Mission of the Ecological Design Collective

We are living through the most serious ecological crisis in millennia. This crisis stems from a profound disruption of natural systems around the world, economic structures that celebrate such destruction as progress, and social arrangements that inflict the consequences of this damage on the most marginal and vulnerable of populations. The necessary work of repair and regeneration can seem overwhelming. For this is a task both technical and imaginative: we need new ways to produce food and energy, manage water and waste, ensure shelter and well-being, but also the vision to find a place for such alternatives in the fabric of everyday life. These are circumstances that call for ecological design, for the conjuring of sustainable futures.

Good design demands an ecological sensibility, a feel for complex needs and unpredictable outcomes. Indeed, design as a practice is one of the most powerful ways to grasp and shape an open world, always on its way to becoming something else. Too often, this capacity is taken as the property of those unique visionaries we call designers, leaving others aside as consumers, recipients, or victims of the consequences. This again reflects the exclusionary nature of our capitalist present, the harsh legacies of racism and colonialism that have long condoned the exploitation of societies and environments elsewhere. Imagine instead a design process grounded in attentive listening and responsiveness, in a willingness to engage vernacular knowledge, in the insights that arise from shared struggle, in the resourcefulness of the natural world itself.

As a collective for ecological design, we seek to approach these challenges in this more democratic and collaborative spirit. We work with the conviction that there are designers everywhere, drawing on communal traditions and practical expertise to forge other worlds of possibility. Our collective brings together social scientists and engineers, activists and artists, people of metropolitan centers and rural locales, those with secure and more precarious places in a global milieu of deep inequality. Working in an interdependent manner, we attune ourselves to ways of seeing, feeling, and learning the world otherwise. We are building a community for social, economic, and environmental justice, one whose most important lessons will arise from the juxtaposition of radically different perspectives.

This virtual space is wired with copper and coltan, the residues of a devastation that digital infrastructure hides so easily. Amid the corporate clickbait and sly profiteering, we hope to make room for a small commons of a different kind. This platform is built from open source technology, meant to function as an open archive of ideas and possibilities: a forum for discussion, an anchor for monthly seminars and workshops, a foundation for collaborative projects and partnerships. Effective collaboration takes trust, the slow development of mutual understanding. We intend this as a space for exploration without the press of expectation, for patents or returns, pronouncements or prestige. This is instead a place to nurture small experiments in ecological transformation: material and inventive outcomes that always acknowledge their social roots, that take failures as necessary and inevitable compost, that pursue joyful exchange as a vital nourishment for diverse communities.

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