No stage, strobes or raving guitarists. The Concarneau festival (Finistère), which begins on Saturday June 25 and runs until July 3, promises to be different. Instead, solar dehydrators, cargo bikes and black soldier flies (useful composting aids and sources of protein) will be in the spotlight. The Low-tech Lab, the association that organizes this “ low tech festival », hopes to take advantage of the event to take the approach out of the circle of insiders. The idea: to show that sober innovations are not the business of a “ bunch of wacky people »but a pivot around which the whole of society could organize itself.
“ This is the first time that we have organized an event of this magnitude. », explains Quentin Mateus, in charge of investigations at the Low-tech Lab. So far, the principles of “ low tech » — i.e. processes that save resources and energy, as opposed to “ high tech » — were mainly debated in the context of relatively confidential colloquia. The opportunity to open up to the general public was found: the Nomade des mers, the catamaran that criss-crossed the oceans for six years in search of the best systems “ low tech », will return to port on June 25. The party organized for the return of the charismatic crew will allow everyone to familiarize themselves with the process and to discover other players in the movement.
- A cultivation kit for mushrooms (oyster mushrooms). Low-tech lab tutorial
On the program of the festivities: construction workshops, conferences, visits to the “ tiny house » autonomous developed by the Low-tech Lab, demonstrations of boiler stoves and solar ovens… And also concerts and films, projected on the big screen with the force of the calf. For the sake of consistency, the festival will only work thanks to soft technologies. Trailers built for the occasion will be used to transport the materials useful for the construction of the “ town »which will be self-sufficient in energy thanks to batteries and recycled solar panels.
“ With the energy and food crisis, more and more people are interested »
The event signs, for the association, “ the end of a cycle ». After having documented and experimented on their own scale with the benefits of low-tech, its members now want to promote them on a large scale, from local communities to businesses. “ We must demystify the concept and allow everyone to appropriate it, to change their view of it », thinks Quentin Mateus. The stakes are high: the approach has long suffered from a retrograde image, and aroused the mistrust of citizens and public authorities. “ If we did a street poll on whether people would want to live in a low-tech city, or worse, take a low-tech plane, I’m not sure there would be many positive responses »said Philippe Bihouix, engineer and author of The Age of Low-Tech — Towards a Technically Sustainable Civilization (Threshold, 2014).
- A plastic pyrolyzer, transforming plastic waste into fuel. Low tech lab
However, things are starting to change: “ With the pandemic, the energy and food crisis, the war in Ukraine, it interests more and more people », observes the co-founder of the Low-tech Lab Clément Chabot. The association has never been so much in demand, in particular by political and institutional players. “ One of the indicators we have is the number of local communities that wish to be supported in a low-tech approach. In 2018, there were one or twoexplains Quentin Mateus. Today there are fifteen. » In a report published in January, conducted in partnership with the town halls of Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Paris, Poitiers and Strasbourg, the Social and Solidarity Ecology Lab advocates the advent of low-tech cities and metropolises, and details, in a “ practical Guide » measures to achieve this.
- Clément Chabot lived for more than a year and a half in a “ tiny house » filled with low-tech: solar water heater, mass stove, windowed pantry… © Romain Salas / Reporterre
“ We are beginning to see institutional recognition »
Public establishments are also beginning to look into the subject, which is now seen as credible. In March, the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) devoted a fifty-page study to it. She believes that low-tech is a “ interesting tool of the ecological transition »and calls on public authorities to remove the many cultural, regulatory and financial obstacles that hinder their large-scale deployment. “ We are beginning to observe an institutional recognition of the interest of low-tech, and of how they can contribute to the resilience of territories and the development of local employment. »analyzes Philippe Bihouix (also deputy director general of Arep).
Although the concept has not yet fully entered everyday language, the engineer sees in these expressions of interest an encouraging signal. “ The human being is more an imitator than an innovator. There are always people who adopt things faster than others. When it works for one, others imitate it. » This week of festivities around low-tech could contribute to this. One day, perhaps, soft technologies will no longer be confined to the “ town » of a festival, but will prove themselves in all the cities of France.