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|

Manifesto For Utopias Are Over: Cities Are Living Systems

I was asked to write a provocation for DAMN magazine in Italy.

1         Change and innovation are no longer about finely crafted ‘visions’ of some future place and time. Positive change happens when people reconnect – with each other, and with the biosphere – in rich, real-world, contexts. Rather than ask about utopias, I challenge city leaders to answer … [continue …]

2017-05-05T15:02:43+00:00September 19th, 2016|most read, Urban-Rural|

Keep Your Stuff Alive

The Tending and Grooming Station (below) is a wondrous collection of combs, brushes and other obscure (to me) gadgets. They are used to primp and revive pre-loved sweaters and cardigans that have been disfigured by bobbles and pilling – those unattractive fuzz balls that appear when short fibers misbehave on woolen garments. 

#tendingandgrooming station… [continue …]

2015-06-20T19:38:24+00:00April 2nd, 2014|most read|

Cloud Commuting

A two-year project in Belgium proposes new relationships between people, goods, energy, equipment, spaces, and value. Its design objective: a networked mobility ecosystem 

Mobilotoop taxi-van

The signs on the small van describe the services it supports: Taxi; Pick-up; Delivery; Assistance; Vendor; Security; Rental.

Seven functions, one vehicle. As imagined in a project in Belgium … [continue …]

2015-07-24T16:42:29+00:00March 25th, 2014|most read, Moving|

A Whole New Cloth: Politics and the Fashion System

In fashion, despite more than 400 eco labels, an incremental ‘do less harm’ approach has addressed the symptoms, but not the principal cause, of our difficulties: an economy based on perpetual growth in a finite world. A new and global ‘leave things better’ politics affirms our co-dependency with living systems and the biosphere. The Commons, and the sharing or Peer-to-Peer economy, … [continue …]

2014-01-22T12:39:03+00:00January 5th, 2014|most read|

The Dementia Care Economy

Yesterday’s G8 Dementia Summit made much of the fact that millions will now be spent in a race to identify a cure or a ‘disease-modifying therapy’ for dementia.  The likely outcome will be the creation of a Dementia Industrial Complex – and the mass production of un-met expectations.A better way for nation states to spend money on dementia is in the … [continue …]

2015-06-20T19:50:49+00:00December 19th, 2013|Caring, Commoning, most read|

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|

Transition Dogville

In Lars von Trier’s 2003 film Dogville (below) there is almost no set. Buildings in the town are represented by a series of white outlines on the floor. Dogville was a to-the-limit exercise in what von Trier calls ‘pure cinema’ – a commitment to use only real locations, and no special effects or background music, when making a film.

… [continue …]

2014-01-21T11:58:02+00:00October 4th, 2012|Commoning, most read, transition & design|

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|

From Milk To Superfoods: Supping With The Devil?

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 … [continue …]

2012-04-02T16:02:13+00:00December 11th, 2011|Feeding, most read|

5% health: The risk of catabolic collapse and peak fat in modern health systems, what to do about them, and how design can help

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I was emboldened, upon arriving at the Mayo Clinic ‘s Centre for Innovation last week, to learn that people with deep domain knowledge do not make the best innovators. I concluded that I was therefore well-qualified to warn one of the top academic medical centres in the world, each of whose … [continue …]

2015-06-20T20:13:27+00:00September 21st, 2011|Caring, Commoning, most read|

Iceland: eaten alive, or growing to live?

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“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|

Life is a Picnic in The Fertile City

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If you’re in Paris before 24 July a spectacular exhibition called The Fertile City: Towards An Urban Nature is well worth a visit.

The show’s OTT poster does not over-promise. The exhibition explores nature in the city from multiple perspectives: historical, social, cultural, botanical, ecological. Two narrative sequences overlap: an “immersion in the urban-vegetal world”, and … [continue …]

2019-02-28T20:00:01+00:00July 14th, 2011|most read, Urban-Rural|

The high-tech permaculture metabolic engine greenhouse

[Stop Press: Polydome has been shortlisted for the 2012 Buckminster Fukller Challenge]

A few years ago urban farming in developed cities was a fringe topic that few designers or architects thought much about. There were exceptions: we tried hard [but failed] to build a prototype of Natalie Jeremijenko’s Urban Space Station at Designs of the time in 2007. But the … [continue …]

2012-04-02T16:13:24+00:00June 21st, 2011|Feeding, most read|

How to make systems thinking sexy

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[The following is based on the author’s keynote at the Buckminster Fuller Challenge awards in New York on 8 June. He was also on the 2010 jury of the Challenge.]
We will not transition successfully to a restorative economy until systems thinking becomes as natural, for millions of people, as riding a bike. … [continue …]

2012-04-02T16:17:30+00:00June 14th, 2011|most read|

A smooth journey

Two images have preoccupied me in recent days.
The first one [below] was taken in a lounge at Paris airport. I remember being struck by the intense design effort that had been made to create a controlled and insulated environment. On the tv screen were images of the popular revolt that is unfolding, bloodily, in Yemen. But the sound was … [continue …]

2012-04-02T16:08:40+00:00May 3rd, 2011|energy & design, most read, Moving|
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