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RAIN was planting the seeds”: An Interview with Tom Bender, co-editor of RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology

« RAIN plantait les graines ». Entretien avec Tom Bender, coéditeur de RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology
Meredith Gaglio

Résumés

De 1974 à 1980, RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology a été le principal "outil imprimé" du mouvement de la technologie appropriée (AT) aux États-Unis. Pendant cette période, les Rainmakers, menés par Steve Johnson, Lee Johnson, Land de Moll et Tom Bender, ont construit une écotopie visionnaire dans les pages de leur journal, fournissant aux lecteurs les bases philosophiques, les conseils pratiques et la conviction politique nécessaires à la mise en œuvre de projets AT au sein de leurs propres communautés. Cet article est une transcription abrégée d’un entretien mené par l’historienne de l’architecture Meredith Gaglio avec l’un des coéditeurs de RAIN, le regretté Tom Bender, à son domicile de Manzanita, dans l’Oregon, en avril 2016. Dans cet entretien, Bender se souvient de son introduction à la technologie appropriée, à travers les travaux d’Ernst Friedrich Schumacher et de R. Buckminster Fuller, discute des fondements de RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, et partage ses réflexions sur la façon dont le changement durable est réalisé.

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Introduction

Figure 1. RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, vol. 2, n° 7–8, May 1976).

Figure 1. RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, vol. 2, n° 7–8, May 1976).

Cover photograph by Tom Bender.

  • 1 Lee Johnson is unrelated to Steve Johnson. I am unable to find the birthdates of either of them.

1In 1975, “Rainmakers” Steve Johnson, Lee Johnson1, Tom Bender (1941–2020), and Lane de Moll (1949–), described their editorial vision for RAIN magazine (Fig. 1), as such:

  • 2 RAIN: A Monthly Bulletin Board, 2, N° 1, October 1975, p. 2. Ellipses are included in the original (...)

We wish to share with people information that is: workable… novel… successful… practical… perceptive… loving/humorous… integral… cosmic… down-to-earth… fitting… appropriate… sane… infertilating… hopeful… encouraging… non-redundant (don’t reinvent the wheel)… way over there there’s someone else doing what you’re doing… we try to find seeds… RAIN helps things grow.2

  • 3 Raymond Mungo, “Sunshine and Oregon Rain,” New Age, 2, Nov. 1976, p. 46.

2With this introduction, they conveyed a mid-century shift in the Appropriate Technology (AT) Movement, as it grew from a disconnected array of grassroots organizations toward a more cohesive, nationally recognized solution to the United States’ energy crisis. Their statement also represented a transformation in the journal itself. Initially sponsored by Eco-net, a federally-funded, Portland, Oregon-based environmental education network, RAIN originated as a free “monthly bulletin board” for AT practitioners of the Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on its Portland home. However, the publication quickly changed course, engaging with and establishing links between the groups “over there,” that is, across the United States, and their Oregonian compatriots. This was the first of many subtle yet meaningful transitions in the journal; through its decade-long run, RAIN adapted to meet the political, technological, and social realities faced by American practitioners of AT. For its readership, the monthly publication provided a dynamic, often prescient, and remarkably expansive characterization of the AT Movement. Between 1974, when the journal began, and 1979, when its founding editors departed, RAIN developed from a local, countercultural magazine to what the journalist Raymond Mungo called a “mythological publication” that reached far beyond environmental firebrands to professional architects, ecologists, and even government officials.3

  • 4 Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, “How to Help Them Help Themselves,” The Observer, August  29, p. 1965.

3In the late-1960s, a handful of young, countercultural Americans, inspired by economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher’s (1911–1977) concept of “intermediate technology,” founded the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States. Informed by his experience as an economic advisor to the governments of Myanmar and India in the 1950s and 1960s, Schumacher developed what he believed to be a more prudent development strategy for rapidly industrializing nations, which he presented in the August 1965, British Observer article, “How to Help Them Help Themselves.” His plan, as expressed in the essay, sought to remedy contemporary development practices by promoting small-scale, inexpensive, regional industries reliant upon production processes that required minimal skill, depended upon scant financing, and utilized local materials.4

  • 5 The excerpt from Schumacher’s essay is reproduced in Caroline Maniaque-Benton, with Meredith Gaglio (...)
  • 6 For more information on the history of the Whole Earth Catalog, see Andrew G. Kirk, Counterculture (...)
  • 7 It is probable that the founders of the American Appropriate Technology Movement were already expos (...)

