The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention

The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention

The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention

The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention

Synopsis

The environmental movement has often been accused of being overly negative--trying to stop "progress." The Nature of Design, on the other hand, is about starting things, specifically an ecological design revolution that changes how we provide food, shelter, energy, materials, and livelihood, and how we deal with waste. Ecological design is an emerging field that aims to recalibrate what humans do in the world according to how the world works as a biophysical system. Design in this sense is a large concept having to do as much with politics and ethics as with buildings and technology. The book begins by describing the scope of design, comparing it to the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Subsequent chapters describe barriers to a design revolution inherent in our misuse of language, the clockspeed of technological society, and shortsighted politics. Orr goes on to describe the critical role educational institutions might play in fostering design intelligence and what he calls "a higher order of heroism." Appropriately, the book ends on themes of charity, wilderness, and the rights of children. Astute yet broadly appealing, The Nature of Design combines theory, practicality, and a call to action.

Excerpt

Environmentalists are often regarded as people wanting to stop one thing or another, and there are surely lots of things that ought to be stopped. The essays in this book, however, have to do with beginnings. How, for example, do we advance a long-delayed solar revolution? Or begin one in forest management? Or materials use? How do we reimagine and remake the human presence on earth in ways that work over the long haul? Such questions are the heart of what theologian Thomas Berry (1999) calls “the Great Work” of our age. This endeavor is nothing less than the effort to harmonize the human enterprise with how the world works as a physical system and how it ought to work as a moral system. In the past two centuries the human footprint on earth has multiplied many times over. Our science and technology are powerful beyond anything imagined by the confident founders of the modern world. But our sense of proportion and depth of purpose have not kept pace with our merely technical abilities.

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