After the bustling Chicago trip a few weeks back I decided to take a short Sunday drive through the countryside to show my girlfriend an area I lived. In a small nook upstate South Carolina the Gilreath Mill stands peacefully beside a stream reminding the passerby of the times of yore. I look at what was a vibrant source of economic and social significance relegated to a footnote in the technological progress of rural industry. Or has it…with a cultural move toward sustainability, it’s ironic that such an antiquated method suddenly appears workable. Reverse Innovation?
As so called “progress” of efficiency and scale took precedent, the small mills disappeared. During the late nineteenth century the centralization of grain-producing areas in the West, railroad construction, steam power, industrial “progress” ultimately drove the small local mills out of business. A cultural paradigm of fighting and conquering of nature permeated the industrial revolution, innovation after innovation has followed the path of mass produced products, centralized manufacturing, BIG COMPANIES, mass media, mass marketing…Globalization. Now I’m seeing a trickle of an opposing shift.
An example of this shift is the craft beer industry. Chris O’Brien declares in Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World, American craft brewers are at the forefront this shift. These small brewers are bringing it back home in their use of sustainable business practices including green energy, local sourcing, organic processes, and community involvement. See article on emergence of craft brewers Wend Magazine.
The undoing of industrial revolution and its information based equivalent is not a dystopian nightmare but a re-thinking of the purpose of progress. Maybe just maybe we will see these wheels a turning again.