4It is unclear how many American countercultural thinkers read the relatively obscure article, “How to Help Them Help Themselves,” or were even familiar with the German-British economist.5 Many were likely introduced to his ideas in 1968, when countercultural guru Stewart Brand (1938–) included an excerpt of Schumacher’s essay, “Buddhist Economics,” in his influential Whole Earth Catalog.6 At this point, the 54 year-old economist joined the constellation of social, political, and economic theorists who framed the thought process of early American appropriate technologists.7 “Buddhist Economics,” as it was presented in the Whole Earth Catalog, focused less on the economic development of non-Western nations than the fuller versions of the article found in Asia: A Handbook (1966) and the British magazine Resurgence (1968). Instead, it concentrated primarily on issues of technology and materialism, which applied more directly to the Catalog’s American readership.

  • 8 Schumacher integrated ecological concepts more explicitly into his economic theory in his popular b (...)
  • 9 For more information on these ideas, see Bookchin, “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought,” reprinted i (...)

5Even in the Americanized abbreviation of the economist’s text, certain key elements of his argument were clear, including his claim that small, non-violent technological solutions had been suppressed by Western mass-production methods; however, having been stripped of its focus on the “developing” world, Schumacher’s work offered solutions to Western overdevelopment that resonated with nascent appropriate technologists, who condemned the socio-economic and ecological “pollution” wrought by irresponsible corporate and governmental technocrats. Schumacher was central to the foundation of the AT Movement in the United States, even if his texts during the late-1960s had not yet explicitly integrated ecological concepts8 and were, moreover, not intended to reflect the political realities of postwar America. Appropriate technologists thus supplemented the economist’s literature with that of other contemporary thinkers who informed their Western practice, including union organizer and anarchist, Murray Bookchin (1921–2006); architect and theorist, Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983); and social theorist, Ivan Illich (1926–2002). Bookchin’s concept of “social ecology,” Fuller’s notion of “synergetics” and “Spaceship Earth,” and Illich’s theory of conviviality all combined with Schumacher’s “intermediate technology” to become American appropriate technology.9

6It is unclear which of the members of the AT Movement coined the term “appropriate technology,” although RAIN’s Tom Bender, in the interview reproduced below, suggested that Ernst Friedrich Schumacher may have used it sporadically. It was surely established and theorized by 1976, when RAIN added its subtitle, “Journal of Appropriate Technology.” Appropriate technologists Lane de Moll, of the RAIN Group, and Gigi Coe, of the California Office of Appropriate Technology (OAT), called the conceptual and practical aggregation of ideas the “stepping stones” of AT, and described the process by which the American Movement had grown:

  • 10 Lane de Moll and Gigi Coe (ed.), Stepping Stones: Appropriate Technology and Beyond, New York, Scho (...)

The ideas of appropriate technology grew out of a shared gut level sense that something somehow was seriously wrong with our way of doing things. People were becoming increasingly disenchanted with a way of life that allowed the squandering of natural resources —and money— for questionable material gains. Outrage against a senseless war in a tiny country in Asia pushed many people into action seeking a less violent alternative future. Others reacted to the rapidly deteriorating quality of the physical, social, and economic environment—polluted air and water, unfulfilling jobs, and sprawling urbanization —by developing more meaningful and equitable lifestyles and communities.
[…] Those who responded by going ‘back to the land’ to explore the possibilities and values of self-sufficiency became an important source of innovations in alternative agriculture and the use of the sun, wind, water, and biofuels for clean energy. Others honed their political and organizing skills working for human rights and economic justice. Most recently people in small towns and urban neighborhoods have also begun reaching out for alternative solutions to their problems. These groups are now coming together to form a social and political force which has the potential to change the course of our society.10

7Appropriate technology encompassed the ideas of intermediate technology, but its addition of urban and rural planning, community activism, education, health care, communications, and spirituality —its synergy— as well as its American focus, made it distinct from other alternative practices at the time. Although most practitioners concentrated on one of the specific aspects of AT mentioned above, they believed that, by becoming part of the AT Movement, they were contributing to a larger “wholistic” system. RAIN was a peerless representation of this system.

  • 11 John Ferrell, “The Magazine from Ecotopia: A Look Back at the First RAIN Decade,” RAIN Magazine, 10 (...)

