Thursday, July 8, 2010

Design e2: Let Us Honor Good Design Thinking!!

This is especially meaningful after BP's selfish, greedy way of meeting their own needs at the expense of everyone and everything else's. Here is part of the transcript of PBS's Design e2, Season 1: Episode 6, "Deeper Shades of Green," where Brad Pitt interviews architect William McDonough. I particularly liked this segment, though all the episodes are clean, well-conceived, simple, and remind us that good design's function is always about positive transformation. It contributes as much to our earth shifting up in vibration as spiritual teachings do.

So if everything is connected, can we transform the world through ecologically intelligent design? To Architect William McDonough, we must not only embrace new philosophies, but also innovative business strategies to re-shape the world economy. His co-authored book, Cradle to Cradle, looks at how goods and services can generate not only economic value, but also ecological and social value.
The problem with recycling as we conventionally practice it, or characterize it, is that in most cases it's really what we've characterized as "down cycling." The materials are losing their quality as they go through the system. We're calling for what we call "up cycling." So it's either true recycling or even getting the product better. A bottle for example — take a look at this bottle. This is polyester terepthalate. It contains antimony, which is a toxic heavy metal which is a result of catalytic reaction. This is idiotic, because I don't need antimony in this bottle and it's a beautiful material and can be infinitely reused but right now this will go off and become a park bench. It won't be reused as this, plus it's got this slightly toxic material. It doesn't affect you drinking the water but it does affect the whole system. The system is contaminated by a carcinogen, which is just bad design. It's totally unnecessary.

In order to be a living thing, you have to have growth, you have to have free energy from sunlight, and you have to have an open system of chemicals operating for the benefit of the organism and its reproduction. So what Dr. Michael Braungart and I are looking at with Cradle to Cradle, is the idea that human artifice could follow the laws of life itself. And we would need growth, free energy from sunlight and an open system of chemicals that are safe and healthy.

 So the real question becomes When do we find ourselves in kinship with the natural world? When do we find ourselves as part of the natural world? And that's why Cradle to Cradle is so important. In nature, nature's not efficient, it's effective. So a cherry tree in the spring is not very efficient. Thousands of blossoms so you can get one tree to reproduce? It's not that interesting as far as efficiency goes but it's magnificently effective. So we're looking at both human technology in terms of our comfort and our ability to thrive as a species, but also how would we integrate that into the natural world without destroying it? That's a fundamental question that we haven't asked as a species. We become part of the human resource of the natural world instead of simply seeing nature as natural resources of the human one.

Well Cradle to Cradle is a simple, commonsensical approach which says things either go back to soil safely and forever or back to industry safely and forever. So we design products that were gonna end up in the dirt like a paper plate. Why not design that with a little nitrogen in it so that when you throw it away the farmers want it? If we look at the products like cars or computers, those are things that wanna go back to being cars and computers so right now they become toxic waste. Why couldn't they go back into closed cycles? We see this happening as a small part of something really huge that's pretty much out of control.

Design today must reflect a new spirit. By employing the intelligence of natural systems, we can create industry, buildings, even regional plans that see nature and commerce not as mutually exclusive, but mutually co-existing.

WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: The first industrial revolution was an aggregation of a lot of individual acts based on specific opportunity. It wasn't designed as a whole system. And now that we've seen the result of the whole system, of the first industrial revolution, based on brute force, and the use of fossil fuels, we should stop, take a breath, or try to anyway, and say, wait a minute, you know was this designed, was it our intention to release mercury? Was it our intention to cause climate change? Was it our intention you know, to pollute the oceans? I mean there's six times as much plastic as plankton in the Pacific gyre, north of Hawaii right now. I mean did we intend that to happen? You know so the first industrial revolution was not designed. So when we call for industrial re-evolution, what we're looking at is to look at the whole system and say if we could design a whole system of industry, how would we power it, how would we make things, how would we act? And that way we can have a vision toward which we can move a new industrial revolution. We're not asking everyone to become an expert at everything. We're asking everyone to understand that they can use the benefit of other people's expertise so that they don't become monolithic. Whereas what we're looking for is the best and the brightest coming together in multi-disciplinary teams.

 Implementing these ideas we can design products that are continually recyclable and transform our current industrial system of "take, make, and waste". Done intelligently, we would see, as consumption increased, so would the health of the planet.

 Well it's all really common sense. I mean every time we talk to children, they go "Well, obviously!" So the children get this immediately. It's the entrenched practitioners that have difficultly imagining doing something different. How do we love all the children, of all species for all time? That's the fundamental question. And can my design do that? Is it about love of all children of all species for all time? Not just our children, not just our species and not just now. I consider myself just cosmic dust. You know over 2 billion years we've aggregated into this form and in the next 2 billion years we'll de-aggregate into dust again so it's really a question of the game. Which game are you playing? And for me the game is a game that's optimistic and hopeful, because I don't want to play a pessimistic and a game of destitution. So I have to wake up every morning and be optimistic. I'm a designer.

You can watch the first 2 seasons of Design e2 on

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