria of total lasting satisfaction, and the
liberation of space, time and tools from the fiscal fist rather than a
differentiation of paraphernalia.
Stefan Slippery

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One book which h .. been out a few months now i, The Politics Of
Physical Resources (Penguin/Open University £1.50). Edited by Peter J.
Smith, it h .. case studies of the interplay between industry, government,
environmentalists, local people and others in six cases of conflict over
natural resources in the UK. These are ironstone in North Oxfordshire,
Snowdon Ian Copper, Bedfordshire Brick, Cow Green reservoir in
Yorkshire, the Shell ,single·buoy mooring off Angle .. a (for tanker,,) and
the Holyhead aluminium ,melter run by RTZ. It i, a very useful .. t of case
studies for anyone concerned with this, type of issue; member" of local
environment lobbies, for instance. It doesn't hesitate to criticise the
environmentalists, especially over the Cow Green scheme, but then it
doesn't pull any punches at anyone else, either.
Writers and Readers Publishing Co·op have a strong list these days, and
their catalogue (SAE to 14 Talacre Road, London NW5 3PE) i, well worth
a look. The material is mainly original, but the best thing for me was Cuba
for Beginners at 60p by the marvelous, Mexican cartoonist Rius. The man
who drew marxism is still turning out the best political demystification
around, mocking, exemplifying, explaining and gently ,showing up the
colossal Cuba myth, which has been so carefully built up over the years
in the West.
A useful government service for organisations in small·scale industry is
the Waste Materials Exchange at PO Sox 51, Stevenage, Hem, SG1 2DT.
There', lots to go at: metals, alkalis, acids, catalysts, minerals, paper,
plastics, wood, and anyone with a bit of engineering skill could do worse
than think: of ways of getting some use out of it.
This month's new mag is Camerawork (20p or £2 for ,subscription of ,Ix
i"uf< from 27 Alie Street, London E1. Fold, out but i, equivalent
to ,sixteen A4 page .. ). The first issue of a lovely venture in publishing,
Camera work is a radical photography magazine. It include .. piece .. on
the politics of photography (more interesting than it sounds),
photographic alternative technology by Terry Dennett ·who is working on
a longer piece on the same lines for Undercurrents, an interview, a
fascinating piece analysing the economics and aims of various
self·publishing enterprises, and lots of glorious photos. Promises much.
We have received a number of titles dealing with technical <subject'
which readers with specialist interests might find of ,some value. Keeping
Warm For Half The Cost, by Townsend and Colesby (Prism, £1.25) j, a
pretty thorough guide to home insulation, a foretaste of which was<
published in Undercurrents 14. This book covers in detail the main areas
of heat·loss in a house, notably roofs, walls, floors and windows, and is
brimming with pictures, instructions and hints. And it rounds off with a
few well·chosen remarks about our national energy profligacy

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which ,should be obvious, to any·one more intelligent than a politician.

Methane: Planning a Digester by PeterJohn Meynell (Prism, £2.50) i, a
well·researched and up·to·date account of this new and sophisticated
technology, picking its way carefully among the many experiments in
progress and taking a cautious but optimistic view of their potential. A
particular merit of the book is the table .. and diagram, ,showing the
chemical and physical characteristics of methane production. This, i, ....
essential data difficult to come by, and enables people researching in the
area to build on the work of others.
Water Treatment And Sanitation by Mann and William,on (Intermediate
Technology Publication, £1.50) i, a ,imply written handbook of water
supply methods for rural areas in developing countries, and is clearly the
product of considerable effort and experience. I t is addressed to
problems which hardly occur in industrial countries, taking for granted as
we tend to our hot and cold running water and mains drainage systems,
not to mention our freedom from tropical diseases. But it will prove
invaluable to third world village .. and might well be a useful ",source of
ideas for pioneers in the overdeveloped world, too.
Self·Sufficient Small Holding (The Soil Association, Walnut Tree Manor,
Haughly, Stowmarket, Suffolk, 50p) i, a first·hand account by someone
who's actually out there doing it, but prefers to remain anonymous
because of a superfluity of spectators. Rather stronger on inspiration than
nuts'n:bolts practical assistance, it will provide comfort in times of stress.
The author <supplies a li,t of ten facto" essential to small·holding success,
faith, luck and long hours being pre·eminent among them.
Finally, for times of even greater stress, Bristol Radical Alternative .. to
Prison",n have produced a Defendants Handbook (lOp from 70 Novers"
Park Road, Bristol 4), which ideally <should be read beforehand and not
ruefully, afterwards, while serving time. It consists of a simple description
of police and court procedure .. and a defendant', legal right' when
arrested,and should be common knowledge to absolutely everyone. You
might, of course, be a law·abiding citizen, but that in itself is not
normally sufficient to secure an acquittal.
Martin Ince/Martyn Partridge

