Given that no binding agreement was reached in Copenhagen, there will likely be no national or international pressure to do real green-house reductions, and hence it is very likely that 2010 green design will be an undertaking of those trying to greenwash their companies. Very likely we’ll see many people misusuing terminology and physical units to overmarket products that aren’t really going to cut the mustard. Remember that a climate friendly world means a reduction in carbon of 80%, that means 5 X less carbon that we produce today, by 2050 or probably even earlier. Given that, we’ll see lots of designs begging you to buy this or that thing because it’s twice as good, or 25% better than some consumer thingy that it replaces. Well, that’s not good enough. It has to be 5 or 10 times better, or 500-1000% better, to really be a good green thing. If we are lucky a few companies will start to realize that the only way to make truly green consumer products will be by making them heirloom products, things that will last for multiple generations, be repairable without a magnifying glass or a PhD, and made from lasting materials like wood, stainless steel, copper, & aluminum. I predict a huge number of car companies will claim 100mpg plug-in hybrids, and all of them will be lying, because they are only counting the energy in the gasoline, not the energy required to produce the electricity that charges the batteries that most likely came from a coal fired power plant. Yes, 2010 will be like 2009, only probably worse, with a whole lot of very ordinary design sold to us as green. We still don’t have a generation of designers who are literate in climate and energy issues, so they’ll spend their time writing marketing spin instead.
So, what might be the best of green design for 2010 are the things that don’t get designed. Don’t design me a new iPhone, figure out how to make my old one last. Don’t design me a new “green house”, figure out how to make the one I have more efficient. Don’t sell me physical objects, help me re-purpose the ones I have or otherwise give me digital tools for a higher quality of life that don’t require Chinese injection moldings.
THOMAS ERMACORA – Founder, Clear Village Foundation
Coming out of such a critical year for climate change with hopes for Copenhagen turning into deception for most, I cannot help but be dualistic about 2010. The freezing cold in Copenhagen surely didn’t help convey the notion of global warming to the oil nations and other natural skeptics. Ironically I even had trouble leaving Copenhagen due to a snowstorm, as I was to fly out. What stays with me is the feeling that the unfortunate truth behind COP15’s bitter failure in terms of binding outcome is related to trade and economic differentials. Indeed, who would risk his mandate on favoring low carbon emission target countries trading into his or her country in the midst of the worst recession and financial crisis of modern times? Maybe if we had done this before September 2008 it all would have looked very different. The only saving grace of the immediate cause-and-effect relation between climate change and the global economy is that it means we cannot wait for the nation states. I appreciated Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to convey the importance and relevance of sub-national, trans-cultural, inter-institutional initiatives as having an immense capacity to address problems without being trapped in endless negotiations that involve classic influence dialectics.
I recall another point from Governor Schwarzenegger’s intervention which I keep to convince myself of the higher purpose of designers: “cop15 is already a success – it has achieved global focus and convergence over the problems we must face collectively…”. The near collapse of many great efforts made by the scientific community, civil society and political iconoclasts come as a hard opening to the New Year. This may be true, but still we should keep doing what we have been doing – collaborate more, and study together as concerned earthlings how to multiply the impact of our actions.
Climate Change is just one of challenges that PR has managed to push on our sense of urgency button and launch into greater policy debate. The fact is we have a lot more on our plate between dwindling biodiversity, fresh water depletion, ocean acidification, etc, which are often referred to as the planetary boundaries. So there is absolutely no doubt that those of us innovating with the use of resources, finding unique ways to harness the power of renewables, evolving our relation to food and land, designing for the other 90%, and empowering communities towards sustainable paths are on the right track. It is obvious in a way but there may be a little backlash pushing some do-gooders towards indifference and that would be a pity.
My resolutions for 2010 are quite straight forward: keep moving, don’t look back, it is not of essence to contest the fact we must revisit profoundly the way we consume, dwell and move – at the very least, not dismissing the need for us to spot a unifying meaning to this massive transformation we will undergo.
I wish for the increasing pressure of what some journalists like to call the “bottom”. While at Klima Forum and Christiania, I observed the greater sense of organization and lobbying that these movements have developed over the years since Porto Alegre, and saw how they started to collaborate and merge into powerful cross-disciplinary actors, more of which would be fantastic.
Above all, I hope for a boundless effort from the design community to integrate “better thinking” and “participatory processes” into all products, services and plans. Peer pressure within the design world is needed, as the new standard of competition should no longer be just sales volumes or reliability, but rather how deeply the design embodies our current needs and integrates state of the art technology or methods to get the performance that ticks the right boxes – away from futilism.