Thursday, 15 October 2009

Teach-in: Ecological Literacy in Design Education

On Monday 12th October I attended the Teach-in conference at the V&A which focused on ecological literacy. The event was organised by Eco-Labs as a catalyst for design institutions to embrace ecological literacy into their design education.

But what is ecological literacy?

Ecological literacy can be defined as the understanding of natural systems that make life on earth possible. By mimicing these natural systems within design we can surely ensure the longivity of the product, also known as biomimicry. Also in following natures example we can hopefully lose our dependancy on fossil fuels.

Speakers included Richard Hawkins (Public Interest Research Centre) who gave an extremely informative overview of how the climate has been changing with some scary graphs and images regarding the arctic.

Andrew Simms (New Economics Foundation) discussed the economy regarding nature. This was interesting as I know little about the economy. Orthodox economics states that 'we are happier when we buy things', which is clearly very brash. Buying things has no relation to the way we live our lives which ultimately decides our level of happiness. The conclusion was that is nature does not grown indeinately therefore so should the economy.

Emma Dewberry (Open University) was inspiring to listen to from a design perspective. She stated that quick fixes do not solve problems and that a whole rethink of design was in order. Sustainability should not be an add on to design, design is within sustainability.

Bill Gill (BioRegional) talked of his environmental charity which is about 'bringing local sustainability into the mainstream'. This charity is about creating building to either work or live in that drastically lower the inhabitants carbon footprint in order to move to one planet living. Projects have included One Plant Sutten, One Brighton and Sonoma Mountain Village.

Jonathan Crinion (Crinion Associates) discussed looking to the past, present and the future (like Scrooge) of design. He talked of how change is difficult as we are constantly seeking approval, however in order to change we must have a vision of where we are going, create symbiotic relationships and ephemeral (that go back to the earth when finished with) products.

Stephanie Hankey (Tactical Technology Collective) showed various projects aimed at grabbing peoples attention and encouraging them to explore and understand issues for themselves. This included BayVsBag targeting the excessive consumption of plastic bags. She also promoted 350 which is about people from around the world joining together to call for string climate action on October 24th.

John Thakora (author of Doors of Perception and In The Bubble) gave a brief action plan which was all about focusing on the 'true cost' of a product or even what we already have. His action plan included:

1. map resources
2. co-create new services
3. design equipment
4. design tools for sharing
5. connect with the key actors

Overall the day was very inormative and I learnt a great deal across the spectrum from geography, economy and design. Activities included looking towards the future which was interesting to hear peoples opinions as well as peoples opinions on strategies for change. Hearing John Thakara speak was a fantastic opportunity after hearing of his work. I also learnt of new companies,charities and reports that I plan to research further.

To top the day off, I even got a free magazine:

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