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1126Doors of Perception: August 2009

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  • John Thackara
    Aug 5, 2009
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      DOORS OF PERCEPTION REPORT
      August 2009
      By John Thackara

      This free monthly newsletter announces events, and starts conversations, on
      issues to do with design for sustainability and resilience. For back issues, or
      to subscribe, visit: http://www.doorsofperception.com/mailinglist/archives.php

      **** **** **** **** ****
      THIS MONTH'S HIGHLIGHTS
      Doors event: How to recycle an office block
      Food systems: Is urban farming the new dot.com?
      Measuring what matters: GDP as a doomsday machine
      Social innovation: from philanthrocapitalism, to social venturing
      **** **** **** **** ****

      ] DOORS OF PERCEPTION EVENT

      HOW TO RE-USE AN OFFICE BLOCK (SAO PAULO)
      We've agreed dates for our experimental "pocket conference" at the Momento
      Monumento project in Sao Paulo: Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 November.
      The two days will consist of design clinics and discussions around two
      questions: what kinds of social enterprise might re-animate this abandoned 24
      story skyscraper as a place for people to live, work, learn,and connect? And, in
      what practical ways can design help them do that? The following organisations
      have agreed to meet there: Doors of Perception; Coloco; Exyzt; Transforma
      Design; DESIS (d-schools working on service design); the MetaReciclagem network;
      and The Hub, Sao Paulo. The event is an experiment: how to leverage the value of
      our respective networks to help an important project - but without encouraging
      people to take long flights to participate.
      http://www.momentomonumento.org/en/

      ] FOOD SYSTEMS AND DESIGN

      ONE IN NINE ON FOOD STAMPS - WHILE OBESITY COSTS SOAR
      One in nine Americans already relies on federal food stamps to help buy
      groceries - a startling number that will grow as unemployment rises. At the same
      time, medical spending on obesity - a major cause of diabetes, stroke and heart
      attacks, reached $147 billion in 2008, an 87 percent increase in a decade.
      http://tiny.cc/E7KJb
      http://tiny.cc/lv2ZI

      SO: HOW MUCH IS A SCHOOL GARDEN WORTH?
      California is spending $65,000 (45,000 euros) per classroom seat in a schools
      rebuilding programme - but only $1 per child per year for garden upkeep and
      support. Mud Baron, whose job is to help 500 L.A. schools develop gardens and
      nature projects, has fought a lonely battle to persuade planners and architects
      that contact with nature - not just buildings - is a crucual ingredient of a
      "green" school. When Mud explained his campaign to a Doors of Perception
      workshop at The Planning Center, in February, we came up with the idea of
      re-labeling school gardens as "outside classrooms"; this would have resolved
      Mud's resource problem at a stroke.
      But the situation in California has
      deteriorated fast since then:The budget crisis has left countless teachers
      unemployed, and a $1.7-million grant to Los Angeles Unified School District for
      its Instructional School Garden Program has expired. Mud's boss has agreed to
      match the funds that Baron and his network can raise - if they reach $100,000.
      We don't usually run campaign appeals here, but when the issue is schools + food
      + learning-to- grow, we simply have to make an exception. Donate what you can, here:
      http://tiny.cc/u9Ymy
      http://www.laschoolgardens.com/

      IS URBAN FARMING THE NEW DOT COM?
      Emergency appeals are not a long-term solution to Mud Baron's situation - nor to
      myriad other social programmes for which government funding is collapsing. In
      the US, a first response has been to start a business to fill the gap. A
      September event in New York, Agriculture 2.0, will introduce alternative
      agriculture entrepreneurs to investors. Organizer Roxanne Christensen says
      innovators are developing profitable models for sustainable alternatives to
      industrial agriculture that "can help create a post-industrial food system that
      is less resource intensive, more locally-based, and easier to monitor and
      control". The perkily-named of start-ups include BrightFarm Systems,
      SPIN-Farming, Virtually Green, Aquacopia, NewSeed Advisors.
      17 September, New York City.
      http://tiny.cc/A4Ek9
      http://www.newseedadvisors.com/conference

      NURTURE CAPITALISM
      Slow Money also promotes itself as a new economic vision. It's "an emerging
      network of investors, donors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists committed to
      building local food systems and local economies. It's about the soil of the
      economy. It's the beginning of the 'nurture capital' industry". The slow money
      community meets 9-11 September in Santa Fe.
      http://tiny.cc/GAXHu
      http://www.slowmoneyalliance.org/national-gathering.html

