Technology-Free Zones


Because technology is at the heart of the ecological crisis, I propose the creation of technology-free zones. The nuclear-free zone movement has shown the way by placing initiatives on the ballot and lobbying local governments to approve anti-nuclear proclamations. My proposal would be more subversive and utopian, hence more patriotic and likely to succeed. The goal is to deny bit by bit not only nuclear technology, but all industrial technology, space in which to operate. It would be a first step to restoring urban wastelands and mechanized farmlands into living ecosystems. The beauty of it is that for the most part the federales couldn’t conjure up “national security” against it, as they do with nuclear-free zones, even though closing a factory that makes plastic swizzle-sticks is in the long run probably a greater threat to our central authorities than dismantling ICBMs.

But some distinctions are in order. Technology is not an accumulation of machinery; I can’t emphasize that enough. It is the demon in our souls, the pestilence in our blood, the worm in our brains, but it is not mere machinery. Less poetically, it is the logos of techne, the rationalization of our relationship to nature and ourselves into a series of barren techniques. The destructive machinery of industrialism is only the result of this a priori relation.

Crafts, on the other hand, tape into the abundance of Earth without disturbing the flow of life. They are autarkical, not based on the creation of markets, and do not require an infrastructure of roads, currency, etc. They also look better on a shelf.

Think of a rope bridge in Amazonia and compare it to the Brooklyn Bridge. The former sways with life as it takes root-gatherers to a favorite locality. The latter bears disgruntled New Yorkers to work so they can pay their utility bills which keeps the dynamos whirring so New Yorkers won’t get more disgruntled. The Brooklyn Bridge is built on the discontent of civilization.

The goal of a technology-free zone would be to replace technology-based economies with crafts. That means changing our way of life to accomodate natural cycles and abandoning the search for “appropriate technologies,” which only exist in the minds of technocrats anyway.

How far local communities would like to carry this is up to them. They might merely ban the construction of new industrial installations. They might be smart and demand the removal of existing installations (which seem to be making their way to Singapore anyway). Some communities might want to exclude cars, television, or by-pass surgery. The effect of all this would be to drive vulgar consumers and sybarites into hard-core urban centers, leaving environmentally conscious people a free hand to take further action in defense of Mother Earth — such as stopping food shipments to hard-core urban centers.

At the very least, a technology-free zone movement would shift the discourse beyond just preserving wilderness, or even expanding it, to conforming our way of life to the all-pervasive wilderness Earth is destined to become.

1 Comment

  • John Weber says:

    We are slowly technogizing ourselves into extinction. Technology is seductive. Is it the power? Is it the comfort? Or is it some internal particularly human attribute that drives it? Technology surrounds us and becomes part of our story and myths. Technology tantalizes the human mind to make, combine, invent. There are always unintended consequences with technology. It effects how we experience the world in time and space. It affects how we feel the world. If all the externalities were included in the prices and cost to nature, we would be very, very wary of technology.

    I think we have moved from technology in the service of religion (pyramids and gothic cathedrals) to religion and culture in the service of technology. It isn’t a deity that will save humanity but in the eyes of many – it will be technology.

    We will do more of the same, business as usual until there are no more holes in the ground to dig, no more water above and below to contaminate, no humans to wage slave, no other lifeforms to eliminate. Yes, we are building Trojan horses in our hearts, minds and spirits. It will be elitist and entitlement and hubris – it will end with both a bang and a whimper.

Leave a Reply