Reflections on Radical Technology in the 1970s

Event Details
Date: , 2019
Time: to
Location: Level 1, Studio 2
Venue: M Shed, BS1 4RN
Price: Free
With: Peter Harper
Series: Bristol Radical History Festival 2019
Page Details
Section: Events
Subjects: Environmental, Modern History (Post World War II)
Tags: , , , ,
Posted: Modified:

Peter Harper coined the term ‘Alternative Technology’ in 1972 and became Head of Innovation at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). During the mid-1970s, he co-edited Radical Technology, a compendium of ideas for sustainable living. Many of these ideas were showcased at local Comtek (Community Technology) events in Bath, a pioneering national celebration of innovation rolled into lively 1970’s pop festivals.

“Technology and innovation bring many benefits. They also bring harms, risks and dangers, some very serious. Can they avoid the dangers they have themselves created? In the 1970s many of us thought not, and sought either to stop technological innovation altogether, or to seek new and more benign forms of technology that would enhance well-being without undue risk. The result was Alternative Technology and a movement often labelled as Radical Technology. You will have seen the clichés: windmills, solar panels, biogas digesters, organic gardening, straw-bale houses, off-grid electricity systems, reed-bed water treatment, electric bicycles…

We did the theory and we did the practice, with the usual mixture of fun and heartbreak, especially at CAT in Wales, and at festivals such as the Comtek series in Bath. We discovered of course, that we could not break free from the mainstream trends and the great industrial supply-chains stretching around the globe. Something a little more sophisticated was required….”


Front cover of Radical Technology book designed by Roger Hall
Radical Technology (1976), edited by Peter Harper and Godfrey Boyle

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