      FOOD AND CITIES: LEARNING FROM THE SOUTH
      In countries where hunger is a lived reality, growing food in cities is taken
      seriously. The South can teach the North a lot here. A new book by leading
      experts on urban agriculture drawns on original field work in cities across the
      rapidly urbanizing global south; it proposes practical strategies to integrate
      city farming into the urban landscape. City farmers, politicians,
      environmentalists and regulatory bodies need to work together, the book
      concludes, to improve the long term sustainability of urban farming as a major,
      secure source of food and employment for urban populations. Agriculture in Urban
      Planning: Generating Livelihoods and Food Security, is edited by Mark Redwood
      and published by Earthscan with the International Development Research Centre.
      http://tiny.cc/qxgGn
      http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-133761-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

      NO FOOD WITHOUT WATER
      There is no food without water, and the best source I know for design challenges
      posed by water projects is the journal Water 21. They publish an excellent free
      online newsletter, too.
      http://tiny.cc/nq9B4
      http://www.iwapublishing.com/template.cfm?name=mailings

      ] MEASURING WHAT MATTERS

      MEASURING ECONOMIC PROGRESS
      Enrico Giovannini, Chief Statistician of the OECD, is pleased with with his new
      visualization tool, the OECD Factbook Explorer. Few people on the planet are
      exposed to a larger volume of statistics than he is, and he's well aware that
      the more data proliferate, the harder it is to extract meaning from them. But
      making numbers look interesting is not its main point: Its longer-term potential
      is as a tool to help change the ways we perceive and measure economic progress.
      http://tiny.cc/5RKta
      http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2009/07/post_48.php

      GDP AS A DOOMSDAY MACHINE
      Over at Adbusters, they don't want to wait. "Conventional economics to a bucket
      full of water that's ready to tip. So, let's kick it over" says their True Cost
      Economics Manfesto. It describes neoclassical economics as a "gigantic fraud
      upon the world" and promises that "in the months and years that follow, we will
      begin the work of reprogramming your doomsday machine"
      http://tiny.cc/K6twi
      https://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/truecosteconomics/sign

      GREEN MAP IMPACTS
      The Green Map platform enables local communities to map assets and resource
      flows. A new book features fascinating illustrated narratives by local green map
      makers in ten countries.
      http://tiny.cc/PGTBX
      http://www.greenmap.org/greenhouse/files/Green_Map_Impacts_09.pdf

      WHO TRACKS THE TRASHED TAGS?
      If we knew exactly where our trash was going, and how much energy it took to
      make it disappear, would we think twice about buying bottled water or
      "disposable" razors? A team of MIT researchers wants people to think more about
      what they throw away. Trash Track involves the development of special electronic
      tags that will track different types of waste on their journey through the
      disposal systems of New York and Seattle. A dilemma for Tracking Trash: in their
      present form, RFID tags are themselves eco-unfriendly waste, and less than 20
      percent of US e-waste is recovered for recycling.
      http://tiny.cc/zY35u http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/trash-0715.html

      THE 121 POUND IPHONE
      A hard dilemma confronts those (such as this writer) who have too fliply
      promoted networked communications as "the infrastructure of sustainabiity". The
      amounts of energy, materials and waste associated with the lifecycles of digital
      media are too often underestimated or just plain ignored. According to
      information recently released by Apple, for example, the footprint of an iPhone
      includes 121 pounds of CO2-equivalent green house gas emissions over a
      three-year expected lifetime of use. Read Don Carli's startling article:
      http://tiny.cc/kSGvh
      http://www.sustainablecommunication.org/resources/articles/53-which-medium-is-more-sustainable-paper-or-digital

      THE CHIPS THAT WEIGH AS MUCH AS A CAR �
      The energy consumption of electronic devices is skyrocketing: the electricity
      consumption of computers, cell phones, flat screen TV's, iPods and other gadgets
      will double by 2022 and triple by 2030. And that's just the power needed to use
      them; more important is the energy required to manufacture electronic equipment.
      A handful of microchips embody as much energy as a car. Low-Tech Magazine has
      posted a long and detailed analysis:
      http://tiny.cc/X2dns
      http://krisdedecker.typepad.com/.a/6a00e0099229e8883301157108f109970b-pi

