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Nomade des mers (Sea Nomad): low tech to the rescue

For the past three years, a team of modern-day adventurers has been travelling around the world aboard the Nomade des Mers, a floating low-tech lab set up on a catamaran. This is a long-term expedition to uncover frugal innovations and pave the way for a new societal model, blending ecology and humanism.

Its defenders are convinced that it is entirely possible to fulfil our basic needs with clean, sustainable technology that is easy to build and repair and accessible to all! The French association Low-tech Lab and its founder Corentin de Chatelperron are determined to show how it can be done.

Their catamaran, named “Nomade des Mers”, or Sea Nomad, set sail from Concarneau in 2016, on a mission to unearth the most promising low-tech inventions across the globe, to test and document them, and make them as widely known as possible, free of charge.

What do we mean by “low tech”? 

In contrast to the world of high tech, the low-tech movement advocates a society in which technical skills and human intelligence regain control. The idea is to promote a return to simpler ways of doing things, preferably at local level, reducing fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The movement is an extension of the broad-based critique of high technology, that gained momentum in the USA during the 1960s and 70s. During the thirty-year post-war boom, some voices already began to speak out, warning against our increasing dependence on fossil fuels and rare metals, raising the alarm about the waste and pollution generated by the race to develop new technology. Since the end of the first decade of the 21st century, low-tech innovations have been attracting more and more interest, in the context of a global crisis affecting both the economy and the environment.

Throughout the world, simple, accessible and sustainable technical innovations are being developed at local level to provide solutions to vital, economic and environmental challenges. Potentially useful to millions of people,they deserve to be shared!”

Solving concrete problems

The first phase of the project took the Nomade des Mers from Brittany to Thailand, between February 2016 and July 2018. Making stops in 12 countries, the crew met thirty or so inventors who have developed ingenious solutions to solve a concrete problem in their country. One example is Sergio, the designer of a hydroponics system in Cape Verde that allows farmers to grow vegetables in this arid region, thereby helping the island’s inhabitants improve their food self-sufficiency. In Madagascar, a woman known as Dr Vola has set up a spirulina cultivation project to grow this nutrient-dense algae and combat malnutrition among children. Inspired by an initiative in Senegal, Abdoulaye Bouaré’s great idea involves building a wind turbine from old printer motors retrieved from the tip, with the goal of increasing the electricity supply to villages. Solar stills, a waste stabilisation pond, biodigestion, cricket farming, clean coal technology, and more: ideas abound and projects aimed at tackling the major ecological challenges of the 21st century—such as access to drinking water, the fight against deforestation and global warming—have the wind in their sails. Phase 2, which began in late 2019, will take the crew of the Nomade des Mers from Thailand to Colombia in 15 stages, on an exciting voyage to discover more promising inventions.

The project is the ultimate example of collective development and sharing: it exists thanks to crowdfunding, and has reached out through numerous media – a book entitled « Nomade des mers, le tour du monde des innovations » (published by Arte éditions), a series of reports and educational activities (conferences, workshops, etc.), with the ambition of spreading low-tech techniques and the low-tech mindset worldwide.

Like the pioneers of the past, the Nomade des Mers opens up a new road to a societal model that brings together innovation, respect for the environment and the desire to live together in harmony. These same goals are pursued by our people at ATR, and constitute our higher purpose: the desire to provide communities worldwide with access to healthcare, education, culture and opportunities for economic development, all in a sustainable, responsible manner.

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