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• • • • • • • • • • • •
SMALL ADS 2p per word up to 150 words [not fully corrected]
WE ARE IN tHe process_ of renovating a farm house on the bleak
Pennines 4 miles west of Bowes. The house backs on to • main road but
looks south over miles of field and moorland. We have 1/2·acre
of .garden. and some &grazing. We have gradually)' been moving
towards self ... sufficency)' in food for some time, but the land we now
have increases our potential enormously, At the moment we have hens.
bees and • cow. The climate is not ideal but is all we can afford I We
would like some one (or two) to share this place with us, sharing, lives,
work etc., in fact every thin, burin& actual ownership, Up to 2 kids could
be accommodated and the scene, which we see IU an extended family
rather than • commune, might;ht suit sin&1e parent thou&h there is
room for • couple. BOll SG. Undercurrents.
WE ARE 20 AND 18 and we are planning& to move from the city to a
quieter, peaceful place in the country as far from the smoke as possible.
We think along, natural lines. we eat meat. and love each other. If you're
similar in that you are a thinking, couple who could possibly live with us,
please write to Quinkin, Box No. NW, Under·currents.
ANYONE INTERESTED in forming a housing association to buy house,
outbuilding, land, to convert into separate dwelling, units? Ideal would
be·a com·munity working, to,ether on land. A.T. etc, Phone Ann, Bisley
(Gloucs) 558.
RESOURCEFUL PEOPLE needed with ,£3,000·10.000 for inde·pendent
share of remote 50·acre hill farm, mountainous Wales. Survival through
rural industries. sheep, self·sufficiency ... alternative technology. Box PL,
COMMUNITY near Ipswich seeks new members with at least £5700
capital Very large:e house, 56 acres. Telephone East &Bergholt 294.
WINDMILLER required to help run/renovate traditional uindina mWln
Bucks. Contact Alan Thomas, Systems Group. Faculty of Technology,
Open University, Milton Keynes, Bucks.
A DIFFERENT KINO OF JOB Inte,..tecl In new ways of working
1000therP Want 10 mora MY In your own IIteP Don't miss the new
Issue (No.3) of In The Maklng, • :Urectory of proposed procluctive
proJects, 1975 edition. From 22 Albert Raod. Sheffield e. Price 22p per
copy, Including post. Sub5CTlp. lions 60P.
SATELLITE NEWS: the weekly news bulletin of space activity.
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Subscriptions £3 per year (52 issues)\sample copy lOp. post free. J ST

SATELLITES 57·75: a complete e:··t·sf ·lt:.···e·f:5··b··craft 1957 and 31
December 1975. £1 post free. Geoffrey Falworth (U). 12 Barn Croft,
Penwortham, Preston PRI OSX.
Jardenin" practical skills, food and health. We have a comprehensive
selection always in stock. including most of the publications advertised or
···;no·h:rh:'······in order list. GRASS ROOTS BOOKS, 109 Oxford Road,
Manchester Ml 7DU. Tel. 061·273 6541. Open Mon·Sat 10·.
Topics covered Include overcharging by landlords, meter thefts, cut.offs,
meter tinting ..•. (Surplus goes to survey of legal profession ·help wanted
for this to prepare a distribution map of lawyers. COU"S and population).
Centre for Study of Protectiw Law, 209 Woodstock Roed. Varnton. Odord
OX5 lPU.
SELF·SUFFICIENCy can become more than a catch·phrase with
countryside & Small Stock Journal, the established monthly magazine for
all who prOduce thlNr own food. SAE for dnails. or 45p for specimen
copy, to B. Gundrey. Alnon. CA9 3LG.
AMERICAN WOMAN. 40: currently in urban desis:n, seeks penpals into
alternative techno·10lies & communities. Box AW, c/o Undercurrents.
RUNNING AN ECO·GROUP in a secondary school? (or trying to).
Whether the theme be recycling. ecology, local environment, pollution,
or technology for the 3rd World, running an eJl;extra·curricular school
environmental group can be a tOuch job, and the. Schools Eco·Action
Group wants to help you. tloy r70vtding inform·ation, ideas. advice. and
co·ordination as well as our regular newsletter and other ... publications.
Whoever you are. pupil, teacher, or parent. contact S.E.A.G., t 5 Kelso
Road, Leeds 2.
FREAK INTERNATIONAL announces that It has now e...olved a t .. m of
Alternative Engineers who are capable of consultlw, design and
con·structive work on a wide range of att ... netlve engin..,ing. This team
is prepared to undertake selected tasks, including experimental, for a fee
which will be decided on en Individual basis. All members of the team,
apart from sound experience in various aspects of the alternatives. are
qualified and experienced in conventional technology. Potential clients
should make contact in writing with Royce Creasey at 31 Gratitude Road,
Greenbank, Brinol.
POTTER Y SUMMER SCHOOL. Create beautiful things in clay ·Jo & Gerry
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Harvey invite YOU to the workshop at their 17th century farmhouse in

