Design and the Roots of Ecological Crisis

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk


What is meant when someone says a designed artefact is (or should be) environmentally friendly or sustainable? Often this is thought about in a technical sense, in terms of mitigating the harm that buildings, products, and services cause to their environment through processes of manufacture and assembly, construction and implementation, use, disuse, and aftermath.

While there is an urgent need to reduce (and, if possible, reverse) the harm caused by designed things, this is not the extent of the opportunities and responsibilities to address environmental concerns that come with designing. Cybernetician Gregory Bateson understood one root of ecological crisis as humans’ tendency to see themselves as separate to and above their environment – positioning the environment as a resource to have value extracted from or a threat to be controlled.

As the designed environment contributes to how humans see their relationship to the environment in both implicit and explicit ways, it is possible to think of designing artefacts as opportunities to address the causes of ecological crisis as well as its effects. In this talk, I explore some possible ways of thinking about this using historic and contemporary precedents.
Period8 Nov 2021
Held atBauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany
Degree of RecognitionInternational