Demotech, design for self reliance

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Sustainability is a prerogrative for future economic and thereby social stability. Demotech design initiatives show how full sustainability for many products can be achieved.

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Sustainability Now!
<< Back to category Rethinking concepts

Introduced at users level Reduction till nill by replacing a product by a service Applicable in modern as well as in poor economies Research Research Rural as well as urban.

It should be our generation's goals to live in such a way that our children's and next generation do not suffer needlessly from it: often sustainability is defined this way. But sustainability should ask for more: not be defined as a restriction, but be defined as an inviting target that we all desperately want! Even that definition asks for too little: sustainability should not be a long time prospect, no, we should not be content with further loss of quality of life on this planet, we should want 'Sustainability Now'.
Our target is to share design and development of better means to sustain our livelihoods, that are environmentally sustainable AND increase our standard of living.

Re-designing lifestyles asks for re-designing tools and the way tools are used. In all the design initiatives that are listed here, the idea to start from claims to be fully sustainable and fully effective, meaning really solving a problem.
After that nice inspiring start reality hits back: claims are not realized and development of prototypes run stuck in time constrains. But not always: the rope pump, the hydraulic ram pump and the bookkeeping forms show that redesign can work and what it takes to achieve it. One conclusion is very hopeful: A solution is always possible! To get there, there is choice. When we did it al by ourselves such a design took many years to develop. Now we have high hopes on the effectiveness of design communities. It works well for software, so no reason it should not work for hardware. We just have to get used to doing it that way.
To design and to make is also fun. Then why leave this fun to designers only? Users should claim their share in the design process. This becomes possible as the process of making becomes flexible, as investment in machines is replaced by investment in local making or local manufacture. The way the hydraulic ram pump is 'created' and the way inhabitants of a village can 'produce' the BathroomToilet- unit shows how this may work.
This same process of design empowers individuals to take charge of their economic circumstances and alleviate their own poverty. In this way, Demotech's approach wants to inspire towards a sustainable future.
in order for people to become sustainable, new ideas must be explored and demonstrated as possible. Without a clear image of what a sustainable lifestyle can or could look like, people are lost about how to achieve that goal, even if they believe very strongly in it. It is most important to explore new ideas for all societies in order to find the working solutions we need.

Additional information

Planned progress

Internal links

Sustainable Development

Oslo Declaration on Sustainable Consumption

Social Energy in support of Sustainability

Social Energy and Social Goods are positive elements in attaining sustainability. Actually Social Energy already is what creates More Joy per Person. This paper intends to define these two ideas in the context of Demotech philosophy.

Critical thinking - maybe we should listen to our own message

Sustainability not only needs to be 'cool'. It also needs to work. You might think that the sustainability community would be a rich center of self-critical thinking. I don't think we're doing that with the design of our movement at all. I think we're just winging it, and ignoring some of the glaring contradictions that remain and are not being addressed. That's not good, and I can prove I'm not making too big a deal out of just a little 'irrational exuberance' in this year of our greatest public recognition and political success.
They're things to *explore*, not things to hide from. As we ourselves have been telling everybody else it seems.... quite often there are big rewards for the former and real tragic consequences for the latter. Maybe we should listen to our own message...

