Ecological Literacy in Design Education: A Foundation for Sustainable Design


The paper ‘Ecological Literacy in Design Education: A Foundation for Sustainable Design’ has been accepted for the Design Research Society  // CUMULUS 2013 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers in May 2013. This paper is available for here for free but it will only be published and presented at the conference proceedings if I am able to find sponsors. THANK YOU to everyone who helped raise the money for this presentation! The crowdfunding campaign worked and I will present this paper in Oslo next month.

Ecological Literacy in Design Education: A Foundation for Sustainable Design

Abstract: Responsible design in an era of scarcity and risk associated with environmental problems must be ecologically informed. Ecological literacy is necessary in order to both understand the nature of environmental problems and to respond effectively by designing sustainable ways of living. Embedding ecological literacy into design education is happening at the most progressive institutions – and yet for many others, sustainability education is still virtually absent from the curriculum. Progress is slow despite the fact that natural scientists warn that risks will escalate if we do not take dramatic action. Ecological literacy is a severe challenge as it disrupts educational cultures and challenges basic assumptions about what constitutes good design. While sustainability can seem profoundly difficult, ecological learning is the basis for sustainable design and thus it is a basic imperative in design education. Design education needs to expand its scope of inquiry to include a range of disciplines in order to address complex environmental problems. This paper will present an introduction to ecological literacy for design education, describe six ecological principles including associated concepts in systems design, and explain why critical thinking is necessary to make the work of transforming structurally unsustainable systems possible.

Keywords: sustainability, philosophy, design education, knowledge, ecological literacy, epistemology, philosophy of design education, multidisciplinary design education

The paper can now be downloaded from the EcoLabs website here.

The slideshow of the presentation can be accessed here.Nature-Patterns2012M












BIG THANKS to everyone who made it happen by supporting the crowdfunding compaign. On Twitter you are: @Ian_Willey @blindspotting @hugh_knowles @karinjaschke @sDesignLabs @paul_chandlerUK @sorafferty and @jenboehnert. Some of you are not on Twitter (as far as I can tell) and you are Richard Owen Frost, Prof. Gregory Stock, Jonathan Crinion, Joel Davis, Ali Hodgson, Chris Kitchen and a few Anonymous contributors.

All Men on the Podium

I was confronted with another exclusively male panel this week. It was at the RSA (again). Unfortunately, the RSA is not alone. Ellie Mae O’Hagan wrote this week ‘on misogyny and female columnists‘ in the New Statesman. Many activists communities often replicate the same man on the podium women as supporter, organiser and helper model.  I blogged about the problem at a “Radical” Communication Festival (and received 57 comments). In my experience this problem is evident in the Transition movement. I have heard stories about it being a problem in Uk-Uncut and I am aware that women have been organising to address the problem in the Dark Mountain community. Women tell me that it bothers them but they would not like to consider themselves the kind of woman who publicly challenges these all male line ups. Why not? How did womankind slip into such passivity only a couple decades after our mothers’ demanded that they were heard and granted the rights we now enjoy. How come our historical memory is so short? Continue reading

Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom

I just posted a reply to David McCandless on his blog ‘Information is Beautiful’ on the subject of the difference between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. David made a graphic based on this heirarchy of information, and also helpfully pointed out that these ideas have been around for a while. Here is his graphic:

I responded with some thoughts and an excerpt from Robert Logan, a Canadian physicist who has just written a book called ‘What is information?’ I have not actually read it yet but intend to soon (it is not yet available). Here is an excerpt from this book that breaks down these four categories: Continue reading