      ... AND THE HEAVINESS OF GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS
      Of humanity's 50,000 ecocidal mega-tonnes of annual CO2e greenhouse gas
      emissions each year, around 2,800 mega-tonnes are caused by logistics and
      transport activities. Road freight is a major element of this footprint;
      minerals and food transportation are the largest contributors by product
      category. Possibly shocked by these numbers, the World Economic Forum has
      published a report on Supply Chain Decarbonization.The report talks
      bluntly about "a clear need to move beyond corporate and geographic barriers
      in addressing supply chain carbon emissions".
      http://tiny.cc/fTpBg
      http://www.weforum.org/pdf/ip/SupplyChainDecarbonization.pdf

      BATTERIES, WIRES: SO OLD PARADIGM
      Gunter Pauli is disturbed by the very sight of electronic devices that need
      batteries or electric wires in order to function. So the gadget-filled venue of
      the LIFT conference for technology developers, in Marseille, must have been a
      challenge. But the founder of the Zero Emissions Research Initiative was not to
      be deterred, as the video of his talk shows:
      http://tiny.cc/pjxbe
      http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2009/07/post_47.php

      ] SOCIAL INNOVATION

      FROM PHILANTHROCAPITALISM, TO SOCIAL VENTURING
      A new book about "philanthrocapitalism" chronicles a new generation of social
      investors who deploy big-business-style strategies and expect results and
      accountability to match. They include Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, George Soros,
      Angelina Jolie, and Bono, among others. Their proposition is that there's a
      "missing middle" in emerging countries can be filled by new capital to fuel
      growth. This msojunds very much the economy that we have now; can't we do
      better? A contrasting vision is contained a new publication from The Young
      Foundation, Social venturing, that describes a different kind of economy - a
      social economy - that is more socially and informationally intensive than
      capital intensive. Read more at:
      http://tiny.cc/n9DZi
      http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2009/07/from_philanthro.php

      APOLLO PROGRAM FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
      Social media researchers in the US have called for the creation of a National
      Initiative for Social Participation. Ben Shneiderman is using social media to
      organize the effort through a Facebook group called iParticipate.
      "I see this as an agency like NASA is for space", he says.
      http://tiny.cc/ptCAj
      http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/blogger/2009/05/06/national-initiative-for-social-participation/

      SOCIAL MEDIA: FROM ME-WARE TO WE-WARE
      David Barrie produces popular documentaries and programmes for television.
      In recent times he's used these media techniques in community and urban
      development. In David's new project, in Wales, 'Unofficial Mayors' and community
      groups are using social media to develop an action plan for physical, social and
      cultural initiatives. The idea, says David, is "to network communities and local
      life in a collective way - in the spirit of garden allotments on common ground
      rather than the fenced-off private gardens you find in social media now".
      http://tiny.cc/OHvfy
      http://groups.google.co.uk/group/digitalbutetown

      OPEN SOURCE SEWING
      Among the many inspiring social innovation projects listed in NEW York 100, I
      especially like the sound of Hot Bread Kitchen, a social-purpose bakery that
      employs local immigrant women to bake traditional recipes. There's also a
      feral-sounding group of recyclers, called Scrapkins, and Burda Style, an "open
      source sewing" venture. All Day Buffet are organising a conference for these and
      other start-ups on 1 October.
      http://tiny.cc/DbPM5
      http://www.alldaybuffet.org/newyork100/

      LET THEM EAT ECO BREAD
      City Eco Lab veterans Exyzt and Bethany Koby have created a combined windmill
      and public oven in London. They've been baking a local currency out of bread,
      called the Dalston Slice, that can be used at local stores.
      http://tiny.cc/TbAB7
      http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?ID=9311

      ] ALSO NOTED

      ECOLOGICAL LITERACY TEACH-IN
      A design education teach-in to help students, faculty and staff re-frame design
      I the context of resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.
      The idea is to embed ecological literacy in design education by 2012.
      Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 12 October.
      http://www.teach-in.co.uk

      ALL OUR FUTURES (UK)
      Education for sustainability is also the focus of this conference in Plymouth.
      Speakers include Martin Charter, Director of The Centre for Sustainable Design;
      writer and design activist Alastair Fuad-Luke; and Sara Parkin of Forum for the
      Future. 15-17 September, Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth.
      http://tiny.cc/gdVfB
      http://csf.plymouth.ac.uk/allourfutures/

