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2 Products, Contexts and Capacities

2.4 Crisis of Local Common Goods All that has been done so far with regard to ecological topics and discussion about sustainability has still not changed the cultural background, i.e for what has interested us to discuss here was the idea that usual research about quality of life has had to be based on purchasing new products and services (thus still based on the equation: “higher quality of life = more products and services = higher consumption of resources”). To leave this cul-de-sac and learn how to “live better, consume less”, we have to observe closely how the conditions of living standards are put together, and especially how the connection between the product-service supply and the quality of the all-embracing context we happen to live in is defined.

2.4.1 The Role of Common Goods In the well-being model that is dominant today in industrial societies, there is a central role for individually purchased goods (either products or services) that has had an unwanted, but nevertheless sizeable, side-effect. Consequent to its very definition of well-being, this model underestimates all “goods” that are not reducible to a product on a market, that cannot be bought or sold: from basic substances like water or air, to social goods such as neighbourhood communities or citizen solidarity, up to more complex ones like landscape, urban public space or a sense of security. It is clear, that goods “without a market”, usually referred to as public goods (meaning that their value benefits everybody and nobody in particular), make up a fundamental part of the human habitat, i. e. the quality of physical and social space, where human beings live and where the very products assume their meaning in the first place. Thanks to this attitude of disinterest towards public goods, their desertification (abandonment and consequently degeneration) and subsequently their marketisation (transformation into marketable goods: bottled water instead of natural water, commercial centre instead of public square, private security firms instead of neighbourhood watch, etc.) have occurred5. 5

To this observation another one can be added, what will be desisted here, relating to the crisis of contemplative times. This expression refers to a timescape in which “nothing is being done”, which has the fullest meaning. Most evident examples of contemplative times consist of watching a sunset or undertaking any mental exercise whatsoever. We can also assume that doing something (like walking, eating, talking with others) at a slower rhythm than considered normal by society will count as contemplative times. Traditionally, contemplative times played a great role in life and were sometimes considered as a privilege (in fact, in the past the poor had no time to contemplate). Today, things are a bit different and contemplative times are lacking in the lives of rich and poor alike. This continued disappearance can be reduced to two reasons. First, the saturation of life (the tendency to fill each moment with something to do, and more and more frequently, to fill with many different things to be done at the same time, as for example driving

Design for Environmental Sustainability  
Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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