8Steve Johnson established RAIN magazine in the summer of 1974, aided by his colleagues Anita Helle, Mary Wells, and Lee Johnson. As a freelance writer, Johnson had recently been employed by Eco-net, a federally-funded, Portland, Oregon-based environmental education network, and conceived a monthly newsletter as a way of accomplishing the goal.11 With RAIN, wryly named for Oregon’s frequent precipitation, he sought to create a practical resource for local AT enthusiasts. Compared to future iterations of the journal —which incorporated philosophical essays, political commentary, and in-depth discussions of topics ranging from the economic value of trash and the basics of composting toilets, to the United Nations Conference on Discrimination Against the Indigenous Populations of the Americas and the history of androgyny—the earliest editions of RAIN were basically informational pamphlets. Featured sections of the inaugural issue, for example, included a guide to Portland libraries and a section simply entitled, “Where to get maps.” Although RAIN’s first issues were not substantively representative of what the magazine would become, they established a lasting organizational format and design that would persist throughout its existence. Like many countercultural publications of the era, RAIN derived its structural rationale from the Whole Earth Catalog. Steve Johnson and Lee Johnson, an AT specialist based at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, categorized books, organizations, and other information sources, writing brief descriptions of each; while Mary Wells, who was responsible for the journal’s layout, interspersed images and charts from recommended texts throughout the publication. The familiar Whole Earth font emblazoned RAIN’s cover, signaling its countercultural roots.

  • 12 Ibid., p. 6.

9The “monthly bulletin board” diverged from the Catalog in several key ways. Most distinctly, issues of RAIN were not voluminous works: Johnson, Johnson, and subsequent editors limited the magazine to a maximum of twenty-four pages, compiling new entries for each issue. Such brevity also precluded the hierarchical scheme of the Whole Earth Catalog, and the Rainmakers’ suggestions fit within an expansive, mostly alphabetized, fluctuating list of headings, typically beginning with “Agriculture-Food” and ending with “Whole Systems.” In addition, RAIN’s unembellished descriptions, compared to the playful captions of Brand’s Catalog, showed its unequivocal and resolute commitment to the distribution of appropriate technologies and gave the magazine a practical, almost somber tone (Fig. 2). These distinctions appealed to the magazine’s readers, many of whom were beginning to separate themselves from the countercultural movement but had yet to abandon all of its trappings. As 1980s Rainmaker and solar activist, John Ferrell, later reported, “reader response was immediate and dramatic.” There was a dearth of communication networks available to appropriate technologists, and practitioners of AT “were hungry for news of each other’s projects and for leads to often-obscure books and magazines being published in their areas of interest.”12 RAIN began to meet their demands.

Figure 2. (Left to right) Rainmakers Lee Johnson, Tom Bender, Steve Johnson, Marsha Johnson, Kathy McDonald, Rhoda Epstein, Lane de Moll, 1976.

Figure 2. (Left to right) Rainmakers Lee Johnson, Tom Bender, Steve Johnson, Marsha Johnson, Kathy McDonald, Rhoda Epstein, Lane de Moll, 1976.

Photograph by Michael Mathers

  • 13 RAIN’s second volume of ten issues was also partly sponsored by a grant from the Northwest Area Fou (...)

10After the initial success of Eco-net’s twenty-four-page “monthly bulletin board,” Johnson, Johnson, Helle, and Wells began to expand the scope of their journal, and by the spring of 1975, the RAIN foursome also decided to seek independence from the government-supported Eco-net program. Steve Johnson anticipated a considerable financial struggle in achieving his goal of total autonomy, and so, a newly established connection with Lane de Moll and her husband, Tom Bender, both of whom hailed from Oregon’s progressive State Office of Energy Research and Planning, proved serendipitous.13 Bender, an architect, and de Moll, a community organizer, too, were in search of opportunities to expand the reach of their community resource operation, “Full Circle,” and similarly lacked the funds to do so. Just months after the parties met, they consolidated their organizations under the title, “Rain Umbrella, Incorporated,” and rented a Victorian home in Portland as a live-work headquarters, aptly called “Rainhouse” (Fig. 3). To some extent, Rain Umbrella, Inc. began as a mutually beneficial pecuniary arrangement between two committed AT associations; however, soon, the new group became a powerful and productive coalition, the dynamic of which manifested in the enriched, diversified content of the updated magazine.

Figure 3. Ecotopia, Diane Schatz, from RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, vol. 2, n° 6, April 1976

Figure 3. Ecotopia, Diane Schatz, from RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, vol. 2, n° 6, April 1976

Schatz frequently contributed illustrations to RAIN’s various publications. “Ecotopia” was included in the April, 1976, special poster edition of the magazine and unfolded to become a 17” x 22” poster

Diane Schatz

  • 14 Many articles published in the journal were written by its editors, and others by trusted sources o (...)
  • 15 Ferrell, “The Magazine from Ecotopia,” p. 7.

