Global Village Construction Set

Open Source Ecology is “a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters building the Global Village Construction Set.  The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

Those 50 machines range from tractors to bread ovens to circuit board makers and founder Marcin Jakubowski and volunteers from all over the world have prototyped eight (as of November 2011) so far.

I love this idea.  Check out Jakubowski describing the concept in this brief TED talk:

As Jakubowski says, “We’re focusing on hardware because it is hardware that can change people’s lives in such tangible and material ways.”  Not just for developing countries, but developed ones too—farmers, small business owners, etc.  ”Our goal is a repository of published designs so clear and so complete that a single DVD is effectively a civilization starter kit.”

For those of you who got excited about the page full of logos for other open-source hardware initiatives like I did, here they are with links—enjoy!

RepRap
Arduino
MAKE:
Lasersaur
MakerBot
TechShop
Willow Garage
DIY Drones
SparkFun 

The Beauty of Bio-Gas Digesters

In November, 2011, I took a trip to Nepal to visit an international development NGO called CHOICE Humanitarian.  I met the organization’s former CEO earlier in the year and was struck by the statistics he presented—contrary to many NGOs’ M.O.s, the rural villages that CHOICE works with have an abnormally high success rate after CHOICE’s involvement is over.  Their model of teaching leadership over the course of their development projects trains villagers to take control of their own further development, so when CHOICE leaves, they’re self-motivated and empowered to keep their own improvements going.

After five days volunteering in the office, getting to know CHOICE and how they operate, and exploring Kathmandu, I joined CHOICE’s Kiran Neupane on a trip to visit a few of the villages CHOICE works with.  We were accompanied by a few members of Kathmandu’s Rotary Club which was supporting some of their work and we stayed two nights in villagers’ homes. CHOICE and the villages we visited were preparing to launch a new home-stay-based trekking route the following month and we were a friendly group to give them a trial run.

The people were friendly, open and wonderful as Kiran checked on and showed us the progress in different villages.  CHOICE works on a variety of projects, letting the villagers decide their own priorities, and we saw a few schools and a health outpost tucked into the steeply sloping hills and cascading rice paddies.  But one recurring item really struck me as I saw them installed in many villagers’ households—the bio-gas digester.

What is a bio-gas digester and how does it work?

* Time to check your squeamishness at the door.  We’re about to talk about poop and pee.  We all make it, we all have to do something with it, and here’s a way to harness some good from it. *

how a bio-gas digester works - illustration

(click image to enlarge)

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