To Till the Earth


I like how the use of SCALE in art is so different from the use in economics or manufacturing. Both manipulate power-structures but artists do so with irony, econs and engineers, not so much.

Welded Shovel Pine Cones by Floyd Elzinga. Beautiful.

HT J. Parry-Hill


Giving Voice to Supply Chains

Lovely piece by author Dov Seidman in which he argues for the need to empower stakeholders along global supply chains. Here’s a bite:

…real sustainable change for overseas workers won’t rest upon if or when retailers sign a petition—or “how much” consumer pressure will be required to coerce companies to do so. Rather, the question is how will these companies understand and act upon the totality of their relationships—whether it’s with suppliers, employees, customers or governments—and act accordingly from both a financial and ethical perspective.

It means recognizing that we’ve moved from being connected to interconnected to morally interdependent—and operating in this environment only comes through healthy interdependencies.

Read the rest here

This video is great too.

Edward Bernays

If we want to make better stuff, we can’t only measure the material and energy impacts of current stuff. We need to understand consumer demand for stuff and how that demand has been created. If we understand, then we might be able to intervene.

Start your history lesson with the video above. It’s about Edward Bernays, the father of advertising. Nephew of Sigmund Freud, he used psychological theory to sell us all kinds of things.

From the introduction:

“Bernays was the first person to take Freud’s ideas about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations, for the first time, that they could make Americans want things they didn’t need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires.”

Skeptics of the “Buy Local” Movement Value Efficiency

Which is fine. With some products, the efficiency of industrial systems is probably a good thing (economies of scale). With other products, smaller and slower production processes are probably a good thing (economies of scope). The hard part, I guess, is figuring out what’s better when and for whom.

For more: Is Efficiency Effective? 

Systems Thinking and Collaboration in K-12

I’m on my way home from ISSST (see previous post) where I had great conversations with sustainability engineers in academia and the public and private sector. On Thursday night I was lucky enough to join a bunch of them at Cincinnati chili joint and ask them this question: “If we could teach kids one thing that would make the ‘educating the public’ part of your job easier, what would that be?” I got some great answers. “Systems Thinking” came out on top with “Cascading Effects” coming in as a close second. In MBS, we try to emphasize these things and this feedback was reassuring. We also had great conversation about how interdisciplinary groups collaborate in shared spaces. I’m looking forward to integrating more of the research on these topics into future workshops. Onward!

Human-Centered Design Process

I’m headed to the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies to give a talk called “Make Better Stuff: a human-centered approach to product and systems development.” A human-centered process should not be confused with a user-centered process though it often is. Come to the talk to find out the difference!

Below is a link to the handout I’ll be using during the talk. In the handout I plot the steps of a human-centered design process on a matrix that calls out the distinct groups of people that drive each step. I think a clearer visualization of this work is possible but it hasn’t yet revealed itself to me. Hopefully I’ll get some feedback that helps me see the work in a new light.

View the handout here