11De Moll and Bender’s first collaboration with RAIN came in April of 1975, when an abridged excerpt from Bender’s work, Smaller Pies, appeared in the journal. By October of that year, with the publication of RAIN’s second volume, the pair was listed as part of the editorial staff. Their presence was clear from the beginning, as the “catalogue-type entries grew more polished and feature articles became more prominent.”14 Moreover, RAIN’s subtitle changed from “A Monthly Bulletin Board” to “Journal of Appropriate Technology” after only four issues, reflecting its newfound national aspirations.15

12Between 1975 and 1980, RAIN grew in popularity, if not subscribers. In 1976, the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission recognized RAIN as a national “bicentennial project,” and well-known AT proponents, including Governor Jerry Brown (1938–) and Sim Van der Ryn (1935–), began to visit Rainhouse. Such attention both encouraged and concerned the Rainmakers, who struggled with the relationship between appropriate technology and bureaucracy. Nevertheless, Bender, de Moll, Johnson, and Johnson, all of whom had only recently departed from government positions, did not eschew the institutional sphere: on the contrary, members of RAIN took on advisory roles in the establishment of California’s Office of Appropriate Technology (OAT) and the National Center of Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and kept their readership apprised of the positive and negative aspects of corporate and governmental AT policies. This combination of criticality and receptiveness was one key to its success, and its editors strove to provide a comprehensive periodical that would convey the multi-faceted nature of appropriate technology. Their journalistic aim was not to present an objective view of AT, per se, but rather to introduce the complexities and contradictions of the movement.

  • 16 Tom Bender and Lane de Moll, “Thank You, Fritz,” RAIN, Vol. 4, N° 1, Oct. 1977, p. 15.
  • 17 Following Johnson, de Moll, and Bender’s departures, RAIN’s editorial staff was less stable during (...)

13A highly self-conscious publication, RAIN openly acknowledged the editors’ changing visions and the journal’s shortcomings; the staff published and responded to letters that challenged the magazine’s content and often questioned the path and righteousness of appropriate technology within its pages. In fact, upon Ernst Friedrich Schumacher’s death in 1977, de Moll and Bender even proposed allowing AT to “die with Fritz,” noting, “His vision was broader and more organic than what is becoming an empty slogan.”16 Although Bender and de Moll did not heed their own advice and RAIN carried on, the death of Schumacher, a great inspiration to the editors of RAIN, in combination with the “sabbatical” of founding member Steve Johnson and the disappointing execution of Carter-era environmental policies, marked a significant milestone for the journal. It became increasingly political beginning with its fourth volume of issues in the fall of 1977. This upheaval in content echoed shifts in the movement itself, as the priorities of aging appropriate technologists, whose practice was steeped in the anti-establishment radicalism of the 1960s, began to give way to those of newer recruits, who were not as dubious of governmental involvement in the practice of AT. Always committed to supplying readers with the most up-to-date information on AT in a straightforward, honest way, Bender, de Moll, and Lee Johnson worried that their leadership might lead to journalistic stagnation, and by the fall of 1979, all three had resigned as editors, leaving the magazine to a new generation.17

14Although RAIN officially continued into the 1990s, the magazine’s greatest influence was from 1974 through 1980, when it was the foremost “print tool” of the AT Movement. During that period, the Rainmakers, led by Steve Johnson, Lee Johnson, Lane de Moll, and Tom Bender, constructed a visionary ecotopia on the pages of their journal, supplying readers with the philosophical grounding, real-world advice, and political conviction to pursue AT projects within their own communities.

Interview

The interview that follows was conducted for research purposes at the Manzanita, Oregon, home of Tom Bender on Thursday, April 14th, 2016. It is abridged and edited with explanatory footnotes for the purposes of this article.

Meredith Gaglio (MG): I wanted to start with talking about how you arrived at the idea of appropriate technology through your own work during the 1960s and 1970s.

  • 18 See description in introductory text, above.
  • 19 Resurgence, a British journal founded in 1966 by John Papworth, focused on the environmental moveme (...)

Tom Bender (TB): The Whole Earth Catalog published “Buddhist Economics.”18 And me being me, I got in touch with Fritz [Schumacher], and back and forthing, and he let me re-print “Buddhist Economics” in my environmental design primer, in 1973. This is before Small Is Beautiful is published. And then, we arranged with…Satish Kumar [to publish additional articles] from Resurgence.19 He was printing a lot of Fritz’s stuff, and we, in one of our magazine exchanges, we worked out that we were allowed to re-print Fritz’s things. And so, Fritz had used the words ‘appropriate technology’ before, but… intermediate technology was the primary term that he used.

