This free monthly newsletter starts conversations on issues to do with design for resilience — and thereby reveals opportunities for action. It also brings you news of Doors of Perception events and encounters. Back issues are now archived on Design Observer. To subscribe to future newletters by John Thackara click here.
MAKE SENSE, NOT STUFF: DESIGN AND THE GREEN ECONOMY (TEXT)
What would designers design, if they did not design products, or posters? My question is not a rhetorical one. On the contrary, I believe design schools in particular in danger of being marginalised by the speed with which the world is changing. I develop this theme in a text called Make sense, not stuff: A three step plan to connect design schools with the green economy. It’s for Cumulus, the international network of design schools, whose next conference is in London 27-30 May. You can read the whole text here:
NINE MEALS FROM ANARCHY (LONDON EXHIBITION)
The head of the UK Countryside Agency warned recently that Britain was ‘nine meals away from anarchy.’ Britain's food supply is so totally dependent on oil - 95 per cent of the food eaten there is oil-dependent - that if the oil supply were suddenly to be cut off it would take just three full days before law and order broke down. An exhibition in London looks at different ways that cities might be transformed from consumers to generators of food.
METRICS OF THERMO-INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY (FLORENCE EVENT)
“These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others”. Groucho Marx could also have been talking about environmental standards. Our world is awash in eco information, but starved of meaning. Hundreds of organisations churn out a flood of reports, graphs, studies, punditry – and lists. So I jumped at the chance to write a text about the issue for an event called Green Platform which opens at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence later this month. Green Platform takes a complex critical view of the "crisis in our thermo-industrial society". A preview of the full text is here:
LOOK AT THE BIG NUMBERS, NOT AT THE SMALL NUMBERS (BOOK)
On the subject of eco information, I'm reading a fantastically useful new book: Sustainable energy - without the hot air. Its author, David McKay, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Cambridge University, has responded to an urgent global challenge: how to make sense of the conflicting claims and information bandied about on all matters eco. The book is filled with insights like this one: "Leaving mobile phone chargers plugged in is often held up as an example of a behavioural eco-crime. The truth is that the amount of energy saved by switching off a phone charger is exactly the same as the energy used by driving an average car for one second". Prof McKay desevres a Nobel Prize for Usefulness. I boughbt the hardcopy, but you can download the book free:
WHAT TOOLS FOR TRANSITION TOWNS? (SURVEY)
I received an interesting email from Transition Towns. "We recognise that out in transition land there's a great diversity of web tools and processes currently in use and under development" the mail begins; "some of these will be resilient and adaptable enough to support the changing needs of transition groups around the world". I am then asked to I fill in an online survey to help the Transition web team to "map out this sometimes alien terrain for community groups, and introduce common tools, processes and protocols to make it easier for us all to do our work".
TOOLS FOR SOCIAL INNOVATION. (NEW YORK LECTURE)
Bruce Nussbaum has invited me to give a lecture at Parsons, The New School, in New York. I’ll talk about an important lesson we learned in Dott 07, and City Eco Lab: knowing about the availability of tools that enabble people to share resources, for example, and figuring out how to use them well, are two different things. Design can help on both fronts, as I shall explain. Contact: Rebecca Mielczarek, email@example.com +1 (212) 229-5391 x 4213
COLLABORATIVE SERVICES: SOCIAL INNOVATION AND DESIGN FOR SUSTAINABILITY (BOOK)
"What is a sustainable lifestyle? What will our daily lives become if we agree to change some of our routines? How do we reduce our environmental impact without lowering our living standards?" A new book, edited by Francois Jegou and Ezio Manzini (with a chapter by me in it) attempts to answer some of these questions. Collaborative Services suggests a variety of scenarios: Car-sharing on demand, micro-leasing system for tools between neighbours, shared sewing studio, home restaurant, delivery service between users who exchange goods – and many more.
PARIS AS A SPONGE? (PARIS LECTURE)
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, asked 10 architects to project 20 years into the future and dream up "the world's most sustainable post-Kyoto metropolis". The Italian architects Bernardo Secchi and Paola Vigano proposed to enlarge the city and laying it out as a "porous sponge" in which waterways are given pride of place. As a metaphor, "sponge" strikes me as a good metaphor to start from – but what about the social organisation of a future Paris? My lecture at ENSAD (École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs) will explore social innovation as a key feature of a sustainable city. 1830h- 2000h, Thursday 30 April. Ensad, 31, rue d'Ulm?75240 PARIS. Contact: Nathalie Foucher-Battais, firstname.lastname@example.org, +33 1 42 34 97 31
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES (HELSINKI EVENT)
Many designers, when they decide to take the limited carrying capacity of the biosphere seriously, first choose to design a poster about sustainability, or a thought-provoking “eco bag”. But the transiton to sustainability is no longer about messages; it's about activity. But what kinds of activity? Juha Huuskonen and me are leading an all-day review of thesis projects that deal with the designer’s changing role in society. Saturday 16 May, Helsinki. Contact Tulii Sotamaa: email@example.com
BRAZIL INTERVIEW (BOOK IN BRAZIL)
For readers in Brazil, and of Portuguese, the website Planeta Sustenavel has published an interview and review to mark the publication of In The Bubble (renamed, for Brazil,Plano B).
ALEX’S IMPORTANT LETTER (APPEAL)
The founder and editor of Worldchanging, Alex Steffen, describes as “the most important letter I’ve ever written” his appeal, this month, for support. Worldchanging has been challenged to raise $10,000 in recurring reader pledges; if they manage that, their challenger will support Worldchanging with a $100,000 grant. We warmly endorse the Worldchaging appeal; they’re an essential part of an evolving ecosystem in which we learn from each other how to thrive in the 21st century. If you still have a job, you can probably afford to contribute – so please do so.
ART AND DESIGN RESIDENCY (NEW DELHI)
The Khoj International Art and Design Residency, in New Delhi, is for practitioners, working at the intersection of art, design and media, who seek to “push artistic practice beyond convention”. Five places are available on the six week programme during November-December 2009.
PROFESSOR OF SERVICE DESIGN (JOB)
Lucerne School of Art and Design is looking for a Professor of Service Design. Deadline for submissions: 30th April 2009.
CONFUSED? ANXIOUS? NEED A PLACE TO THINK? (VACATION)
Some close friends of Doors have just completed 20 months’ work doing up Café de Tannay. It's an authentic sixteenth century town house two-and-a-bit hours south of Paris, 20 kilometers from UNESCO World-heritage site Vézelay on its ‘eternal hill’ dominating the Morvan National Park. We warmly recommend a sojourn in this beautful place.