It’s possible to plant 50 trees in one afternoon.
To press 5,000 bricks from the dirt beneath your feet in one day.
To build an affordable tractor in six days.
It’s possible thanks to the members of Open Source Ecology (OSE). They aren’t armchair visionaries. These engineers, farmers, and developers are dedicated to making communities sustainable and self-reliant. They’re taking on scarcity and inequality with open source enthusiasm
OSE got its start when Marcin Jakubowski’s tractor broke. Well, lets back up a little. After Jakubowski earned a PhD in the physics of fusion energy, he bought a farm in Missouri where he grew fruit trees and raised goats. One day his tractor broke. He didn’t have the hands-on experience to fix it himself. But he hauled out some can-do attitude along with his welder and torch. He realized a tractor is simply a box with wheels, each powered by hydraulic motors. So he bolted together square steel tubing to make one from scratch. It worked.
This inspired him to look beyond pricey, commercially made machines. He began to come up with versions that were hardy, low-cost, and constructed out of locally sourced or repurposed materials. His posted designs generated lots of enthusiasm and input. Participants began showing up to help build prototypes on project days, becoming OSE collaborators.
The idea evolved. They considered what it takes to build independent, sustainable communities that support farming, construction, small manufacturing, and power generation. They came up with a list of the 50 machines most important for modern life including a hay baler, bakery oven, laser cutter, drill press, solar concentrator, and truck. Low cost, industrial strength, DIY versions of these machines became known as the Global Village Construction Set. The motors, parts, and other fittings of these machines are designed to be interchangeable. All the 3D designs, schematics, and instructional videos are posted on the OSE Wiki.
On average, constructing these machines costs about eight times less than comparable machines made by industrial manufacturers. As Jakubowski explained in his recent TED talk, “Our goal is a repository of published design so clear, so complete, that a single burned DVD is effectively a civilization starter kit. ..The implications are significant: a greater distribution of the means of production, environmentally sound supply chains, and a newly relevant DIY Maker culture can hope to transcend artificial scarcity.”
So often hope seems abstract. This is tangible hope, made of steel. It puts independence and equality in reach for people in both the developed and developing world. Welding never seemed so inspiring.
Originally published at Wired.com