During our many visits to local organizations around Auroville I have observed quite a lot of differences. Even though all of the organizations work in one way or the other for a sustainable future the values within these organizations varies. Some work through the means of technology and others tend to prefer old-fashion techniques.
The issue of digital and analogue values exists not only here in Auroville but also within the greater global community, especially when global warming is considered. Some argue that we need to cut down on our consumption while others believe that technological advancement will solve the problem.
Two of the organizations that demonstrate this matter well are Sunlit Future and Solitude. Sunlit Future is a company dealing with solar energy to solve the increasing demand for energy while Solitude is a farm with a restaurant that focuses on permaculture farming as a solution to global issues. Both these organizations work for a sustainable future but believe in different solutions.
Solitude´s values are the values of nature. The owner of the farm, Krishna, told us during a tour of the farm that nature is perfect and we discussed how one must work within the framework that nature has set for us to achieve a sustainable future. Sunlit Future on the other hand works more with the needs of the people while at the same time relating to the limits nature has established. Through the use of solar energy, a renewable energy source, one can completely eliminate the exhaustion of greenhouse gases during the production of the energy, thus partly solving the energy deficiency locally.
Of course there are many drawbacks of both of these approaches. Examples would be the battery life for a solar system. Because of the relatively short lifespan of a battery (usually around 6-7 years), the battery swap needed to keep the solar system going creates new waste, even if most batteries are recycled. At the same time if a house is not connected to the power grid it is completely dependent on the battery capacity as well as the number of hours of sun during a day. In regions of the world such as India which has about 300 days of sun during a year the system might work quite well but in Scandinavia for example this kind of off-grid solar system would have a hard time to supply all the energy needed for an average household.
Solitude on the other hand with it´s nature oriented values has the potential to on the one hand solve one of the world’s biggest issues, the future shortage of food, while the amount of labor needed would affect the prioritizes in other areas. As permaculture is the most efficient food production approach to maximize food output with minimal material resource input it is without the help of technology extremely efficient. The only real drawback would be the amount of time needed to create and take care of a permaculture farm. This would result in less time to spend on other activities.
When the issue of digital versus analogue values are put this way it really only comes down to what we want to do with our time in relation to how sustainable we want to be. To be able to do many things, and become faster, better and bigger, we need technology to help us to become more time efficient but as the examples above tells us, technological advancement can never be as sustainable as for example permaculture techniques.
By André Larsson, Linnaeus University