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Sustainability - Designing for a Utopia or Dystopia?

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic Lecture/ Debate/Seminar


Resource depletion, biodiversity loss, rising temperatures; environmental sustainability is the most pressing issue facing our planet. In response, a number of scholars foresee an ecological non-future on the horizon. They contend that to transition to a sustainable epoch, we should effectively eschew technological progress. Others, like the so-called Eco-modernists, take a deterministic stance and regard new technology as the ‘magic bullet’ for countering our global environmental woes. So, will the future be a utopic techno-fix or a ruinous dystopia? Design research can help us to interrogate and offer alternatives to this simplistic binary. While it is critical that we must be highly vigilant going forward, ultimately, the future is not set and will likely provide a diverse mix of challenges and opportunities to flourish sustainably. When viewed as a hyperobject (Morton, 2013), the realities of climate change are extremely complex and evolving – a ‘wicked problem’ which is increasingly difficult to ‘solve’ outright. We must therefore move away from the narrow, monolithic narratives of utopias and dystopias as they are not inspiring the type or level of change needed. Crucially, whilst the earth is one, the world is not. We live in a heterogeneous and ever-changing pluriverse (Escobar, 2018) where the notion of ‘sustainability’ means different things to different people in different contexts. To this end, we must accommodate for a plurality of micro-design climates – a widely distributed web of sustainable interventions which can help individuals and communities to positively respond and adapt to climate change in a manner which is relative and scalable to their own setting, values and means.

Event (Symposium)

TitleImaginationLancaster Design Summit Series 2021: Flourishing In The World
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Degree of recognitionInternational event