How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Preface to the Chinese edition

A cultural disconnection between the man-made world and the biosphere lies behind the grave challenges we face today. We either don’t think about rivers, soils, and biodiversity at all – or we treat them as resources whose only purpose is to feed the economy. This ‘metabolic rift’ – between the living world, and the economic one – leaves us starved … [continue …]

2019-05-20T19:15:55+00:00October 31st, 2018|Commoning, development & design, Knowing, most read, Urban-Rural|

Conflict and Design

An exhibition in Belgium poses a timely challenge: When confronted by such complex issues as an ageing population, resource depletion, migration, or growing impoverishment, how are we to balance the desire to do something positive, with the need to understand the back story before we intervene?

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The installation (shown above) consists of open … [continue …]

2014-01-22T12:37:34+00:00January 22nd, 2014|development & design|

Ecuador, Open Knowledge, and ‘Buen Vivir’: Interview With Michel Bauwens

“The global economy treats nature and material resources as if they were infinite, and knowledge as if it was scarce. We have to swap those two around”. (Michel Bauwens). Audio interview below the fold. 

Having enshrined the rights of nature in its constitution (*) Ecuador is now exploring how this principle, and the principle of open knowledge, might  reshape its economic … [continue …]

2014-01-22T12:41:58+00:00December 16th, 2013|development & design, most read|

Green Tourism: Why It Failed And How It Can Succeed

Packaged mass tours account for 80 percent of journeys to so-called developing countries, but destination regions receive five percent or less of the amount paid by the traveller. For local people on the ground, the injustice is absurd: if I were to pay e1,200 for a week long trek in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, just e50 would go to the cook … [continue …]

2014-01-21T11:51:35+00:00June 25th, 2013|development & design, most read, Moving|

An Open Design School for India

(Image from

In recent months a working party in India, chaired by Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovation, has been developing the plan for a nationwide network of 20 Design Innovation Centres, an Open Design School, and a National Design Innovation Network. The latest public version … [continue …]

2013-05-24T17:58:04+00:00January 29th, 2013|development & design, [no topic]|

Why Bill Gates Needs To Listen To More Gamelan Music

Ritual as Feedback in Bali 

The unique social and ecological nature of regional watersheds was the focus of a mesmerising presentation by Stephen Lansing at last month’s poptech conference in Iceland. His key point: Bali’s subak water management system is a “coupled social-ecological system”.

Balinese farmers have been growing rice in terraces since at least the eleventh … [continue …]

2013-05-24T17:59:28+00:00July 14th, 2012|development & design, most read|

Iceland: eaten alive, or growing to live?

“Who needs oil when you have rain?” The ad for Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company, dominates this month’s Icelandair magazine. It sits alongside other ads that feature wild spaces, rugged outdoor clothing, and all-round natural purity. The message is not disguised: Iceland is blessed by massive amounts of clean energy.

The true picture on the … [continue …]

2015-06-20T20:14:07+00:00September 2nd, 2011|development & design, most read, Urban-Rural|

From bankster HQ to start-up central in Iceland

The Start-Up Kids is a documentary about young entrepreneurs who have founded web and media startups in the US and Europe. Made by two young Icelandic women, it contains interviews with tech-leaders of today and tomorrow.
The founders of Dropbox, Vimeo, Flickr, WordPress, Posterous and many others talk about how they started their company, and what their lives are like … [continue …]

2011-03-20T17:08:49+00:00March 20th, 2011|development & design|

Work Faster, India!

“Work faster, get time for life.” I just got back from a short trip to India where this insane slogan adorned a poster at a bus stop.
It pretty much sums up a febrile mood in Delhi where it was announced during my stay that India’s economy will grow by nine percent next year. … [continue …]

2012-04-02T16:17:51+00:00March 1st, 2011|development & design|

Don’t donate – invest

We added a donate button. (It’s on the left). has been online – and free – since 1994. We’ve waited sixteen years before seeking your support. Now, we can use it.

2010-04-07T17:12:25+00:00April 7th, 2010|development & design|

Design, regions, and the two economies

The stated ambition of Cornwall, in the the far south west of England, is to become a “green peninsular”. It’s an evocative concept, but people there interpret the word “green” in different ways.

For example, although Cornwall aspires to become a “knowledge economy” it is more of a tourism economy at the moment: Many of the 500,000 people who live in … [continue …]

2015-06-20T20:37:56+00:00April 3rd, 2010|development & design, Urban-Rural|

From King Parakramabahu to ethical fashion

Some people blame the Enlightenment for our present troubles.

The scientific revolution, they say, gave man ideas above his station. We frequently harm natural systems, goes the charge, because of our delusional belief that we are separate from, and have dominion over, nature.

This myth of apartness, the charges conclude, dulls the responsibility we’d feel if we … [continue …]

2017-10-31T17:23:25+00:00December 3rd, 2009|development & design, most read|

China’s clean little secret

As an experiment this weekend, I went through all 192 stories tagged “China” on a major eco website. More than 90 per cent of its posts were about at least bad, and often terrible, environmental news and developments.
It’s not that these grim stories stories were untrue, or unimportant. It’s just that their aggregate … [continue …]

2009-09-07T10:35:31+00:00September 7th, 2009|development & design|

High-tech beads for the natives?

