13 January 2011

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Students in my Ecological Perspectives in Design seminar were given the chance to contemplate what they want to know about "sustainability" as it relates to design. As this is a required course, I did a quick read to find out how many people really wanted to be in the class. Today's stats revealed a fairly even split between "no desire" and "keen." The point of this session was to allow students to remain essentially anonymous in their uncertainties about this complex topic and highlight areas that are likely important to them but continue to remain ambiguous.

Here's the list (taken from all their Post-its). We're going to revisit these at the end of the term to find out what assumptions were shaken and what new learning arose. Don't we all struggle with answers to some of these?

Can markets survive without importing/exporting?
Why do some designers/people not feel sustainability is important?
If everyone were to consume 90% less of natural resources, how many jobs would be lost?
Where does our garbage go?
What have designers done to improve environmental circumstances?
How to approach non-designers and teach them about sustainability?
If the world's population keeps growing, will we run out of food?
What is happening to 95% of the drinkable water in Canada?
How can we push past economic concerns to focus on environmental?
How do designers get more information about what kind of sustainable/non-sustainable products/materials are being used currently?
Why do kids continue to die from starvation and how can designers help reduce this?
Have the precautions people are taking been enough of a change to see improvement in the environment?
What materials are good for the environment?
Why do we think so lightly about this topic?
Why do some feel the need to be rebellious toward the environmental movement?
How can I cooperate with the environment through CD?
How can we design sustainably as graphic designers and be successful at it when the industry is so reliant on non-sustainable items? (a few of these)
What will happen to our landfills in the future?
Why are we talking about this now?
Is the earth meant to last forever considering everything eventually dies?
What is being done in Canada in the design world as it relates to this issue?
More solutions than just recycling and using less water.
Factual statistics about what we take for granted (eg. paper vs. plastic)
What is an example of something sustainable?
Who are the worst offenders?
What is the most dangerous thing we can do to our planet?
Is this subject only talked about at ECUAD? Are other universities talking about this subject?
Is there a formula to find the truth?
Learn about the process of going green
Why hasn't the Canadian govt banned the use of plastic bags yet?
What comes after sustainable design? What does the future look like?
How can we package products with the intent of sustainable design?
More about the garment industry
How long do we have?
How can we hit the 90% (reduced consumption)?
More strategies to educate the public.
How to solve the rise in gas prices?
What will it take for people to realize what is needed?
How much money is spent annually trying to be sustainable?
What can I learn and put into practice everyday that can help me make a positive ecological difference?
Is there a silver lining and how can I find it?
Environmental impact measurements
How can we convince politics that becoming a sustainable country has huge economic potential?

Polar bears are homeless
Styrofoam takes like a billion years to decompose
There is a crazy amount of plastic in the world
I like to buy new stuff
There are islands being created from plastic yet we are still making things with plastic
It's cheaper to make things without thinking about the environment
It's getting hot in here
I'm pretty ignorant about the facts
The basics: recycling and moderate use of water
Sustainable design is systems thinking
BC's economy is entirely based on unsustainable resource extraction
If humans disappeared from the planet other forms of life would flourish
Cars pollute
Big changes can be made by forming small habits
Canada is doing poorly with sustainability on a global scale
Local is usually better
The ice caps are melting

After reading this, I'm reminded that we all have the potential to exist with assumptions and this can hinder our ability to be open to innovations or better ways of doing things. The education space offers the room to challenge with less fear of repercussion.

My other favorite bit? Asking students to take the #2011awesome ball and share what they hoped for this year. I was touched by both the humor and intentionality many revealed:

Forgive people who I haven't
Become a stronger person
Bike across BC
Learn to sew and take flamenco dance lessons
Cook something instead of eating pizza
Work on one pack in my six pack
Live more consciously

Photo credit: Teux Deux


Anonymous said...

kara - read "Home Place" by Stan Rowe. It won't necessarily answer your questions but it may provoke a holistic means of thought to lead you to those answers.

glad to still be able to keep up with your thought process and research here...

dave h.

Anonymous said...

love the questions posed in the post

can't stand the word "sustainability" anymore

we can't sustain this modus operandi!

plus, it seems to have taken on the weight of a chore in much of general discourse.

why not speak of ecological transformation?