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Teach-in Ecological Literacy in Design Education 12 October 2009 Victoria and Albert Museum and on-line at

Bios Richard Hawkins is research coordinator at the Public Interest Research Centre, an organization studying and communicating vital global issues. The PIRC apply a systemsbased approach to exploring the connections between climate change, energy and global economics. Richard recently helped the PIRC develop major reports ‘Climate Safety’ and the ground-breaking ‘zerocarbonbritain’ report – an energy descent plan for the UK. PIRC interprets cutting-edge research, builds effective communications tools, and provides a bridge between those at the forefront of climate science research and wider audiences. Richard has a degree in Law. He was previously a freelance web designer, founding The Green Shed, an ethical and environmental web design company. Jody Boehnert established EcoLabs in 2006. She was inspired to create a teach-in after participating in the 2010 Imperative Teach-in in early 2007. EcoLabs is a design led organization committed to using visual imagery to investigate and communicate systemic issues lying at the root of the ecological crisis. Our work revolves around the concept of ‘ecological literacy’ - a term that defines a deeper more integrated understanding of ecological systems as an educational staple. EcoLabs’ first publication; EcoMag No.1 - Future Scenarios was published in June 2009. Jody is a PhD candidate at the University of Brighton researching the visual communication of ecological literacy. She also co-founded Transition Town Brixton now the first urban Transition Town to have started work on an Energy Descent Action Plan. Andrew Simms is the policy director of nef (the new economics foundation), where he also heads the climate change programme. nef is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. nef aims to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues. In the reports ‘Ghost Town Britain’ and ‘Clone Town Britain’ Andrew coined new terms and changed the debate on the impact of mass retailing on communities. He is the author of Ecological Debt: Global Warming and the Wealth of Nations; Tescopoly: How One Shop Came Out on Top and Why it Matters; and co-editor of Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth?, and nef’s recent ‘Happy Planet Index’ measures the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered. nef are currently preparing for the ‘Bigger Picture: Festival of Interdependence’, 24 October 2009 at the Oxo Tower - a free event with over 35 speakers. Emma Dewberry is a senior lecturer at The Open University. She has taught design for sustainability for over a decade: notably at Goldsmiths College where she co-directed the UK’s first degree programme in Ecodesign in the late 1990’s; and then at Cranfield University where she directed a pioneering MSc in Design for Sustainability. Emma’s teaching and research aims to understand how design can generate different narratives and opportunities for shaping sustainable futures. She has been a champion for the emerging concept of ecological literacy and the holistic worldview required for creative thinkers to deliver greater degrees of sustainability in society. Emma originally trained and worked as an industrial designer before obtaining her PhD in Ecodesign in the mid 1990’s.


We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

Welcome 10:15 Climate Safety Richard Hawkins (Public Interest Research Center) 10:35 Ecological Literacy : A Foundation for Sustainability Jody Boehnert (EcoLabs) 10:55 ACTIVITY 11:05 Ecological Debt Andrew Simms (New Economics Foundation) 11:40 Nurturing Ecological Habits of Mind in Design Emma Dewberry (Open University) Q&A 12:10 LUNCH 1:00 One Planet Living Ben Gill (BioRegional) 1:20 Creativity: A Social Ecological Approach Jonathan Crinion (Crinion Associates) 1:55 ACTIVITY 2:05 Design Activism Stephanie Hankey (Tactical Technology Collective) 2:30 ACTIVITY 3:00 Three Step Plan for Universities John Thackara (Doors of Perception) 3:40 2012 Imperative: Planning Session (John Thackara & Jody Boehnert) 4:40 Q&A 5:00 OPEN SPACE/CLOSE

Ben Gill is director of BioRegional Consulting and runs the One Planet Programme overseeing the development of Sustainability Action Plans. BioRegional is an entrepreneurial charity which initiates and delivers practical solutions that help us to live within a fair share of the earth’s resources, i.e. ‘one planet living’ - a concept developed by BioRegional and WWF. BioRegional work in partnership with organisations around the world and help others to achieve sustainability through consultancy, education and informing policy. BioRegional works with a diverse range of clients, including Defra, Nokia, and WRAP, looking at both community developments and management. Ben graduated in Earth Science and completed an MSc in Environmental Technology. He has also planted and manages a small woodland. Jonathan Crinion is president of Crinion Associates, a research, planning and design consulting firm that specialises in complex systems synthesise. The company has won many awards for projects ranging from vertical axis wind turbines to conceiving the original famous 6 metre ‘Open Table’ concept produced by Knoll, which revolutionised the office work environment globally. In 2006 he created a sailing project with ‘Friends of the Earth’ to promote the ‘The Big Ask’ campaign to legislate for CO2 reduction in the UK. Crinion’s current work uses an Earth systems science perspective to analyse ‘The Automorphosis of Social Ecological Organisational Systems’ and he continues to explore ‘Creativity: A Social Ecological Approach.’ Jonathan is an Associate to the Ontario College of Art and Design in Industrial Design and has an MSc in Holistic Science. Jonathan lives in Devon where he is involved in Transition Town Totnes and occasional teaches at Schumacher College. Stephanie Hankey and Marek Tuszynski are co-founders of Tactical Tech, an international NGO that aims to advance the use of new technologies as a tactical tool for civil society in developing and transition countries. Stephanie and Marek have been working to strengthen the use of technology, communication and information by advocates in the global South for the last decade. They began working together whilst at the Open Society Institute and the Stefan Batory Foundation, respectively. Together they established Tactical Tech in 2003. Stephanie has a Masters in Information/Interaction Design from the Royal College of Art (London) and a certificate in campaigning and lobbying. Marek was previously engaged with the arts and independent culture -writing, curating exhibitions, organising festivals, creating Zines, radio and TV shows. John Thackara is director of Doors of Perception. John organises larger scale events and festivals in which citizens, designers, and grassroots innovators explore two questions: “what might life in a sustainable world be like?” and “what design steps are needed to get us from here, to there?” In recent times, John was programme director of Designs of the Time (Dott 07) in England, and in 2008 he was commissioner of City Eco Lab at the St Etienne Design Biennial in France. Doors events bring real-world sustainability projects together so they may cross-fertilise and grow. He is author of several books including In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World which has been praised by the likes of Bill Moggridge, Co-founder of IDEO; ‘Whatever you are designing, keep this book next to you’ and Bruce Sterling; ‘I eagerly devoured every last page of John Thackara’s lofty, captivating book, up to and including his wry footnotes and that superb bibliography.’


