Summer Xskool in Sweden

This year’s Doors of Perception Summer Xskool (in August, in Sweden , in partnership with Konstfack and FuturePerfect)  explores what it can mean in practice to move from a ‘do less harm’ approach to sustainability to a practice of  leave things better.

xskool 2013

In what ways can design help people interact with living systems in ways that help both of them thrive? And what practical steps might one take to test the effect of small actions on the system as a whole?

This year’s Doors of Perception summer Xskool explores what it can mean in practice to move beyond a ‘do less harm’ Read More »

Posted in locality & place | Leave a comment

Change Labs: What Works?

On Friday 14 March I’m doing a talk and discussion in Dublin.

richard-giblett-mycelium-rhizome

(Image: Richard Giblett)

To effect system-level change – in health, energy, food, or mobility – a first step is often to reframe the question. In health, for example, ninety-five percent of person-to-person care happens outside the bio-medical system – so how do you innovate there? Read More »

Posted in [no topic] | Leave a comment

Energy: Thriving On Five Percent?

In Sharing Energy In The City, EDF and the the French National Research Agency (ANR) have challenged designers to rethink the production, harvesting, distribution, use, exchange and consumption of energy in our everyday life. They asked me to submit this text as fuel for the discussion.

3D Electric powerlines over sunrise

The modern city has been shaped by the availability of cheap oil and resources, and plentiful credit. Massive resource and energy flows have been used to build skyscrapers, heat and cool buildings, move and treat water, feed people, and move them and their goods around.

This expansion of cities involved the stupendous use of energy. Tom Murphy, a physics professor, calculates that  U.S. energy use since 1650, including wood, biomass, fossil fuels, hydro, nuclear, etc, has grown at a steady 2.9 percent. Those 360 years of more-or-less steady growth help explain Read More »

Posted in infrastructure & design | Leave a comment

Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City

In China, ‘battery-bikes’ are outselling cars by four-to-one. Pedelec sales are soaring in Europe, too.  Is this the start of system-wide phase-shift in transportation?

zzzz 468498_10150772040399360_1995591185_o-1024x603

At a workshop in Delhi last year, during the UnBox Festival, I posed the following question to a group of 20  design, transport, and city development professionals: What new products, services or ingredients are needed to help a cycle commerce ecosystem flourish in India’s cities, towns and villages?

The answer was: a lot – and it’s not just about the bikes. We discussed the need for an online catalogue of products and business models to aid decision-support. We learned that micro-finance for independent vendors should be a priority. Traffic architectures, hygiene regulations, and disinterest of municipal authorities, were an obstacle. Opposition from place-based retailers was an issue. Topography, and climate, could not be ignored. As the to-do list grew, the scale of the challenge seemed ever more daunting.

But a strange this has happened. The obstacles we identified in Delhi seem less daunting today than a year ago. Something big is afoot. E-bikes in China are outselling cars four to one. Their sudden popularity has confounded planners who thought China was set to become the next automobile powerhouse.  In Europe, too, e-bike sales are escalating. Sales have been growing by 50% a year since 2008 with forecasts of at least three million sales in 2015.

I have the strong impression that a cloud of discrete but related developments is converging. Read More »

Posted in [no topic] | 4 Responses

Conflict and Design

An exhibition in Belgium poses a timely challenge: When confronted by such complex issues as an ageing population, resource depletion, migration, or growing impoverishment, how are we to balance the desire to do something positive, with the need to understand the back story before we intervene?

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 13.29.58

The installation (shown above) consists of open books, in different languages, nailed to a wall. For the architect-artist Ola-Dele Kuku, the words displayed are a reminder that gaps and contradictions in our knowledge as designers can lead not just to imperfect work – they can make things worse. Read More »

Posted in development & design | Leave a comment

Shoe City vs Sole Rebels

Two radically opposed models of development are being born in Ethiopia at the same time. One is small, local, socially fair, and ecologically respectful. The other takes the globalisation of fashion to a new and more destructive level.

3009143-slide-slide-2-176-feature-number-62-bethlehem-tilahun-alemu-the-100-most-creative-people-in-business

No sooner had I posted a long piece on Politics And The Fashion System than two stories  reached me from Ethiopia that embody the profound rift between old and new models of development. Read More »

Posted in development & design | 1 Response

A Whole New Cloth: Politics and the Fashion System

In fashion, despite more than 400 eco labels, an incremental ‘do less harm’ approach has addressed the symptoms, but not the principal cause, of our difficulties: an economy based on perpetual growth in a finite world. A new and global ‘leave things better’ politics affirms our co-dependency with living systems and the biosphere. The Commons, and the sharing or Peer-to-Peer economy, give shared meaning to this new politics. It is beginning to take practical form in the creation of foodsheds and fibersheds at the scale of the bioregion.

eco_labels_wallpaper

[The text below was commissioned by Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham for their forthcoming anthology, Routledge Handbook on Fashion and Sustainabilitywhich will be published in September. It's 4,800 words long].

You probably need to be naked to read this paragraph with a clear conscience. Its author, for one, felt like stripping off as his exploration of the fashion system progressed. It took 700 gallons of fresh water to make my cotton t-shirt, I learned. It’s partly down to me that 85 per cent  of the Aral Sea In Uzbekistan has disappeared because its water is used to grow cotton in the desert. A quarter of all the insecticides in the world are used on cotton crops. Nearly all the Read More »

Posted in most read | Leave a comment

Happy 2014 To You, Too

Slovenia herbs & cheese copy

Thank you everyone for your new year greetings. If 2014 brings me another sandwich as good as this one – that I had at a green convent  in Slovenia – it will be a fine year.

Posted in food systems & design | Leave a comment

The Dementia Care Economy

Yesterday’s G8 Dementia Summit made much of the fact that millions will now be spent in a race to identify a cure or a ‘disease-modifying therapy’ for dementia.  The likely outcome will be the creation of a Dementia Industrial Complex – and the mass production of un-met expectations.A better way for nation states to spend money on dementia is in the ratio: 95 per cent for Care, five percent for Big Research.

AlzStakeholders

(Above: the demential care ecology of Newcastle, in North East England. Illustration by Barbara Douglas)

When War was declared on Terror, a Security Industrial Complex (SIC) boomed.  For the purveyors of full-body scanners, high-end police trucks, and Total Information Domination software, Terror has been good business. But is the world is a safer place? The SIC and this writer are aligned on the question: No, it is not. Read More »

Posted in most read, social innovation | Leave a comment