There’s Something in the Air: Amateur Radio and its Contributions to International Sustainable Community Development

By Jonathan M. Scherch.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 2012, the international amateur “ham” radio service will celebrate its one hundredth anniversary. Known for commitments to community service, emergency preparedness, education, and technical innovation, increasingly amateur radio is also being identified as an important, accessible resource for sustainable community development. With growing numbers of skillful, license-holding operators around the world, international citizenry regularly utilize multi-mode communication systems to span and connect local-through-global locations and cultures, exchanging information and advancing collaborations on sustainability initiatives. By utilizing a diversity of affordable, repairable technology designs and low-impact renewable energies, amateur radio operators demonstrate capacities for design, construction, maintenance and collaborative use of reliable communication systems which generally aid and support other important community resilience efforts. In the face of serious social, economic and ecological stressors worldwide, the global amateur radio community is a vital resource for emergent and on-going sustainability efforts. This paper will discuss the history, features and attributes of the amateur radio service and propose ways in which its current and future capabilities can be utilized to advance global sustainability.

Keywords: Amateur Radio, Communications, Appropriate Technologies, Renewable Energy Systems, Community Resilience, Innovation, Interdisciplinary, Scherch, Transition Towns

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.209-221. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 592.305KB).

Dr. Jonathan M. Scherch

Core Faculty, Graduate Program in Environment and Community, Center for Creative Change, Antioch University Seattle, Seattle, Washington, USA

Scherch has been an amateur radio operator since 1990 and presently holds an Amateur Extra Class license (KK7PW). He is active in preparing and teaching amateur radio training courses and is an accredited Volunteer Examiner (VE). When not on the air, his sustainable community development work leads around the world—into Tibetan refugee settlements in India, into bamboo forests in China and into slum communities in Bangladesh. As a social worker and Core Faculty at Antioch University Seattle since 1998, Scherch teaches Permaculture and Sustainable Systems Design courses for urban and rural communities in the Pacific Northwest and internationally. Recent projects: Scherch, J. et al (forthcoming). Sustainability in Exile: Tibetan refugees pioneering food and farming futures. Online:>. Scherch, J. (2009). Whither Our Embrace of Bamboo: Observations from Forest, Farm and Factory. International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, 5(4). Scherch, J. (2008). Poverty Alleviation and Urban | Rural Reciprocities: Designing, Learning, Collaborating for Eco-City Dhaka, Bangladesh. For EcoCity World Summit 2008, San Francisco, CA, April.