One thing highlighted by Hurricane Sandy was just how intractable the issue of climate change has become, conspicuously absent from the schedule during the Presidential race in the world’s largest economy. Who’s to be blamed if it’s not a key voter issue, the political class or the voters themselves? Is sustainability a luxury of the bull market? The Green movement has always been hampered by the inability (or unwillingness) of the consumer to make a solid connection between their actions and the negative externalities that they engender. But, we must ask, what extremes will be reached before the appropriate consumer consciousness becomes manifest?
David Orr, the noted Professor of Environmental studies, makes a crucial distinction between two types of sustainability: technological – a top down approach that uses science and technology to make use of resources more efficiently; and ecological – the development of an informed and responsible citizenry attuned to their specific environment. While the former has undoubted benefits, design disciplines have often placed too much emphasis on innovation in production methods and material science, coupled with recycling’s false economy, while creating essentially the same products. What we are still lacking is enough ecologically sustainable design, that which changes consumer habits.
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