External Links

  • Inter network for sustainability
    Big items, description of Brundland, Agenda 21, Earth Charter Millennium Goals and more Also news on Sustainability in a broad sense/
  • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)
    A Mammoth 24 million agency report published April 2005, is the latest but also the most en-comprising assessment of the present state of the planet. It contains a hard warning!
    Keywords for search engine: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
  • Entirely Sustainable Product Design
    ESP Design provides professional and student designers with background information on sustainability issues affecting product design and most importantly, practical information to assist in the design of more sustainable products. ESP Design is a valuable resource that?s free to use, explaining WHAT the issues are, and HOW to deal with them.
    If genuine sustainability is to be achieved, then business needs to embrace sustainability as a commercial opportunity rather than a threat.
  • Copied from a discussion group of O2, Dave Nasseri posted the following on sustainability:
    [o2mailinglist] Re: Green vs. Sustainable + Responsible
    We do seem to get bogged down in terms and definitions in this rather large discussion and I'm here to make it worse.
    "Sustainable" is actually an english word meaning "capable of being sustained". "Sustain" itself has a core meaning significant to our topic: "To lengthen in duration or space". "Sustainable development then actually appears to be a real term, assuming of course that "development" is viewed as general human activity.
    "Responsible" is defined in my dictionary as "Worthy of or requiring responsibility or trust; or held accountable". Responsible Development or responsible product design by that definition occurs everyday. Indeed the use of the word "responsible" on the part of political parties and is wholly legitimate and easily demonstrated. The Republican party, Wal-Mart, individual consumers (oh those nasty things!) and governments all have many responsibilities to many entities. Their responsible behavior is not measured by the hard inescapable limits of ecological durability. It is measured by the desires and needs of the institutions, individuals and processes to which they are beholden and which they value.

    Sustainable development may well be deemed a misnomer but that may be a tad harsh given that it is an aspirational concept - something that does not exist and that we hope may exist...

    As for educating the masses of their obvious ignorance I suggest that instead of teaching them what can happen, we teach them (and learn for ourselves) what has happened throughout the history of human societies. Environmental collapse is not new just as organic and sustainable products are not new. Digging into the books we can find out a lot about ourselves as humans and perhaps, just this once, learn a bit from history. What we may learn best is that despite obvious signs of decay and depletion past societies seemed to peak in their orgies of consumption when it was least appropriate and clearly suicidal. Again I recommend Jared Diamond's insightful book "Collapse" for stories of societies that are bucking this long standing trend.

    I think that much of the difficulty we face discussing these issues would be reduced if we had a multi language debate happening. That may not be practical or realistic but by way of example, the French equivalent of "sustainable" is "durable". Say it with a French accent and it sounds authentic. The word implies an entirely new set of possible ways to look at how we design products, buildings, organizations and societies, yet it's intended to be the equivalent of the English buzzword "sustainable". What other translations of "sustainable" and even "responsible" offer us insight into how we may effectively conceive a common goal?

  • The end of development?
    Human development is at a dangerous crossroads, argues a report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), ?The end of development? Global warming, disasters and the great reversal of human progress?. The report produces evidence that all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ? whether to do with nutrition, education, safe water, infant and maternal mortality or gender equality ? are placed at risk by global warming. To avert the day of reckoning, we require a new model in which every policy decision must answer one key question: will this increase or decrease vulnerability in an increasingly unstable world?
  • Sustainability in Agriculture
    The low-tech success story of green initiatives in Ethiopia: Greening Ethiopia for Self-Sufficiency
    Download pdf file;
  • European Footprint more than double of its capacity
    At the European Parliament today, WWF and Global Footprint Network launched EUROPE 2005: The Ecological Footprint, a report showing that Europe uses 20 percent of the biosphere's services to serve seven percent of the world's population - a resource demand that has risen nearly 70 percent since 1961
    This utter unsustainable development may not be accepted in the near future by the countries who's equal share is being taken away from.
  • Footprint Network
    The global Footprint Network is committed to fostering a world where all people have the opportunity to live satisfying lives within the means of Earth's ecological capacity. We are dedicated to advancing the scientific rigor and practical application of the Ecological Footprint, a tool that quantifies human demand on nature, and nature's capacity to meet these demands. The Ecological Footprint is now in wide use by governments, communities, and businesses to monitor current ecological resource balances and to plan for the future.
  • World Watch Institute, Research Library
    Browse their research library for comprehensive information on the wide range of environmental topics their researchers have covered: People, Energy, Nature and Economy
  • Cradle to Cradle Certification
    The US design compagny MBDC launched a certificatification procedure that makes measurable and comparable a product's Eco-Evectiveness. Eco-Evectiveness instead of Eco-Efficiency as a standard to attain full recycling of any newly designed product.

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