From Milk to Superfoods: Supping with the Devil?

John Thakera on The Design Observer brings home the effects of the push by big business to control all aspects of global production – in its relentless pursuit of the bottom line it sweeps away the livelihoods and hopes of any who cant afford the hidden pricing of its “everyday low prices” – the economics of consumption which are the unaccented side effects. As designers we are constantly challenged by our working for clients who finance these and other similar unsustainable practices while advertising their “Green Credentials” in our buildings and urban environments. Coincidently right now I’m not drinking any milk or eating dairy products in  order to reduce nasal congestion, but this is only one of many examples of the problem.

I’d be surprised if many readers of this blog work for the fracking industry. Those charming people spend a lot on lobbying and public relations, sure — but their main aim in life is to remain obscure.

But food and drink? The branding, the packaging, the communications, the stores, the promotions, the trade shows, the hotels, the restaurants? Would I be wrong to guess that 75% of us have worked for a global food enterprise, directly or indirectly, at some point? I know I have: an industry talk here, a futures workshop there, a couple of healthcare events…

But two new publications this week have left me sick to the stomach. I just don’t think it’s defensible any more to turn a blind eye to the social and ecological crimes Big Food is committing, in other parts of the world, so that you and I can eat what we damn well feel like.

When it comes to the food business, I’ve been having my cake, and eating it, since 1995. That was when Vandana Shiva spoke at Doors of Perception 3 about the hidden but devastating ecological and social costs of global industrial agriculture. That was a wake-up call.

Food figured prominently in 2000, too, when we did Doors East in Ahmedabad We learned, then, that for eighty million women in India, who own or look after one or two cows, milk is their only livelihood.

It should not have been a surprise last week, then, to read a grim report entitled “The great milk robbery: How corporations are stealing livelihoods and a vital source of nutrition from the poor.”

Left: Colombia’s jarreadores (Photo: Aurelio Suárez Montoya). Right: mobile milk delivery in Kenya

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What is Network Design Methodology?

A post from ecosistemo urbano translated by Francesco Cingolani of which addresses a concern of all of us in the bloggosphere “Then, “If we all spend our time writing on our blogs, who will have time to read them?”. That is what I asked myself a while ago, when I started my own blog.” so in the same way – if everyone is busy designing  the city – who will be out there to build it or to experience it? This has overtones  of the dreams in the movie Inception where the deeper you go – the more difficult it is to resurface to reality or even to know what reality is – this is  no different to what every drug addict experiences in his addiction – my belief is it is necessary to share your views with other REAL PEPOLE in the REAL WORLD now and to incorporate their views with your own – thus experiencing their world alongside your own. We are thus what we share as well as what we create.

Image: Creative Networking by Amber Case (Flickr)
The article begins by explaining a networked-learning project carried out at Ecosistema Urbano, called Urban Social Design Experience, and explains how this project allowed to define network design methodology. At Ecosistema Urbano we are actually applying network design in the projectdreamhamar.

The article has been originally written in Spanish for La Ciudad Viva and then it has been translated by @la_madalena for dreamhamar blog

“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein

For several months we have been developing in Ecosistema Urbano a project focused on expanded education. These last few weeks, we gave it a close look and we would like to share our thougths with you.

The project in question is Urban Social Design Experience (USDE) and we presented the first session – which ended recently – as a series of online courses (experiences). During these experiences innovative approaches and lines of work in urban culture and urban management were presented.

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AoU Landscape Urbanism notes & questions _ TIm Stonor

A commentary on the threat that fragmented urbanism poses to  the future city – is this the full story ? from Tim Stonor’s The Power of the Network

Fragmented urbanism: the rise of Landscape Urbanism & the threat it poses to the continuously connected city

TS intro
This is a crucial moment for urbanism. In the UK, the Portas review, highlighting the UK’s threatened high streets. Around the world, cities are growing faster than ever. But cities – as we knew them – are under threat.

First, from the car. Car-dependent urbanism is the principal form of urbanism on the planet. our cities have become so fragmented by road systems in the last century that it is now almost impossible not to be far dependent – not without a major demolition and reconnection programme.

Second, from designers, accepting of the car and intellectualising around this complicity.

The aim of this talk
I have been forming my own views and am looking to raise a discussion within the Academy of Urbanism and beyond. Do people agree with me? If so, how do we respond? If not, why not?

Real-life SimCity: Choose what’s built in your city

Is this the way we can participate in what happens in our city? From Smart Planet By Tyler Falk

It’s a simple question, “What would you build in your city?”, but a new Washington, D.C. startup thinks it could transform the traditional patterns of real-estate development.

Popularise acquires vacant properties and asks the local community to vote on what business should open in that location. Businesses that are interested in opening in the location are added to the list. Of course, if you’re not feeling the ideas, you can suggest your own. Whichever business get the most votes gets to open their store. The idea is to make real-estate development more about what the community wants, says co-founder Ben Miller:

We created Popularise as a new way to approach developing authentic places, by using the web to give development power back to local residents.
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Tao and Climate Change

The other day a colleague was wearing a badge about supporting ” Climate Change” and I flippantly commented that I was a sceptic. later on reflection, I was forced to reconsider that statement and I wrote this  to her: 
“I am more a sceptic than a denialist in actuality – Climate change is a fact  – it always has been!
 I am currently reading Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle and he documents the visible evidence of the changes that have taken place over immense spans of time and as well as those that happen very suddenly and cause immense shifts to  topography and climate on a vast scale enough to wipe out hundreds of species through natural causes, volcanoes, earthquakes etc, as well as devastating changes to landscapes also on a vast scale caused by mans indiscriminate clearing of forests and the unwitting introduction of alien species in South America – this in 1832!

My skepticism relates not to the incontestable fact that we as a species have overrun the Earth and caused the massive changes that we now see to every square centimeter of the Earths surface, in space and in the oceans, but that like a virus, that even though it is aware of its effects in killing its host it will too die, is unable to stop itself from fulfilling its nature, which is to expand at an uncontrollable rate till all its food is exhausted!

if  you read Collapse by Jared Diamond – the story of the civilizations that have come and gone like the Easter Islanders, The Mayans etc all appear to have perished from exhausting their sources of food and thus survival.
Or the evidence as documented by Landscape Architect Casey Brown of PREx in his Rome scholarship of 47 economic crashes from Roman times through the Renaissance  up to the present day including the great depression etc and in all civilizations –  caused, in his view,  by reckless land speculation and the exhaustion of productive cultivatable land in Roman times, due to its sacrifice for short term profits – he postulates that this behavior is innate in humans and is key to their survival to date – but at various times it results in the near complete loss of the civilisation and its plunge into cronic chaos before it is able to rise from the ashes once again and reach even greater height of booms and their resultant  accompanying deeper bust!   Terragrams – Casey Brown of PREX Continue reading