But my two mentors were him and Bucky Fuller. Bucky got me to thinking holistically, and totally outside of the box. And Schumacher broke me out of the economics of, “work is something to be minimized,” you know, the employer wants to minimize it, because it costs less, and the worker wants to minimize it because it’s not free time. And showing that work is of value, of being able to develop your skills and give to the community, and a whole bunch of things —it totally flipped my mind.

  • 20 The Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) was a planned community in northern Minnesota. See Athelstan (...)

… Bucky had a project called the Minnesota Experimental City, which was run through the architecture school [at the University of] Minnesota. And the concept was to build a new city from scratch, and do it right! And I was the alternative energy consultant for that, which shows how [laughing] rare it was in those days. It didn’t exist. And so, it got approved by the state legislature, but they put it in another location, another city, because that’s where politics put it, and so that whole thing collapsed.20

But I taught one of [Fuller’s] classes, sort of “online” classes of students, and I worked back and forth on that. So, I was interested in appropriate technology, and I chose to use that term, which Fritz was barely using, and we just said one day, “OK, can we just change the subtitle for RAIN?” Because we were doing workshops, and all this stuff, and Lee Johnson was doing the solar water heater building workshops, and all these [AT] things were happening.

  • 21 Tilth was a grassroots organization, founded in 1974, with an emphasis on equitable and sustainable (...)

And Tilth, which is, I think it’s now Oregon Tilth, but it was the northwest agriculture group.21 RAIN sort of helped see that out. For, how do you grow well in the Pacific Northwest, in the rainforest? And so, RAIN always had a very small circulation, maybe three thousand at the most, but it was all doers, and you put a seed out in one issue, and by the next issue, somebody’s gotten back to you, “OK, I’ve done that. I’ve tried that. Here’s what happened.” And so, it was just an incredible leverage point for getting things to happen. And it was people doing things, and it was in this whole realm, which we now call appropriate technology. So, we decided, ‘Ok, let’s just name it.’ Then there’s a journal. And that’s when that happened.

  • 22 Rainbook: Resources for Appropriate Technology (New York, Schocken Books, 1977), was a collection o (...)

MG: In the introduction to Rainbook,22 there’s a discussion that the United States is where American appropriate technologists should focus, but Schumacher’s idea of “intermediate technology” focused on developing countries. How did you come to your AT philosophy?

TB: I remember that the Peace Corps showed us that our arrogance going in, even trying to be wonderful like that, that we learned more from [developing countries] than they do from us, and the stuff we bring is ninety percent inappropriate. And that’s where that came from in RAIN, or Rainbook, is that we’re the cause of most of the problems in other countries. If we get our stuff straightened out, then we stop [interfering]. And we need to do real…not theoretical stuff, off someplace else, that we walk away from. We put the wells in, but then they break apart, you know?

MG: Other than Schumacher, were there other people who you looked to? When did you become interested in these ideas?

  • 23 Ian McHarg (1920–2001) was the founder of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of (...)

TB: Well, I graduated with econ, and I did urban land economics at Wharton, and landscape architecture [at University of Pennsylvania with] Ian McHarg, and, you know, it was an incredible faculty they had then. And got me going…a lot deeper on stuff. McHarg was working from the sacred.23 … But I was involved in a lot of other things, just looking at alternatives. When I moved to Minnesota, I started their Environmental Design program, which is going, again, out of the architecture box. And when I graduated from architecture school, I looked at what I could do, and said, “This sucks!” [laughs] And so I had unlearned that…and [began] looking at alternatives.

MG: Did RAIN come together before the journal? That is, was RAIN a group of people, a collective?

TB: RAIN started as an environmental education newsletter at Portland State University. So that went one or two years and Steve and Lee Johnson were involved in that. They’re not related.

And then, that money was running out, and they wanted to get out of academia, and I think the environmental education center was being closed down. And so, they got some bridge funding, or something, and we rented this house in northwest Portland, and we [Tom Bender and Lane de Moll] were just leaving Salem, [Oregon] from the Governor’s Office. So, we came to share the house, and got sucked into [laughs] RAIN.

MG: And so then, when you were with RAIN, you were making the magazine, of course. But what were the other major projects you were working on at the time? I know it’s a long period, so I guess we could start with in the early ‘70s.

