Design Observer Twenty Years 2003-2023

John Thackara | Essays

How High Is the Climate Change Bar? [July 2007]

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.

This sounds dry but I have a feeling it 's an important development. Carbon Trust and the UK's Environment Ministry, Defra, have joined with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to develop a standard method for measuring the embodied green house gas (GHG) emissions in products and services. Once completed, a "Publicly Available Specification" (PAS) will ensure a consistent and comparable approach to supply chain measurement of embodied GHGs across markets. There's a way to go, of course, before the problem of "greenwash" disappears. But PAS creates an important part of the architecture for a global system that will enable people to make a meaningful comparison between whole-system enviromental performance of competing products and services.

Clashes over resources, both major and minor, are often the unseen factor behind chaos and violence and we need to develop fairer systems the distribution of resources. A new book by Wolfgang Sachs and other specialists from the internationally renowned Wuppertal Institute explains what is involved in resource conflicts and the new regimes needed to eliminate them. Resource Conflicts, Security, and Global Justice, London: Zed Books, 2007.

Agricultural trade policies pursued in the last decades have contributed to price instabilities for agricultural goods and an increase in market concentration and the industrialization of agricultural production at a global level. A two-year dialogue among farmer representatives, trade analysts, policy advisors, and researchers from Southern and Northern countries led to this proposal for a new system. Wolfgang Sachs/Tilman Santarius et al., Slow Trade - Sound Farming. A Multilateral Framework for Sustainable Markets in Agriculture. Aachen/ Berlin: Misereor/ Heinrich BoellFoundation, 2007.

In terms of someone's carbon footprint, a single holiday in New Zealand is equivalent to 60 short domestic visits to the North East of England by a UK citizen. But those sixty trips are not sustainable if they stimulate a wasteful use of finite resources by visitors and their host businesses. This is a pressing dilemma: Tourism is fundamental to the North East's economic strategy and in many other regons around the world. So how might we re-shape tourism to be consistent with sustainabiity? Designs of the time (Dott07) has asked expert speakers to address this queston on 12 July in Newcastle. Chris Little heads Tourism Development Unit at One North East. Leandro Pisano and Alessandro Esposito develop ICT strategies for development of rural areas in South Italy. Beth Davidson is the mapping creative lead on Mapping The Necklace. And Ross Lowrie is a project leader of the Tyne Salmon Trail. The event is free but you need to reserve a place with Beckie Darlington:
[email protected]

Thirty per cent of people who keep their phone in a pocket, and 50 percent of bag carriers, sometimes or always miss incoming mobile phone communications. Ace street researcher Jan Chipchase ran a study in eleven countries across four continents to find this out. He extended the study to include the carrying of keys & money - the so-called mobile essentials (but did not include the reading glasses which I also have to locate in order to send a text message). Before long we'll be able to distribute the functional components of a phone around our bodies and clothes - so what will a "phone" look like then? Answer, says the report: a Japanese bondage bunny.

If you read Italian, I wrote this piece for La Stampa's new magazine.

The traditional meeting for the free civil networks in Catalonia (SAX) has been extended to new participants worldwide affiliated to the WSFII (World Summit for Free Information Infrastructures). Registration is free and everyone interested in developing non-proprietary networks is invited.

In a new book the economist William Easterly emphasizes the role of 'Searchers', groups throughout the world who are experimenting with piecemeal interventions and altering them in response to feedback. A project in Ethiopia run by Water Aid concentrates on a single objective: providing clean water to some very poor villages in the Rift Valley and involving local villagers in direct management of the work. promotes decentralised methods of distributing aid.

Thank you (x10) for your 299 thoughtful and incredibly helpful responses to our readership survey last month. For the record: 53% of you are male and 47% female; your ages range between 20-70 (spread pretty evenly across the decades); 27% of you are designers, but no other occupation exceeds 10%; 33% of you are self-employed, 10% are in a micro-enterpise, 21% are in education (as a student or teacher). You live all over the world, with 31% in North America and 31% in Europe. When asked, "how does reading this newsletter leave you feeling?" you answered: "inspired" (38%) "thoughtful" (41%) "im gonna be rich!" (2%) and "irritated" (2%). To the question, "If we set up a group for your fellow readers on Linked In, or similar, would you join it?" 79% of you answered yes. And 79% answered yes to the question "If monthly Doors get-togethers were organised by volunteers on a local basis, would you attend them? You proferred many suggestions about ways we might improve this newsletter. A lot of you requested a clearer organisation of content and better usability. Quite a lot of requests for podcasts. We need to keep the width to 70 characters. We'll act on these asap. 25% of you said you would donate between $2 and $25 per month to help pay for the changes (OK, OK: 23% said $2). Hmmm.

I fed all the responses into and the winner of a free lunch is someone called "aaa_matrix". I'm eager to hear from her/him/it.

And what design steps are needed to get us from here, to there? Make a note of the Dott Festival dates: 16-28 October 2007, Baltic Square, Gateshead, UK.

Jobs | October 01