Doors of Perception: August 2009
- DOORS OF PERCEPTION REPORT
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.
] 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
] 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.
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"
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.
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.
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:
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:
... 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".
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:
] 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:
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.
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".
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.
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.
] 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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
] 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.
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
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
] 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.
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.
Doors-Report mailing list