      RE-DEFINING "ENVIRONMENT"
      Is it time to re-frame what we mean by the word "environment" - and thus, how we
      perceive, design, and inhabit the world? The Institute for Advanced Studies is
      Glasgow is hosting a four month Scottish-Danish research project to explore
      these questions. It aims to re-locate the concept of environment
      "in a more more encompassing ecosystemic context".
      http://tiny.cc/qt1jq
      http://www.instituteforadvancedstudies.org.uk/Programmes/DesigningEnvironments.aspx

      EDUCATION THAT PAYS FOR ITSELF (ECUADOR)
      The Third International Conference on Sustainable Education is for innovators
      tackling key challenges in education across the developing world: How to provide
      high quality education without high fees; How to teach young people to succeed
      as entrepreneurs ; How to empower future generations to break out of the poverty trap.
      8-10 December 2009 Yachana Lodge, Ecuador.
      http://tiny.cc/dVmOL
      http://www.teachamantofish.org.uk/conference/

      02 GLOBAL NETWORK - NOW ON LINKED-IN
      The O2 Global Network informs, inspires and connects people interested in
      sustainable design. An enterprising Joel Mulligan (who also needs a job)
      has established the group on LinkedIn.
      http://tiny.cc/AQQy3
      http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=2162795&trk=

      CLASSROOM OF TOMORROW
      Finalists in Architecture for Humanity's classroom challenge range from an
      outdoor classroom in inner-city Chicago, to learning spaces for the children of
      salt pan workers in India. In September, a selected partner school will receive
      up to US$50,000 to realize its design.
      http://tiny.cc/jIPVE
      http://www.openarchitecturenetwork.org/

      SMART CITIES
      For ten years, Carol Coletta has hosted a nationally-syndicated (in the US)
      public radio show called "Smart City." So she wasn't sure how to react when IBM
      launched its Smarter Cities campaign, and when Fortune magazine launched a tech
      conference of that name, too. Neither credited Carol. There's nothing much to be
      done about these schoolyard bullies - except grant credit where credit is due.
      http://www.smartcityradio.com/

      AND WORLD STREETS
      If anyone at IBM or Fortune is feeling guilty, they could assuage it by donating
      funds to World Streets, the always useful (and always under-resourced) blog
      about new mobility. This week Sue Zielinski writes about New Mobility Hubs;
      these would help you access a whole range of transport options including buses,
      trains, streetcars, clean fuel taxis, auto rickshaws and car share or bike share
      vehicles, day care, satellite offices, cafes, shops and entertainment.
      http://worldstreets.org/
      http://tiny.cc/OltTQ
      http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2009/07/new-mobility-hubs-connecting-dots.html

      ] BOOKS OF THE MONTH

      Design is the problem: The future of design must be sustainable, by Nathan
      Shedroff. Design has a tremendous impact on the produced world in terms of
      usability, resources, understanding, and priorities. Shedroff does a fantastic
      job explaining how to feed the leading frameworks and perspectives on
      sustainability into the development process of products, services, and events.
      http://tiny.cc/kv0zX
      http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/sustainable-design/

      Design Meets Disability, by Graham Pullen. If eyeglasses can evolve from medical
      necessity to fashion accessory, why not hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, and
      communication aids? Graham Pullin shows us how design and disability can inspire
      each other. MIT Press, 2009
      http://tiny.cc/UnP1v
      http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11673

      Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World, by Alastair
      Fuad-Luke. How design activists are catalysing positive impacts to address
      sustainability: their leader describes approaches, processes, methods, tools and
      inspirational examples. Earthscan, 2009
      http://tiny.cc/FcC6x
      http://www.earthscan.co.uk/?tabid=49386

      ] GIFT ECONOMY: TWO QUID PRO QUO OPPORTUNITIES

      1. HELP GROW OUR RELATIONAL CAPITAL
      This newsletter is free, but it creates value through cross-fertilisation.
      Please share it with your friends, colleagues, clients and collaborators.
      http://tiny.cc/rCArh
      http://www.doorsofperception.com/mailinglist/archives.php

      2. IS YOUR FIRM EMBARKING ON TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE?
      John Thackara, who wrote this newsletter, gives talks, and runs project clinics,
      that help organisations embark on transformational change. He also organises
      regional-scale events that help real-world sustainability projects
      cross-fertilise, and grow.
      http://www.thackara.com


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