This is just flat out awesome. A network of "farmer-scientists" called Open Source Ecology are working to develop sharable plans for resilient, sustainable, off-grid communities. Or, to put it in appropriately grandiose terms: to build micro-civilizations out of scratch.
The Global Village Construction Set is set of 40 (and counting) different machines that can help build small off-grid-but-technologically-advanced communities "with modern day comforts." This inspiring short video explains it best:
Rather than wait for grants or loans from central development banks, rural communities in the developing world could, in theory, use the GVCS to build a village with everything they need to live and thrive. Or, as organizers describe it, "This is a program for technological leapfrogging, distributive economics, and closing of the industrial divide between the haves and have-nots."
At their cleverly-named Factor e Farm in rural Missouri, the OSE folks are putting these ideas into practice. Baking bricks from raw earth. Tilling and farming the land. Charging batteries and powering laptops from solar panels.
To my mind, the potential for a project like this to have serious, scalable impact in the developing world is huge. Here's some more of mission and motivation behind the project:
By weaving open source permacultural and technological cycles together, we intend to provide basic human needs while being good stewards of the land, using resources sustainably, and pursuing right livelihood. With the gift of openly shared information, we can produce industrial products locally using open source design and digital fabrication. This frees us from the need to participate in the wasteful resource flows of the larger economy by letting us produce our own materials and components for the technologies we use. We see small, independent, land-based economies as means to transform societies, address pressing world issues, and evolve to freedom.
Project founder Marcin Jakubowski was named a TED Fellow for the idea, and a short documentary of OSE will be coming out any day now.
I'm pretty obsessed with this project, and am going to be tracking down the organizers soon to rap more about it. In the meantime, here's a list of materials they need now that you could donate, and here's a link to "subscribe" to the program and give cash.