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April 06, 2008

City Eco Lab

Doors of Perception Report
Design steps to a one planet economy
April 2008
by John Thackara

We have started work in earnest on City Eco Lab, a 'nomadic market of
projects' that takes place in November in St Etienne, France. The
concept is simple: literally millions of people are active in projects
which, in different ways, are the building blocks of one planet living.
These projects deal with different aspects of daily life: food, water,
energy, mobility, school, and economy. But many of these projects are
invisible, even locally. So it can feel, depressingly, as if nothing is
happening. City Eco Lab, by making some of these projects visible to the
wider populace, starts people talking about ways they might be improved
- or about doing similar projects themselves. The live projects we are
researching from the St Etienne region (it's an hour right from Lyon as
you head south) will be shown side-by-side with best practice projects
from other parts of the world. There will also be a tool shed with
resources to help people improve their projects: tools for designing,
tools for modelling and making things, tools for monitoring local flows,
tools for finding and sharing resources.In the middle of this market
(it's in a 5,000 square metre former gun factory) will be a campfire
zone for encounters between citizens, project leaders, tool makers, and
designers. The event is hosted by the St Etienne Cite du Design; its
designers are Exyzt and Gaelle Gabillet. Yes, we do want your
suggestions for best-practice projects to show next to the St Etienne
projects: for now, a short email, a weblink and a pic will suffice:
john [at] doorsofperception [dot] com
Biennale Internationale Design 15-30 November 2008, Saint-Etienne.

The offer of a free Dott 07 Manual is open for one more week.
The Manual explores two questions: "What could life in a sustainable
region be like?" and, "how can design can help us get there?"
Here are some sample spreads:
We will send five free copies to you if you tell us which four other
people you will send a book to - someone likely to make other Dott-like
events happen. Please send the names of your nominees, plus your full
postal address, to: john [at] doorsofperception [dot] com
(and please put Manual in the header).

If cheap clothing chains used only bamboo and soyabean fibres, grew
these plants 100% organically, and produced only locally, their t-shirts
woud still not be sustainable. This is because of what happens when we
get a garment home. The average piece of clothing is washed and dried 20
times in its life: 82 percent of its lifetime energy use, and over half
the solid waste, emissions to air, and water effluents it generates,
therefore occurs during laundering. I learned this in Kate Fletcher's
excellent new book Sustainable Fashion and Textiles. Read more at:

Imagine a cashless economy where there's no paper, no plastic, no coins
- just mobile banking. iAfrica reports that a virtual currency is is
reaching critical mass there as pre-paid airtime is traded to exchange
goods and services. At the touch of a button, value can stored as
airtime in your cellphone and used to purchase items from your local
street vendor. MTN Nigeria is among several companies supplying prepaid
top-up cards also allow people living in the UK to buy airtime for
members of family back home as a convenient alternative to sending small
amounts of money home. Fact: More than 800 million mobile phones were
sold in developing countries in the last three years.

"Walking is the Grand Central Station of life; it is the heart of
community life, the backbone of fitness, the centrepiece of community
security, the glue of transportation, the essence of learning and
creativity (from no less a source that the Peripatetics of ancient
Greece), the medium of romance, the humility of leadership, the heart of
social and economic justice, and the exchange medium of the physical
world". Chris Bradshaw, who wrote those words,is fantastically expert
on everything to do with informal transportation - walking, and most
cycling. He is also the owner of Pednet, the international mailing list
for walking advocates and those promoting pedestrian rights.

Darren Sharp writes from Australia to anounce a new report on user-led
innovation. It's based on in-depth interviews with leading thinkers on
user-led innovation including: Eric von Hippel (MIT), Yochai Benkler
(Harvard), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Siva Vaidhyanathan (Virginia),
John Howkins (Adelphi Charter), Michel Bauwens (P2P Alternatives)
and Mitch Kapor (Linden Lab).
or http://tinyurl.com/5e7ttc [both 2.4 MB pdf downloads]

I'm getting regular spam from The Survival Food Store with offers of
long term storage food for times of emergency. Their copy editing leaves
so much to be desired that I'm reluctant to eat their products. But you
be the judge on whether or not to "stock up now and be ready when man
made or natural disaster strike" (sic).

Severe water shortages in Barcelona have prompted the Catalan government
to import drinking water by ship from Marseilles, not that far from
where I live in southern France. Barcelona's water company, Aigues de
Barcelona, is now installing port facilities in preparation. The seven
tankers employed in the water supply will have a capacity of 28,000
cubic metres each; five will be used on the route between Tarragona
and Barcelona, and two to transport water coming from the Rhone river
in southern France, from Marseille to Barcelona. The cost of these
emergency measures is estimated at 1.3 billion euros.

Moving bags, moving people, moving goods: Logistics are life-critical
for us all. I was therefore alarmed to read in Supply Chain Standard
about logistics in the supermarket industry. On checking the software
descriptors of 14,000 product lines, one analyst found one or more
errors in the information lines of every single item contained.
(A standard description has 200 attributes, but industry customers
typically add up to 1,500 extra items of information on their own
account). Many supermarkets admit to at least 35 percent data inaccuracy
in their product files (says the industry's own in-house magazine).
"It's little surprise", concludes the writer, that "retailers end up
with little idea of what is in store, in transit, on order or at the
warehouse". Supermarkets only have three days supply of food in stock
at any one time... or so they think. So I don't know about you, but
I'm reminded that  this is planting season at my home in France:
I need to get back and start digging.
Supply Chain Standard January 2008 page 9 Penelope Ody

A summer school in Pollenzo and Torino, Italy, addresses such topics
as active welfare (health and well-being) open and safe places (social
life and security) food networks (sustainable food systems) and
multi-mobility (efficient urban mobility). Tuition costs and hospitality
(food and accommodation) are covered by grants offered by the Torino
2008 World Design Capital; students will be responsible only for
travel to/from Pollenzo; plus a notional fee of Euro 100.
Deadline for applications is 15 May 2008

In a welcome turn of events, In The Bubble is going to be published in
Italian, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese. I've reduced the
whole thing to 100 pages, added three new chapters, and changed the
sub-title to "design steps to a one planet economy". If you know of
a publisher in a language other than those listed above, who might
also be interested, do please drop me a line.

Posted by John Thackara at April 6, 2008 08:33 AM