  • 24 Tom McCall (1913–1983) was Oregon’s thirtieth governor, from 1967 to 1975. McCall was committed to (...)
  • 25 Bender, Living Lightly: Energy Conservation in Housing (1973). It is unclear whether Bender is expr (...)

TB: Well, we moved to Oregon in January ’74, to work, for me to work in Tom McCall’s office,24… because that [office] was the only one saying we could live better on less energy. And that was totally blowing people’s minds {laughs}. Which came out of the Living Lightly monograph.25

So, McCall went out of office…[at] the end of [1974]. And the energy office dissolved, so we moved to Portland from that, in, let’s say, January ’75.

  • 26 The California Office of Appropriate Technology oversaw the California Affordable Housing Competiti (...)

Then in ’77, summer ’77, I basically moved out [to Manzanita, Oregon], started construction on this home [in which we are conducting the interview]. And we, I mean, I was doing this, and editing, and then our graphic designer layout person [Mary Wells] left, and so I go ahead on the weekends and do two jobs {laughs} and it was a load. And then the house burned down in February ’78, and we started over again. I think I wrote a few articles past ’80–’81 [in RAIN]. I won the California Affordable Housing Competition, sneaking in across the border [laughter].26 Showing how to reduce housing costs by eighty percent, and that was totally frying people’s minds. And so, I remember RAIN doing an article on that, like ’82, ’83 or something.

MG: After 1982, were you integrally a part of RAIN?

TB: I mean, we would write things and take them, submit them, put them in, but that tapered off.

MG: How did the editorial staff change?

TB: Yeah, I mean, we basically, the four of us [Johnson, Johnson, de Moll, and Bender], accomplished what we set out to do with it. Permaculture —the first review of that in the country, that came from Australia— we reviewed that. Tilth got set up, passive solar design stuff got set up, we coined the term. Lee Johnson came back from a meeting, ‘We can’t figure out what to call it! Non-mechanized solar energy, or, or what?’ So, “Ok, passive solar.” That week, we went to press: passive solar energy! [laughs] So, [our work] tapered off.

We had all accomplished what we set out to do, with the magazine, and all of these more specialized journals and organizations had coalesced together in the various areas, so we said, “OK, pass it on to somebody else.” And then some of the RAIN people did an integral urban house in Portland. And, we [de Moll and Bender] got to the point, when we came out [to Manzanita] that we didn’t want to just be talking about stuff, we wanted to be doing it.

MG: Returning to your work with the Governor’s Office, how did you feel about working with government agencies or corporations? It seems that, after the Oil Crisis [in 1973], either because there was additional funding by the government, or because there had been some sort of philosophical change, there were more collaborations between appropriate technologists and government agencies.

  • 27 In RAIN, Vol. 4, N° 4, January 1978.

TB: RAIN was planting the seeds, and stuff starts to grow, and people get interested. There’s an article I did called ‘Why Big Business Loves AT,’27 and [big business says] “OK, [the appropriate technologists] work out all the hard stuff and what doesn’t work, and then we’ll go in there and grab it.”

  • 28 Bender was on the advisory board for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (1976). Founded (...)

I was on the committee setting up the National Center for Appropriate Technology,28 and that was [an example of] government taking over and {laughing} destroying [appropriate technology]. So, good things happened, and a lot of people, like Lee Johnson, went to work for the [government]. A lot of people went into bureaucracy and took things in good directions, and then eventually that stuff would get unfunded…

  • 29 Oxford-trained physicist and alternative energy specialist Amory Lovins was another influential voi (...)

And nobody had anything. For me, the minute that somebody else came along to take on something [was helpful]. Like the lifecycle costs in the energy stuff—Amory Lovins came along and said, “Ok, here.”29 There’s all these other things that need to be done. “Ok, you, ok, there.” And I learned also very early that no matter [who you are], you only get about ten percent of your time that you can do anything with. And that anybody developing anything new never gets funded. It’s the third person down the line, at least, once it’s acknowledged as proper [and] you’re off on other things, [who gets] funding to do the research, and their name goes on the record. So, I had gone from one thing to another to another [but never directly received funding from the government].

MG: Beginning with the Oil Crisis of 1973, there was sort of a rise of appropriate technology in the public sphere, and then there seemed to be a downturn in interest following the Carter administration.

TB: Yeah, there’s a bell curve everywhere. On everything.

MG: Why do you think that is? Or what do you think was the greatest contributor to that?

TB: That’s the way things happen. Something appears new and exciting, and people latch onto it, and then they… something else new and exciting, you know, from the newest thing, they go to the newest latest thing, or it becomes more absorbed into the way things are done. And a lot of the stuff, like the least cost energy stuff, that’s just standard bureaucracy practice now, in utilities. And you don’t call it appropriate technology, you don’t, kinda just, it is.