(COMMENT AT END: we’ve had to suspend comment function because of spam attacks)
You know what? I just don’t think Sunnyvale, California is the right base from which to save the world with Tech.
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Architecture for Humanity have announced a $250,000 competition for the design of technology centers in the developing world.
Dan Shine, director … [continue …]

2007-03-12T13:00:51+00:00March 12th, 2007|development & design|

How rural India benefits from mobile comms

Mobile communication is revolutionizing economic and social life in rural India, spawning a wave of local entrepreneurs and creating greater access to social services according to a new study by Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) – our partners for Doors 9.
The research, commissioned from CKS by Nokia, identifies seven major service sectors including transport, … [continue …]

2007-01-25T11:28:09+00:00January 25th, 2007|development & design|

Vote for La Voute!

Our friends at La Voute Nubienne are among the 13 finalists of the Ashoka-Changemakers Competition on “How to Provide Affordable Housing.” This ancient architectural technique, traditionally used in Sudan and central Asia, but until now unknown in West Africa, can accelerate appropriate house-building in the Sahel. The Nubian Vault (“la Voute Nubienne” or VN) technique uses basic, readily … [continue …]

2006-10-05T13:01:15+00:00October 5th, 2006|development & design|

.000001 % solution

Doors 9, with its focus on energy and food, is about an important security issue. We seek funding to the tune of .000001% of America’s Homeland Security budget to pay for scholarships so that project leaders may come to New Delhi from different parts of India and elsewhere in South Asia. If you are able to fund a scholarship or … [continue …]

2006-10-04T09:39:53+00:00October 4th, 2006|development & design|

Last days of Rome (cont.)

I was told last week that 250 new five and seven star hotels, 1,000 major new restaurants, and a second indoors ski slope three times bigger than the one just opened, will be completed in Dubai over the next next five to seven years. So that’s where all the designers and architects went. The good news is that three feet … [continue …]

2006-09-17T09:53:36+00:00September 17th, 2006|development & design|

How to be good

At last week’s Aspen Design Summit 150 concerned designer-citizens explored ways that they might contribute to sustainable community development, education innovation, and social entrepreneurship. (Other reports are at Core77 and at unBeige.There are many images at Flickr
(Humbug check: I was an enthusiastic participant – and paid to be the moderator – of the Summit).
The stated aim … [continue …]

2006-07-03T08:06:14+00:00July 3rd, 2006|development & design|

Intel’s PC for India

Intel has launched a PC platform to meet the needs of rural villages and communities in India. The “ruggedized” Community PC is equipped to operate in a community setting while accommodating the varying environmental conditions prevalent in the country. Intel also announced an initiative called “Jaagruti” (“Awakening”) to support the spread of rural Internet kiosks that will use the … [continue …]

2006-04-03T11:31:12+00:00April 3rd, 2006|development & design|

Flat out

“I’m exhausted just writing about this” says Thomas Friedman on page 170 of The World is Flat. The book does move swiftly along, but I’m sure its author is perked up by today’s news that he has won $50k as winner of the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs business book of the year award. The World is Flat is filled … [continue …]

2005-11-22T08:08:31+00:00November 22nd, 2005|development & design|

How to deal with cultural emissions

Does tourism kill the toured? An unexpected overnight in Barcelona at the weekend reminded me that cities should be be careful what they wish for. Barcelona is the most-quoted example in the world of a city that has used design and creativity to make itself attractive to tourists. But having come in their hordes, they are eating the place alive. … [continue …]

2005-09-19T09:21:44+00:00September 19th, 2005|development & design|

How to rebuild, or how to be?

The papers today say that rebuilding after Katrina will cost the same as the war in Iraq. In the unlikely event that so much money is forthcoming, what will it be spent on? Are new freeways and malls the wisest way to rebuild? Before firms like Halliburton start pouring concrete, a moment’s pause is in order. One interesting vantage point … [continue …]

2005-09-08T11:28:36+00:00September 8th, 2005|development & design|

The limits of Live8

Overheard in The NYU Bookstore, Washington Place: Girl on cell: ‘So I went up to my Professor just now? And I was telling him I’ve chosen a country for my project. He was like,”Africa? That’s not a country.” I was like, “Come on, what was all that Live 8 stuff about, then?”. He was just like, “Never mind. Africa … [continue …]

2005-07-21T08:06:07+00:00July 21st, 2005|development & design|

Disruptive behaviour

A breathless email from Tony Perkins invites me to Stanford to watch lions eat Christians. Or so it sounds. Tony writes that his conference, Always On, is about “the sweet spots in the technology markets…where innovation is disrupting behavior and creating new business opportunities”. His website concludes, “come play in our spontaneous and uncensored arena”. The text does not … [continue …]

2005-07-08T07:22:18+00:00July 8th, 2005|development & design|

Dealing with good and bad news

Someone told me (offline) that my reaction to Live8 yesterday was unduly critical. Isn’t it better for people to be charged up and optimistic about a big challenge, such as poverty, rather than overwhelmed and demotivated? It’s a tricky call. I still agree with George Monbiot that Live8 will have done more harm than good if provides a smokescreen for … [continue …]

2005-07-04T13:23:43+00:00July 4th, 2005|development & design|
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