‘The world is a complex, interconnected, finite, ecological-socialpsychological-economic system. We treat it as if it were not, as if it were divisible, separable, simple, and infinite. Our persistent, intractable, global problems arise directly from this mismatch. Donella Meadows, 1982 We live in a profoundly relational world, but our perceptual, intellectual and learning tools are inadequate to properly see and appreciate this reality, and to develop an appropriate ‘systemic wisdom’. Stephen Sterling, 2009

Actions Ideas/theories Norms/assumptions Beliefs/values Paradigm/worldview Metaphysics/cosmology

Stephen Sterling on transition from beliefs to actions: ‘Levels of Knowing’, 2009

STEPHEN STERLING’S LEVELS OF LEARNING & ENGAGEMENT A: Education ABOUT Sustainability Content and/or skills emphasis. Easily accommodated into existing system. Learning about change. ACCOMMODATIVE RESPONSE - MAINTENANCE

B: Education FOR Sustainability Additional values emphasis. Greening of institutions. Deeper questioning and reform of purpose, policy and practice. Learning for change. REFORMATIVE RESPONSE - ADAPTIVE

C: SUSTAINABLE EDUCATION Capacity building and action emphasis. Experiential curriculum. Institutions as permeable learning communities. Learning as change. TRANSFORMATIVE RESPONSE - ENACTMENT

2012 Imperative To meet the challenges associated with climate change and world resource depletion, it is imperative that ecological literacy become a central tenet of design education. Yet presently, the interdependent relationships between ecology and design are virtually absent in many professional curricula. A major transformation of the academic design community must begin today. To accomplish this, the 2012 Imperative calls upon this community to adopt the following:


2012 Imperative Curriculum Adopters of Path A commit to: Adding to design curriculum the requirement that: “We will make it a requirement of our curriculum and design projects that they will be based on an unconditional respect for life, and for the conditions that support life. We will only undertake projects that tend to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biosphere.” In practice we will work towards dramatically reducing the need for fossil fuel and the environmental footbyprint of the materials, products, processes and spaces that we design. To achieve these goals we will work towards complete ecological literacy in design education by 2012.

PATH B: 2012 Imperative Curriculum and Facilities Adopters of Path B commit to PATH A: 2012 Imperative Curriculum AND: - Joining the 10:10 project (pledging to reduce carbon emission by 10% in 2010). See the 10 Point Checklist for Universities for guidance with this process ( - Monitoring energy use and implementing sustainable design strategies across the university.- Reducing emissions in 4 categories: grid electricity, on-site fossil fuel, vehicle fuel, and air travel. - Creating a carbon reduction strategy and a Energy Descent Action Plan at your university. - Appointing a senior member of staff to take responsibility for implementing the plans. - Generating on-site renewable power OR purchasing renewable energy from an additional source.

This project is inspired directly by the 2010 Imperative run by Architecture 2030 in 2007. The 2012 Imperative will expand the scope of the project by bringing this agenda to all design disciplines, by incorporating action research processes, and by creating an on-line forum( for dialogue and for organizing actions according to the goals of the project.

Acknowledgements Board of Advisors Karin Jaschke, University of Brighton Jonathan Chapman, University of Brighton Emma Dewberry, The Open University Andrea Berardi, The Open University Jonathan Crinion, Schumacher College Ann Thorpe, University College London Paul Micklethwaite, Kingston University Michael Herrmann, Kingston University Jon Goodbun, University of Westminster Funding The Network for Social Change CETLD at The University of Brighton Design Friends Max Fordham Edward Cullinan Architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios This event would not have been possible without the support of the speakers who donated their time and the V&A for heavily discounted room rental. Many thanks as well to Susannah Sayler of The Canary Project for the photograph on the posters, website and postcards. Thanks to Stephen Sterling for his work on ecological literacy, the slides and the quotes. To COIN and the University of Brighton for project support. Thanks to again to the advisors, our funders, our new design friends, to Chan, to everyone who worked for very little money and also to all EcoLabs volunteers especially Ali Hodgson, Angela Morelli and Amy Scaife.


EcoLabs aims to nurture whole systems thinking and help create an alternative cultural vision to meet the goals of a fully sustainable society.

Profile for EcoLabs

2012 Imperative Teach-in  

Nearly 300 people attended the Teach-in at the Victoria and Albert Musem in London October 12 2009. The event was broadcast live on-line to...

2012 Imperative Teach-in  

Nearly 300 people attended the Teach-in at the Victoria and Albert Musem in London October 12 2009. The event was broadcast live on-line to...

Profile for ecolabs