Bucky Fuller told me several years ago that it takes a minimum of twenty years for any major change to happen. And it’s twenty to forty years, in my experience. And one of the biggest and hardest things is to get it on the table. And that’s what was one of my jobs. And that’s when, you know, I come out with both elbows [laughing] – no, that does not go off the table. And once it’s on, you know, things percolate.

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Bibliographie

De Moll, Lane and Gigi Coe (ed.), Stepping Stones: Appropriate Technology and Beyond, New York, Schocken Books, 1978.

Ferrell, John, “The Magazine from Ecotopia: A Look Back at the First RAIN Decade,” RAIN Magazine, 10, N° 1, Oct./Nov. 1983, p. 5–9.

Mungo, Raymond, “Sunshine and Oregon Rain,” New Age 2, Nov. 1976, p. 46–49.

RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology.

RAIN: A Monthly Bulletin Board.

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, “How to Help Them Help Themselves,” The Observer, August 29, 1965, p. 17.

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Notes

1 Lee Johnson is unrelated to Steve Johnson. I am unable to find the birthdates of either of them.

2 RAIN: A Monthly Bulletin Board, 2, N° 1, October 1975, p. 2. Ellipses are included in the original text.

3 Raymond Mungo, “Sunshine and Oregon Rain,” New Age, 2, Nov. 1976, p. 46.

4 Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, “How to Help Them Help Themselves,” The Observer, August  29, p. 1965.

5 The excerpt from Schumacher’s essay is reproduced in Caroline Maniaque-Benton, with Meredith Gaglio, Whole Earth Field Guide, Cambridge (MA), MIT Press, 2016, p. 152-153.

6 For more information on the history of the Whole Earth Catalog, see Andrew G. Kirk, Counterculture Green, Lawrence (KS), University Press of Kansas, 2007. On the relationship between counterculture and American architecture, see Caroline Maniaque-Benton, French Encounters with American Counterculture, 1960-1980, Burlington (VT), Ashgate, 2011, Simon Sadler, “An Architecture of the Whole,” Journal of Architectural Education, 2008, p. 108–129, and Felicity Scott, Architecture or Techno-Utopia, Cambridge (MA), MIT Press, 2007.

7 It is probable that the founders of the American Appropriate Technology Movement were already exposed to the work of Schumacher prior to the publication of “Buddhist Economics” in the Whole Earth Catalog. However, for many others, this text would have been an introduction to Schumacher’s work.”

8 Schumacher integrated ecological concepts more explicitly into his economic theory in his popular book, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, New York, Harper & Row, 1973. “Social and Economic Problems Calling for the Development of Intermediate Technology,” an essay included in the volume is an expanded, chapter-length version of “How to Help Them Help Themselves.”

9 For more information on these ideas, see Bookchin, “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought,” reprinted in Post-Scarcity Anarchism, Oakland (CA), AK Press, 2004 (3rd ed.), Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Zurich, Lars Müller Publishers, 2008 (new ed. ), and Illich’s Tools for Conviviality, London, Marion Boyars, 2009.

10 Lane de Moll and Gigi Coe (ed.), Stepping Stones: Appropriate Technology and Beyond, New York, Schocken Books, 1978, p. 2.

11 John Ferrell, “The Magazine from Ecotopia: A Look Back at the First RAIN Decade,” RAIN Magazine, 10, N° 1, Oct./Nov. 1983, p. 5.

12 Ibid., p. 6.

13 RAIN’s second volume of ten issues was also partly sponsored by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation, administered by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

14 Many articles published in the journal were written by its editors, and others by trusted sources of knowledge in the AT Movement, including Schumacher, Bookchin, Illich, Karl Hess, and Amory Lovins.

15 Ferrell, “The Magazine from Ecotopia,” p. 7.

16 Tom Bender and Lane de Moll, “Thank You, Fritz,” RAIN, Vol. 4, N° 1, Oct. 1977, p. 15.

17 Following Johnson, de Moll, and Bender’s departures, RAIN’s editorial staff was less stable during the early to mid-1980s. Steve Johnson returned as lead editor in the late-1980s, reducing the magazine’s annual number of issues and eliminating “Journal of Appropriate Technology” from its title.

18 See description in introductory text, above.

19 Resurgence, a British journal founded in 1966 by John Papworth, focused on the environmental movement in Britain at the time. Bender mentioned Indian British activist Satish Kumar, who became the Editor-in-Chief of the journal in 1973. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher published many of his articles in Resurgence, all of which were republished in issues of RAIN.

