26 Aug 2020

Wanna change the world? These are 5 start points you should look at

Gabriella Martins

How many times the apocalypse did (and did not) come?! If I’m right, we need to use this time to work on the bases of our systems helping emerge a new and better World. If I’m wrong, we are doomed. Ciao, Humans!

Thus, let’s work on the only scenario where we can do something.

For helping this task, we created a list of 5 areas that all of us should start to take a look and see how we can roll up our sleeves and do something:

  1. Food Production — Wait…chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows?!
  2. Education — The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
  3. Consumption — Out of debt… out of owning things. Really?!
  4. Independent Work — Freelancing is all fun, they said. No boss, they said.
  5. Creation — If there is no way out, let’s create one.

Let’s talk a little more in detail about each point.

1) Food Production — The modern world presents a space distribution paradigm.

The world population is every day more concentrated in cities, from about 33% in the 1960s to more than 55% in 2019 with an estimation of 68% in 2050 (UN data). And all these people need to eat, don’t they?! But where does the food come from? Back then, in a more rural society, food production and people shared more space. Now, we don’t live where the food is produced so there is a considerable gap (space, power, etc) between the production and the food consumption.

So, we can observe some possible chain effects emerging from this: the concentration of power flowing to the hand of the bigger corporations with better distribution networks to reach and “feed” the cities, killing the competitive power of small producers. Therefore, to compete and optimize production, everyone tends to rush to some controversial solutions like pesticides, transgenics, industrial livestock farming, and other production “enhancers”. Oh! Of course, let´s not forget about all the logistics impacts from these long-distance distributions.

But we are here to bring hope (and enlist everyone in the mission to rethink things) so, on the other side, let´s remind ourselves that technology can be our friend and a super empowering tool.

Why not reflect about maybe inner-city production, individual production, small producers’ sales network, online marketplaces, hubs, etc etc.? We need to rethink what we eat, how we eat and, mainly, how we produce what we eat. Eating is a political act and food choices are a political issue.

2) Education — the question maybe is: Our society educates people for what?

The School — College path, what they teach us?… actually, what they are not teaching us?

As a professional designer (I talked about that in the last post) and understanding the power of problem-solving mindset, I believe this should be a competence taught to everyone. Imagine being taught about design tools and methods from a young age and learning how to observe the scenarios, studying problems and thinking about possible solutions for them? Obvious, isn’t it?

Everyone should know how to solve problems. But how many people you know is that resourceful?

I’m not doing the lobby to make everyone a designer. There are other skills and knowledge I believe should also be taught to everyone, like “citizenship”. For example, if everyone is going to pay taxes and use public and political systems, why is so rare to learn about it in school? Why we have to discover by ourselves about politics, finances, systems…? Or philosophy… how many of us have real lessons about “thinking and questioning”?! Sometimes it seems that society doesn’t want people to know how things really work.

If we don’t learn at school how to think for ourselves, solve problems and live in a society… Maybe we are just being taught to become clogs in the system.

Therefore, we need to rethink our education as a way to become a more empowered society, more capable to change things ourselves.

3) Consumption — another marvellous capitalist consequence to our way of living.

There is an unspoken concept: if you don’t consume, you don’t exist. As we don’t have much financial education (another point to Education) we tend to normalise a lot of self-harm financial beliefs like, for example, “debt is the only path to have and do things.”

Consumption impacts many things: what we understand as life goals, financial health, quality of life, lifestyle, mental health and, as a collective, the environmental crisis that independent of your consumption, it’s a consequence to everyone.

When we say we need to rethink consumption, we are not just talking about what we consume as individuals, but also what we produce and sell to others. Thus, product design, industry, logistics and marketing have to be rethought.

4) Independent Work — An Unstoppable trend. A moving train we need to redirect.

It was estimated that independent workers would form more than 51% of the global workforce by 2028 (Mckinsey Global Institute). For some, it seems to be significant progress and could even imagine all these people as digital nomads living in Bali and travelling the world. In reality, this won’t be the deal for the majority.

We are talking about app drivers, delivery people and freelancers of general services. All of them isolated, trying to survive in a system with the power each day more concentrated on the hand of a few corporations and people.

Some economists say this is the consequence of what is called “late capitalism”, and could lead to the dead-end of capitalism as we know. Because the super concentration of power leads to optimisation of costs, which trigger the impoverishment of the workers… and as the worker population becomes poorer, the consumption power becomes lower… everything becomes an economic Helter Skelter.

But there is a thing: A good part of these studies was generated before the coronavirus crisis, now it’s necessary to re-observe. Everything has changed at the molecular level. For example, the speed; we are seeing some online companies becoming even richer during the pandemic while a lot of small businesses are closing their doors, all this in an exponentially fast pace. What was going under the radar it’s now in the open air to everyone see: the Wherehouse Online Retailer’ workers, the delivery drivers… all of them calling out for the absurdities of the system that needs to be redesigned.

Independent work is a reality we can’t deny, but we need to rethink how it’s being fomented, handled, managed.

5) Creativity — The transversal element of change

The Fifth point is actually a perspective and not an area.

All of these areas above need creative thinking. Not just from creation workers as designers, artists, architects… as we all live in this scenario, we need a significant collective creative effort to rethink and remake things and systems.

For so, creativity as an element itself should be reconsidered. Creativity should not be seen as a perk of artsy people, an elite characteristic that makes some individuals especially capable of generating colourful things.

Creativity should be understood as a necessary asset to global survival.

That’s all folks. We, The Werkbund, believe a new economic environment is possible. We challenge you to join the movement to design it too.