We've often written about the concept of leapfrogging to describe what happens when a non-industrialized country surpasses old, harmful technologies or systems (now causing industrialized nations problems) to get to new sustainable innovations and devices.
But in his article, Leapfrogging in Reverse, Jef Faludi explores some examples of how and where this is happening the other way around:
Green architects in the last twenty years have learned passive-solar design tricks from pre-industrial buildings, both historic ones in their own countries and contemporary buildings in non-industrial societies. (For instance, cool towers come from vernacular middle-eastern architecture.)
Innovations in materials have also occurred this way (such as bamboo as a building material).
Green urban design has also benefited greatly from pre-industrial design strategies (mostly pedestrian-centered design); technically speaking, though, these are almost all rediscoveries of historical strategies, not taken from foreign lands.
Even transportation has room for reverse leapfrogging. We've already mentioned the Reva electric car, designed and built in India and causing a splash in the UK. A newer example that may be successful (it's too early to call yet), is the Texxi service in Liverpool (see Green Car Congress for a good writeup on it). It is what happens when a Central American "Colectivo" (basically a group taxi, filling a somewhat fuzzy niche between normal taxis and buses) gets wired.
For more musings on this concept, see Leapfrogging in Reverse by Jer Faludi.
This piece is a part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on Oct. 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.