Greg Buckland - Essay Excerpt

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The following is an excerpt from User:Greg_Buckland's grad school application essay


In 2007, six years after the collapse of the Argentine economy, I spent a harvest season at the foot of the Andes surrounded by vineyards. I lived and worked on a small organic farm whose patriarch, Ignacio, was an auto-mechanic by training and an engineer by heart. He had designed and built a host of machines - pulpers, hydraulic cider presses, pumps, pasteurizers - to process the apple harvest into pure organic apple juice. A kilo of raw apples would only fetch a few cents wholesale, but a liter of juice could earn the family five pesos; the value-added by Ignacio's engineering was two orders of magnitude, and it allowed this small family of organic farmers to thrive, even in an economy with little market for organic apples.

What I believe I experienced on that farm was the taste of an abundant future. Here was a family, former auto-mechanics and office workers, who when the economy collapsed around them took a risk and moved back to the land. Their ingenuity allowed them to create value to meet their own needs with leftovers to share. The ecological systems on which our economy entirely depends are being strained to the breaking point, but I believe we can come back into balance with nature and can even achieve abundance in simplicity, like Ignacio’s family did, with smart, resilient design. My purpose is to learn the engineering skills - technical, institutional, and interpersonal - to contribute to an abundant future. I seek to collaboratively design and build human-scale, open-source sustainable technologies that will help us prosper in an increasingly post-industrial world.



My current work with Institute for Policy Studies is toward a New Economy, less dependent on fossil fuel and exploitation, and more sustainable, humane, and locally rooted. But truthfully I am tired of studying and talking about policy - I want to build that New Economy. I want to develop the physical infrastructure that will enable us to meet our needs while living sustainably. To do that, I need to master the skills of engineering and design.

I want to contribute to open-source hardware and collaborative design that is human-centered, resilient, user-serviceable, and environmentally sustainable. In the same way that software developers have created the infrastructure to sustain, develop, and maintain open-source software, there is a nascent community of hardware developers, industrial designers, and engineers working to do the same for hardware. My aim is to learn these technical skills and integrate them with "human operating systems" and a collaborative platform for technology development.

My interests include: renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and architecture, resilient design; end-user collaboration and open-source design; technical and organizational methods for developing such technologies. I hope to explore the interface of technological systems and "human systems", contributing to platforms of open-source, collaborative hardware development, and creating the architecture for a sustainable society.