Archives for posts with tag: environment

In a very provocative final lecture by Cameron Tonkinwise in his course Rethinking Sustainable Design, Cameron summarized the course and then led us into a new discussion on sustainability as presented by Allan Stoekl in his book “Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability” .

In many ways this was also Camerons answer to the question he posed earlier of “How do we want to live?” because if Sustainability is a question, and not a simple one then we know that every question has many potential answers. Likewise, one of the biggest problems with sustainability are the various ways in which it plays out to be a survivalist rhetoric. Sustainability is presented as an end point, a type of Cosmopolitan Utopia, where humans are pleasantly different together. But the biggest flaw with this line of thought is that it strips from humans all of their messiness, emotion, desire and eroticism. It is not the answer to Cosmopolitanism as a challenge that Kwame Appiah sought, because in this dialogue it was not a choice. It is a reactionary move on humans in response to the environment. Its a homeostasis that takes from us our ability to innovate and create and make decisions and to live with emotion and reduces us simply to animals that co-inhabit and survive.

In this Cosmopolitan sustainable future, it is a boring “Utopia”. I put Utopia in quotations because it is a false Utopia, a Utopia stripped of movement and motion.

If the question is “How do we want to live?” then the follow up question is do we want to live in stasis, do we want to end up in a perpetuated pattern of living in accordance with the environment, playing out the same story again and again?

Or do we want to imagine something different, we know that currently the imagination that has culminated in the neo-liberal capitalist state has left us “de-futured” in Clive Dilnots words; So how can we proceed?

Can we have our future imagine a future? What is sustainability in motion?

What is value? Economics seems to be collapsing in on itself because it does not know what it is actually representing. The basic units of economics, ‘capital and supply and demand and profit’, have gradually evolved into additional ideas of ‘labour’ and ‘productivity/health’ and ‘knowledge/technology’, among other things. These are measurable, but not complete in describing what the ‘value’ of something is.

Because, ‘value’ is more than that– value is of course, all the objective capital elements of production, but value is also very subjective: ‘reusability’ and ‘ideals’ and ’emotional responces’ and ‘usefulness’ and ‘branding’ etc. A stainless steel water bottle will cost you $20 not because that is how much it costs to produce (factoring in distribution costs), but because there is also a profit markup, and because it is long lasting and you will not be buying 5 water bottles a day, just one that will last you for a good period of time.

Moreover, value is not measure completely in costs anymore; it is also measuring in savings: a florescent lightbulb will not only cost you $2, it will also save you $20 in energy costs over the course of a year.

So here are the questions:

1. How do we factor in other implicit costs? Should we start having labels that require companies to show what the ‘cost of damage to the environment’ was in creating the product?

2. How do you quantify the subjective? Can we be honest about the value of selling water as opposed to installing water fountains? How do you effectively communicate the ‘value’ of public goods such as light-posts on street, not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of security and beauty?

3. What is the cost versus value, of say, education? What is the price of copyright, aka, what is the cost to society of not letting ideas propagate?

4. How are our current business models of profit failing in a ‘knowledge/information economy’? — and how is the NYTimes paywall reflect this failing mentality? And then, what are the alternatives?

Are you getting “your money’s worth”? What is “money” even mean/worth nowadays?       RK

There have been many many depressing articles about post college life for students. I don’t think i need to share them, im positive everyone has read them.

They’re bleak

There doesn’t seem to be many choices. In fact GEN Y, I think, is already slated to be the most educated generation ever, because there isn’t much choice but to go back to school.

So this begs the question “what is the alternative?”

Sometime next year, The New School in partnerships with are working on a “workshop”, “event”, something that is meant to invite graduating design students to participate and imagine a lifestyle where they can achieve this.

This looks like it will be really cool, partially because it begins to address a lot of my concerns, not about life post college, but about having students do something, disrupt (my favorite word recently).

So in preparation for this, i am attempting to begin to imagine a resource tool kit for what the graduating (graduated) students could arrange in ways to begin to design a new way of life for them. I am not positive how to approach this but my idea is to first understand what are my basic needs in NYC on a daily basis and what resources exist for me to begin to meet those needs?

I can imagine that i need

– Food

– Transport

– Free time to be creative (in whatever practice I studied)

– Housing

-Communication (phone, internet, snailmail)

These are seeming really obvious, as they would in beginning to formulate a research question.

I want to begin to collect services, objects, apps, anything that begins to support a student in those categories.

Clearly i also need to make those categories more refined. Good design researchers would tell me to chronicle everything that i do, or go out and follow graduated students to base what their needs are. (im just finishing university now so an abundance of free time doesn’t exist)?

1. Does anyone have any research that might assist in this? Perhaps an artist followed people for a day? Something of that sort?

2. What do we need to go through our days?

3. Can you recount to me everything you did yesterday?

There will be a series of posts on this topic moving on as I am currently reading The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque.

So far, its mouthwateringly exciting. And I have only read the introduction by Gary Hamel.

But there is already room for discussion. Hamel gives us some new facets that the businesses of old capitalism will have to re-think.

One of these, is the idea that businesses will have to start thinking about customers as more than just the people who purchase their products but as all the people who are influenced by them and their products.

This is certainly revolutionary, or maybe its not so revolutionary in that we are slowly realizing that you cannot ignore the people around you, thats just bad for business.

