Valerie Casey Keynote Address from SXSWi 2010

Valerie Casey -- Keynote
Designing A movement
Integrating Sustainability Through Systems Thinking
  • despite the fact that the design community has been absent from sustainability up until this point, it is exactly the interactive community that will be critical going forward
  • will talk about using system thinking to create an interaction point with this tech community for them to help in sustainability
  • Kurt Vonnegan: there are a set of archtypical stories
    • good fortune and bad fortune on the vertical axis
    • time from beginning to end on the horizontal axis
    • you can plot stories on these two axis.
    • there is a third narrative you can plot
      • Kafka’s metamorphosis: an already unhappy man turns into a cockroach
  • The Kafka narrative is the prevailing narrative for sustainability
    • Child sitting in an e-waste dump in China. 100M computers a year, 300M cell phones. Families go through these dumps. It is so toxic, people vastly more lead in the bodies, open cuts and sores and rashes on their bodies, vastly more likely to miscarry a child
    • North Pacific Garbage Pack: floating mass of plastic about twice the size of Texas.
      • Albatrosses mistook pieces of floating plastic for food, and fed them to children. Photo of baby albatross, dead, body rotted away, full of plastic where their body used to be.
    • “Why does a salad cost more than a Big Mac?”
      • The government subsidizes meat and dairy industries... 73% of subsidies go to meat and dairy. Exact opposite of what is recommended for nutrition.
    • Burn pits in Iraq: big gashes in ground, 24 hours a week, 7 days a week, fueled by petroleum products, used as garbage pits: throw everything in from amputated limbs to humvees to paper waste to human waste. A soldier in Iraq is now much more likely to die from breathing the fumes from these pits than to die in combat. Not just 1 to 1, but many to 1 ratio.
    • The polar ice cap puts enough pressure on the earth’s plates to keep them from moving. If the ice caps melt, the plates will move. Which creates tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanos, which amplifies the corrupt governments that allow/cause people to build building they should never have built.
  • A barrage of negative imagery, negative messages - doom and gloom that paralyzes you.
  • Look at sustainability, environmental issues from a creativity, optimism perspective.
  • Designer’s Accord
    • kyoto treaty of design
    • five guidelines
      • range from personal accountability to collective accountability
        • education myself 
        • share my successes and my failures and compromises. talk about when you’ve made compromises and you just won’t do it again.
    • use townhall meetings...
      • I want the permission to not know. I want to be able to ask questions when I don’t know. So we can work through these difficult things, not by myself, but with other people.
    • Use case studies... each week, to consistently address things
      • About what works
    • Educate a new generation of designers
    • school: by design - pairing up college students with high school students, to take sustainability out of the ghetto of sustainability
    • This movement has growth...
      • 639 design firm adopters
      • 33 educational adopters
      • 32 corporate adopters
    • Magazine covers... all green. Bizarre ways to talk about sustainability. There are much more interesting and complex ways to talk about sustainability.
    • We can’t think about sustainability as something that sits outside what you do everyday.
      • We can affect it with everything we do (analogy of moving a string, every movement causes other parts of the string to move)
  • Systems thinking
    • a system is more than the sum of its part (#1)
      • e.g. hippo roller: women and child walking 5 miles a day to get water. women and children couldn’t work or go to school, because they were just walking to get water.
        • they invented rolling barrel that holds 24 gallons, instead of 5. easier on body, easier to move.
        • but there was a quality problem in manufacturing: for every 75 that got to the end user, 50 were thrown out because of quality issues.
        • and they were very expensive to ship because of the size of the unit.
        • engineers without borders helped redesign it to improve quality, and made a nested design that allowed 3 units to be shipped in the space of 1 old unit.
        • but eco-nazis were outraged because the units weren’t made of recycled plastic. but the engineers had looked, but couldn’t find a sufficient source. the eco-nazis were failing to look at the bigger picture.
    • feedback delays + bounded rationality = design traps (#2)
      • I can only made decisions based on the information I have around me.
      • Example: Dell compact desktop - meets epeat requirements, special ecopacking requirements.
        • by designing for the symption (energy, recyclability), it missed the point that we shouldn’t be designing another desktop computer. (Will: I don’t get it. What should they have been doing?)
      • Bought tacos in san francisco, and tracked ingredients. All the ingredients for the taco had travelled a collective 60,000+ miles to get to san francisco. 
        • prevailing thinking is that local is good, and global is bad.
        • discovered that the salt and cheese was local.
        • avocado from chile.
        • they looked at the embodied energy for each of the ingredients.
          • e.g. tomatoes grown in greenhouse versus those grown naturally and shipped
    • creating the right measurement of success (#4)
      • prevailing indicator is gross domestic product, which measures money in the economy.
        • if there are more car crashes, more money is spent on medical bills and fixing cars, and the indicator of wellbeing goes up, which is counter to actual life
      • ecological standards look at what the land performed in terms of water filtration, air filtration, and ensure that the built environment will do the same thing.
        • different than LEED, which mostly just looks at how to make a building less bad.
    • selecting the correct level for change (#5)
      • people tend to identify the wrong thing to change when they want to make a change
      • in romania they noticed that the birth rate was dropping. they made it illegal for women under 45 to use contraception or use birth control. gave a short term increase. but over time, it leveled out. it not just leveled out, but mother mortality went up dramatically as women got illegal abortion, and tons of children ended up in orphanages. not the desired effect at all...
      • NakedPizza: four guys in new orleans that built a shack, less than 500 square feet, in a place that took 8 feet of water in katrina, and turned it into a lab to make the world’s healthiest pizza. they want to take that concept and scale it. They want to go into the fast food industry as a trojan horse. They want to price it the same as Dominos and Papa Johns. They don’t want to make tons of money, they want to educate people about healthy food. use pizza as a trojan horse to talk about this issue. 
        • but if you add in all the cost of organic foods, recycled boxes, recycle everything, then it would drive the price of the product up so much, that it would not be accessible to the very people you are trying to help. 
    • enabling new models by recognizing the relationship between structure and behavior (#6)
      • Dana Meadows would take a slinky out of a box. She’d pull her hand out, and the slinky would boing up and down. She’s ask why it did that. The class would answer that it was because she moved her hand. She’d repeat with a box, which of course would not behave in that way. The answer is in the innate capabilities of the object... the structure of the object. You can’t change the behavior without changing the structure.
      • HUB: shared space for social entrepreneurs to help cross pollinate ideas. joint help and resources around fundraising and strategy. 24 around the world.
        • Rather than just have NGOs, in which activists live off the excess of the government and corporate donations, they enable people to be entrepreneurs and launch profitable businesses
    • issue-attention cycle: degree of awareness is inversely correlated to the degree of productive action.
      • once people realize the cost of making change, attention peters out
      • when the public starts to get a great passion around a subject, there is a point at which attention peaks, but still nothing is happening. when you get a couple of hundred thousand people involved, no one does anything because they all think someone else is doing it.
        • we already see in the sustainability movement that there is fatigue. people are opting out, believing someone else is doing something about it. (Will: count me in this group.)
    • If you change the purpose of the system - the goal of it’s existence, that is the great change for the system.
  • Architecture
    • LEED
    • Architecture for Humanity
    • Challenge 2030
  • Product Design
    • Cradle to cradle
    • LCA
  • Creative Community.... (didn’t capture in time.)
  • Interactive community creates the architecture of our technology, the architecture of our communication. How can we take on the purpose of cultural sustainability instead of commerce? What is we educated people instead of dumbing it down? What is social media was actually about social impact.
  • Every profession bears the responsibility to understand the circumstances that enable its existence - Robert Gutman
Post a Comment