peaceful countryside weekly courses Julyl August. SAE brochure. The
Creative Workshops. Middle Piccadilly Farm. Holwell, Sherborne. Dorset.
WEST OF IRELAND. Simple holiday accommodation and wholesome
food, b.b. and e\·enin, meal £18 per week. Write to Castletown House..
Castleconnor, Ballina, Co. ·mayo, Eire.
DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING Architectural Association Two Year course
The course includes urban and regional policy, marxist economics, the
historical and political economy of urbanism (internationally), and
imperialism. This course responds to chana;in, students needs:
opportunities exist to study the situation of women, the welfare state,
political ecolOlY, to take TPI exams and to develop other specific intensts
individually or collectively, such as invoh'ement in local and other
strua&les. The course has SSRC recoa;nition for bursaries. There is a
CRECHE. Prospedus and application fonns from: Sharon Kretzmer,
Planning Department Architectural Association36 Bedford Square weI.
tel. 01·636 0974. Closing date for applications May 1st 976.

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• • • • • • • • • • • •
magnum opus, our book Radical Technology, was published in the
United States (a little late) in March. In the UK and Australia it'll be
available in May. Copies will be widely available in all good bookshops.
You'll also be able to order copies from Undercurrents, after publication,
at the cover price. £3.25, plus postage and packing. Here is Peter
Harper's summary of the book, for lazy reviewers and prospective
Radical Technology is a large· format, extensively illustrated collection of original
articles concerning the reorganisation of technology along more humane, rational
and ecologically sound lines. The many facets of such a reorganisation are r('fleeted
in the wide variety of contributions to the book. They cover both the 'hardware' ·the
machines and technical methods themselves ·and the 'software' ·the social and
political structures, the way people relate to each other and to their environment,
and how they feel about it all.
The articles in the book range from detailed 'recipes' through general accounts of
alternative technical methods, to critiques of current practices, and general proposals
for reorganisations.
Each author has been encouraged to follow her or his own personal approach,
sometimes descriptive, sometimes analytic, sometimes technical, sometimes
political. The contributors are all authorities in their fields.
The book is divided into seven sections: Food, Energy, Shelter, Autonomy, Materials,
Communication, Other Perspectives. Over forty separate articles include items on
fish culture, small·scale water supply, biological energy sources, a definitive zoology
of the windmill, self·help housing, building with subsoil, making car·tyre shoes, the
economics of autonomous houses, what to look for in scrap yards, alternative radio
networks, utopian communities, and technology in China. Between the main
sections are interviews with prominent practitioners and theorists of Radical
Technology, including John Todd of the New Alchemy Institute; Robert Jungk, author
of Humanity 2000; the Street Farmers, a group of anarchist architects; Peter van
Dresser;·and Sietz Leefland, editor of Small Earth, the Dutch journal of alter·native
Also included between the main sections of the book is a series of visionary drawings
by the gifted illustrator Clifford Harper, evoking the spirit and practice of Radical
Technology: 'how It could be'. These drawings, or 'visions' include a communalised
urban garden layout; a household basement workshop; a community workshop; a
community media centre; a collectivised terrace of urban houses; and an
autonomous rural housing estate. The book ends with a comprehensive directory of
the literature and active organisations in Radical Technology. This notes inevitable
gaps in the book's coverage, points the reader to where more information can be
found, and provides also an overall picture of a growing move·ment.
Radical Technology: Food and Shelter, Tools and Materials, Energy and
Com·munications, Autonomy and Community. Edited by Godfrey Boyle and Peter
Harper, and the editors of Undercurrents. Wildwood House, London, £3.25;
Pantheon Books, New York, $5.95; 1976, 304pp, A4 illustrated, index. Hardback·
ISBN 0704502186; paperback ISBN 0704501597.

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Vision No 3 from Radical Technology: This scheme is not so much an

autonomous as a communalised terrace, in which shared facilities reduce
demand for central services. Space inside the houses is reorganised, with
groups of them being run together as a single unit. One pair of houses is
used for heavy·consumption communal facilities such as the workshop
(see Vision No 51. bakery, sauna and laundrette. as shown here, and
coffee shop. Gas, electricity and water is supplied from the mains, but the
community is set up to use these very economically. It treats its own
sewage and uses it as garden, greenhouse and hydroponic fertiliser.

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