So what does that mean? Who are the customers now?

What are they buying if not only the products?

How do we understand the currency that is influence?

what does that mean for corporate fairplay?

And what does this mean from a service perspective?

I am sure that many of these questions will be addressed as I progress into the book, and many more will come to mind.

But lets start with these no?

I was talking to a friend today and he went on a rant about a conference at Columbia about business in china. The talk he was angry about was the talk on green tech and alternative energy.

He was angry about the fact that the extent of the problem solving going on was technological i.e. replace polluting cars with electric cars.

They gave no consideration to service design and tackling the problem non linearly. i.e don’t rethink the car, rethink moving.

Why do our corporations and businesses have such a hard time thinking non linearly?

How do you think laterally?

How do you think multi-dimensionally/(circumferentially)?/(circularly)?

This is in essence, a counterpoint to my last point on the inherent ugliness of sustainability.

It should probably have been a comment, but I wanted a separate discussion on this point, forgive me.

I think it was around december 2010, when Elaine Scarry came to the New School to be the Keynote speaker for a design conference called “The critical gift in design.” She gave a talk, mostly on her book “On Beauty and Being Just” and a little bit on her book “The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

It is about her comments on beauty that I dwell.

Scarry says that there are qualities of beauty that are important enough for us to see it as a goal.

The one that came to me was the aspect of beauty as being “unselfing”. When we encounter beautiful things, we step outside ourselves and perceive the world.

Indeed she says “beauty raises the bar for what counts as perception.”

It is a strong argument in that we normally can only see ourselves, and when we encounter beautiful things we step outside of ourselves and perceive the world.

Scarry went on to say “Beautiful things make us want to protect – to care for those things”

This is my counterpoint to the last post on the inherent ugliness of sustainability. If beauty allows us to perceive the world through a process of unselfing and then ignites within us the cause to protect those beautiful things. Is it not fair to say, that sustainability is not beautiful enough? We should make more and more beautiful things, to allow for people to perceive the world.

This is followed, by Scarrys third site of beauty which is creation. Beautiful things make us want to create.

So we go from encounter to unselfing to perception to creation. It is a really beautiful path.

There are 2 questions that I have here.

The first: So should we just make more beautiful things?”

The second: How can we capitalize on perception?

If we are in a race against time with the planet, can we capitalize on beauty?

Can we use beauty and its unselfing as a design goal?

Or will that subvert beauty and make it ugly?

Ok sorry, that was more than 2 questions.

I was walking through the West Village with a friend yesterday and she commented on a the decor of a restaurant. Its windows were covered in very beautiful lights. I agreed with the notion that it was pretty but then all of a sudden i thought, but its a waste of energy, they aren’t leds.

The fact of the matter was that you couldnt get that kind of lighting unless you were using incandescents. But thats besides the point. I started thinking about this larger notion and thought to myself that sustainability is inherently ugly. As Adolf Loos would say, ornament is crime.

The aesthetics of sustainability rely solely on its function, it is through function that we find beauty, any ornamentation is excessive, it is unsustainable, it is wasteful. It is crime.

Is there a beautiful sustainability?

Everyday I go to my twitter feed and I read the latest developments in environmental politics. I follow the talks about sustainability and climate change, I read about the republicans denying rules of gravity and about CO2 related asthma. And I think to myself the simple question of why are we just not allowed to believe in a different future?

Earlier I made a post on this blog that asked the question posed by Cameron Tonkinwise in a lecture: “how do you want to live?”

And I think to myself, I do not care about your political schemes and i do not care to question or doubt. You can have your science, you can make your lies, but sustainability to me is an imagination. Its a belief that I can live differently. It doesnt matter to me that you will spend hours upon hours fighting over scientific formula or breaking into email accounts to attempt to find some sort of conspiracy. I simply choose to believe in it because it also lets me imagine an alternative future.

It gives me the chance to believe that people can create change, that communities are not dead, that I can knock on my neighbors door and ask for a hammer, that cities can become more walkable, that air can become more breathable. That I will never have to worry that my children will never see trees, that I can spend my summer without an airconditioner, that I can someday swim in the Gowanus, that 30 years from now Polar bears wont be the equivalent of a Dodo.

Don’t take from me my imagination, its not a fantasy, its a possibility. You had the chance to mold the world to fit your life, now give me the right to believe in mine.

Am I not allowed to imagine a world like this?

At a guest lecture today at the New School by Peder Anker who is currently curating Global Design NYU (an exhibit that is meant to rethink the view of the global from the perspective of the individual), Peder talked briefly about the history of the environmental movement and the concept of spaceship earth.

In short, the environmental movement started in part when we saw the fragility of the earth when viewed from space. We adopted the perspective of a single astronaut, looking down on the earth as a small entity floating in space. This was the major vision driving environmental politics. For the first time, the earth was so small. And although this spawned a lot of biocentric thinking, it was still from an individual perspective, we still saw the earth through the lens of a single astronaut.

At around the 90’s with the increased technological advancement of personal computers we began to look at the world and perceive it through the lens of the computer (simcity, simearth, GIS, etc).

This shift, was one of moving from the viewpoint of the astronaut, to each of us individually becoming the astronaut.

Were we ever capable of non-individual perception of the environment or the world?

What would that look like?