20 The Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) was a planned community in northern Minnesota. See Athelstan Spilhaus, “The Experimental City,” Daedalus, 96, Fall 1967, p. 1129–1141, and Walter K. Vivrett, “Planning for People: Minnesota Experimental City,” New Community Development, 1, 1971.

21 Tilth was a grassroots organization, founded in 1974, with an emphasis on equitable and sustainable food and agriculture. As a fellow organization in Oregon, updates on the work of Tilth frequently appeared in the pages of RAIN; and so Bender here may have implied that RAIN and its readers collaborated with and supported Tilth in its success and growth.

22 Rainbook: Resources for Appropriate Technology (New York, Schocken Books, 1977), was a collection of resources and articles published in early issues of the journal.

23 Ian McHarg (1920–2001) was the founder of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. His work, Design with Nature (Garden City, New York, Natural History Press, 1969) was influential to many countercultural architects and planners, and excerpts were included in the Whole Earth Catalog.

24 Tom McCall (1913–1983) was Oregon’s thirtieth governor, from 1967 to 1975. McCall was committed to issues of air and water pollution, and energy conservation. As Governor, he enacted a variety of environmental policies, including a container deposit law and land-use planning legislation. Bender worked in the Oregon State Office of Energy Research and Planning, created by McCall in 1973.

25 Bender, Living Lightly: Energy Conservation in Housing (1973). It is unclear whether Bender is expressing that McCall read Living Lightly or whether his ideas expressed in the text mirrored the goals of McCall’s Office of Energy Research and Planning.

26 The California Office of Appropriate Technology oversaw the California Affordable Housing Competition in 1981. Following the contest, OAT’s publication group compiled all of these entries into a text entitled, The Affordable Housing Book: Strategies for the Eighties from the California Affordable Housing Competition (Sacramento (CA), Office of Appropriate Technology, State of California, 1982).

27 In RAIN, Vol. 4, N° 4, January 1978.

28 Bender was on the advisory board for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (1976). Founded in 1976, NCAT was originally part of the Community Services Administration and focused on providing wholistic appropriate technology support to low-income communities nationwide. It is still in existence and is currently overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is focused primarily on more sustainable agricultural practices.

29 Oxford-trained physicist and alternative energy specialist Amory Lovins was another influential voice in the AT Movement. His books, World Energy Strategies (1973) and Non-Nuclear Futures: The Case for an Ethical Energy Strategy (1975) were nearly required reading for serious appropriate technologists. His 1976 essay, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?,” distilled the energy philosophy of AT practitioners into a lucid essay and also propelled the topic into the pages of the well-respected, decidedly non-countercultural journal, Foreign Affairs. See article in Foreign Affairs 55, N° 1, Oct. 1976.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, vol. 2, n° 7–8, May 1976).
Crédits Cover photograph by Tom Bender.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/craup/docannexe/image/12234/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,8M
Titre Figure 2. (Left to right) Rainmakers Lee Johnson, Tom Bender, Steve Johnson, Marsha Johnson, Kathy McDonald, Rhoda Epstein, Lane de Moll, 1976.
Crédits Photograph by Michael Mathers
URL http://journals.openedition.org/craup/docannexe/image/12234/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 491k
Titre Figure 3. Ecotopia, Diane Schatz, from RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology, vol. 2, n° 6, April 1976
Légende Schatz frequently contributed illustrations to RAIN’s various publications. “Ecotopia” was included in the April, 1976, special poster edition of the magazine and unfolded to become a 17” x 22” poster
Crédits Diane Schatz
URL http://journals.openedition.org/craup/docannexe/image/12234/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,9M
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Meredith Gaglio, « RAIN was planting the seeds”: An Interview with Tom Bender, co-editor of RAIN: Journal of Appropriate Technology »Les Cahiers de la recherche architecturale urbaine et paysagère [En ligne], 17 | 2023, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2023, consulté le 14 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/craup/12234 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/craup.12234

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Auteur

Meredith Gaglio

Meredith Gaglio is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Louisiana State University School of Architecture. Her work addresses the development and implementation of sustainable community planning and architectural strategies in the United States from the late-1960s through the early-1980s. Gaglio’s essay, “Hippie Bureaucracy: California’s Office of Appropriate Technology,” will be included in the upcoming book, Design Radicals: Building Bay Area Counterculture, edited by Greg Castillo and Lee Stickells.
mgagli4@lsu.edu

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