Two stories that underline our lack of ambition, vision and knowledge.
With great timing, on 10 March 2020 the BBC published a story stating it was impossible for the UK to reach net carbon zero by 2050. Within a few months we saw what unplanned, major systems change looks like as the fossil fuel economy proved itself fragile, unstable and unable to adapt quickly to change.
The group behind the story, ESC do come up with one solution – a mix of major expansion into carbon capture and storage, BECCS, the use of hydrogen, and nuclear. All have their problems and none are a solution.
What this story showed was our lack of understanding of how quickly systems can change if they have to. If we treat the climate crisis as a crisis, and not something to tweak or adapt to.
The second story illustrates the time and effort wasted by talented designers in addressing our global issues. Designing a solution for a minor part of a broken system is no solution at all.
Designers have come up with a way to collect plastic flakes that come off vehicle tyres. These otherwise end up in our water and food systems, poisoning animals, plants, and humans as they eat the food.
Such a niche, partially successful ‘solution’ is worse than useless. It fails to collect all the plastic, and the mass-making of fossil fuel products such as car tyres is not addressed.
Such designs prop up the broken system. It assuages our consumer guilt so we keep on buying tyres, which are part of an economic web of fossil fuel products that keep oil and gas profitable. It wastes designers’ time, time which should be spent addressing systems issues, and fixing problems at scale and looking at all connections to environmental and social issues.
Choose to redesign the system, not to adapt a broken part of it. Look at all connections, and what else needs to change. This is exciting change, everything else is a waste of time.