(Conversation Recorded on August 11, 2022.)

On this episode, we meet with inventor, researcher and author Kris De Decker to understand the concept of “low tech” and its relevance in a high tech society and growth-driven economy.

How does low tech differ from high tech and what does it feel like to live a low tech lifestyle? Why do we assume high tech will always be the solution, and could low tech be a feasible path for a sustainable and fulfilling future?

De Decker shares his personal experiences as a low tech advocate and researcher in a high tech urban environment and how freedom from technology provides both challenges and unexpected benefits.

About Kris De Decker

Kris De Decker shifted from a journalism career covering high tech to exploring low tech through formal and personal research and projects, including the Human Power Plant and the Solar Powered Website.

De Decker is creator and author of Low Tech Magazine and No Tech Magazine, publications which explore low tech solutions to questions society assumes must be solved through high tech.

De Decker has contributed articles about science, technology, energy and the environment to Mother Earth News, Techniques et Culture, Design Magazine, The Oil Drum, Resilience, EOS, Molenecho’s, “Knack”, “De Tijd” and “De Standaard”.  De Decker’s books “Energie in 2030” advised the Dutch government on challenges related to science and technology and his book “Stralingswarmte: gezonde warmte met minder energie” provided a guide for how heat works.

De Decker was born in Antwerp, Belgium and lives in Barcelona, Spain. De Decker describes himself as “rather inactive” on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Show Notes & Links to Learn More

00:45 – Kris’s info, work, and publications

01:51 Low-Tech magazine and The Oil Drum

03:07Luddite for not using a smart phone

03:22Innovation of the bicycle

05:10Algae fuel technology 

06:56Energy used by air conditioners

07:03 Happiness and rewards of living a low tech lifestyle

07:20European energy crisis

07:23 Solar power

07:48Time spent using technology

09:09Social media grabs the attention-seconds of our brain 

09:48 – Average number of items plugged into American household 

10:50 – Living with no baseload, intermittent generation and low tech solutions

11:05 – What role will renewable energy play in society in the future

11:22 – Energy sources – nuclear, solar, wind, fossil fuels

11:41Solar panels and wind turbines are all dependent on fossil fuels 

13:31Renewables don’t fit our economic system which requires growth and energy for growth

14:05We will continue to change rules and print money to grow until we can’t 

14:30Hybrid technology 

16:17Solar 5kw system 

16:51100x more exosomatic energy than what a human body needs

17:48 – Decarbonization

18:05Energy storage 

18:30Solar energy batteries last just a few years 

18:40Adjust energy use to fit the weather and the seasons

19:26 – Finland discussing an energy descent 

19:50Finland’s low population density and energy from nuclear, biomass, hydro

22:17 Recent French election and Communist Party 

23:45 – Kris’s Solar Powered Website Project and Human Power Plant Project

29:02Ghana slums and death from dysentery 

29:37Powering the internet using renewables 

30:18Solar powered internet 

31:19 – The internet is designed to be addictive 

32:47Sri Lanka and technology

33:14 Long distance wi fi technology 

34:09 DJ White

34:14Humans are baseload 

35:34A low tech lifestyle

37:18 The majority of the world is not enjoying benefits of hi tech 

37:42 Hi tech is mainly serving financial motives

38:24 – French car Citroën

39:28Current weight of cars compared to weight of cars in 1970s

40:22 Risk adjusted return

40:57Joseph Tainter

41:47London hospital data centers crashes due to heat  

42:27 Digital money to cash ratio

42:53Percent of things connected to the internet [IoT]

45:11Energy blindness

45:21 Dependency on Russian energy

45:31 – 6 Continent Supply Chain

46:16 – How much energy does a human really need?

46:57European food production

47:40 Reduced food production in Belgium

47:44Food production debate in the Netherlands  

47:50Industrialized agriculture

48:43Wet bulb temperature

50:47 – Thermal insulation of the body [thermoregulation]

51:14 Thermal comfort through history

52:08Temperature when too hot for a fan to provide cooling benefit

52:16Spain law limits air conditioning

53:08How much energy a fan uses

53:21Heat stroke

53:50 Cities and heat

54:37 – Antwerp redesign of Operaplein town square

57:27Etsy website sales revenue

1:00:05Indigenous people living in the Amazon forests

1:01:50Global climate impacts 

1:03:42 – Threat of Russia cutting gas supply to Europe

1:06:08What the car has changed


Teaser photo credit: Windmill in the Azores islands, Portugal. By Guillaume Baviere from Helsingborg, Sweden – 2010-07-21Uploaded by tm, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82316124