by J. Baldwin.

Whole Earth Review No. 85 Summer 95 p.14-16

MAKING THINGS RIGHT are a series of articles by J. Baldwin who is a consumate Solutioneer. These notes are by Bill Paton and have taken many of the important points from these articles. They do not substitute reading of the articles or any other works by J. Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin worked with R. Buckminster Fuller in producing the "Garden of Eden" dome. He has recently written the excellent book "Buckyworks" which updates Bucky's works today. Mr. Baldwin recently worked for the Rocky Mountain Institute in development of the Hypercar, and has devoted his life to Solutioneering and making the Earth a better place.


How do you become an Ecological Designer?


Whole Earth Review No. 86 Fall 95, p.4-7

First questions to ask before beginning any project:

If YES comes quickly, you are probably leaving out something important-trying to design it without considering it as a component of a larger system. A NO may be equally simplistic. This is important to remember.

If you want to do Positive Design, you can:

  1. Work elsewhere to fund your work.
  2. Start your own organization and risk drowning in paperwork.
  3. If you are very good & very sure of yourself, you can forge ahead and expect the Universe to take care of you (a la Buckminster Fuller)

After deciding whether the job needs to be done or not, the next question is:

It is wise to inspect the larger system of which your proposed design will be a part. Think as big as you can. Work to make everyone's life better in some way. Be inclusive at the beginning when most designers are being exclusive as they "narrow down the problem". This is tricky business, because we haven't been educated to think this way.

Thinking inclusively requires a comprehensive view that helps reveal the important interactions involved. It's a way to detect synergetic advantages and to reduce undesirable side effects. You have to look at the big picture.

Bill Moss (tent designer) wanted average person to enjoy camping so they would preserve the wilderness. His tents took camping from mountain men to everyone in one decade.


Whole Earth Review No. 88 Winter 95

Any design-be it pure artistry or nuclear engineering-has a desirable aspect and a dark side.

Everything is made of something. Even you have traces of all the elements aboard.

All constructions, including you, degrade. All have a designed-in lifespan, after which they must be renewed, reconstituted, recycled or left to decay.

All materials can be recovered, except energy. Some materials become pollution -useful chemistry in the wrong place at the wrong time at inappropriate concentrations.

An ecological designer deliberately strives for Syntropy-the opposite of entropy. A syntropic designer collects and adds information. Regenerative design is syntropic, cycling instead of degrading. Purists will object to calling this Syntropy, because information and energy must be continuously added, but the addition is local in universe.


Whole Earth Review #89 Spring96

Is it really necessary to worry about material choices before we really have to choose? Do we have to consider our ethics before we've been confronted with temptation? Must we deal with the inevitable damaging effects of anything we do, before we've actually damaged something?

Yes to all of the above, but it must be an automatic Yes: a Yes of the spirit. The comprehensive attention, awareness, and understanding that inform the Yes of good design must be intrinsic to the designer's thoughts and methods.

Schools are often training rather than educating students--in an atmosphere that encourages obedience to convention rather than innovation. This is unfortunate because some very imaginative work is required if the present pattern of destruction triggered by insensitive design is to be remedied. Most knowledge is best learned from experience. Unlike book learning, experience tends to "stay on your desktop" so to speak. All good teachers welcome promising ideas, even if they don't agree with their own.

Thinking Inclusively is the goal of good Design teaching. Experience-based teaching creates a comprehensive, utterly real, experience-based way of regarding everything. It enlightens the "me".

People are often reluctant to have environmental design because they believe it costs more. However, experiences prove different. Concern reaching beyond market success can often improve profits as well as solve problems. (And help your image.)

Workers and consumers must be an integral part of the design process. An ecological designer has to keep in mind that new materials or unusual uses of materials can lead to new problems or even new categories of problems.

Developing the knowledges required can be a time-eating and expensive process--more than one person is able to handle. This is a good reason to develop multiportfolioed design teams (remembering that the best work comes from small, project-oriented teams). This is a good reason for cooperation with other experimenters with similar interests. A knowledge pool can raise industry standards without inflicting economic ruin on individual players.

The desired knowhow can also be hurried into place by vigorous prototyping. Making your own prototypes, or at least being in the shop with the fabricators and testing crew, is the fastest way to learn what you need to know about materials and processes. Actually living with the results is a stern teacher. Recent studies have shown that companies moving quickly to prototypes outperform companies that design principally by means of computer simulations.

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