PHILOSOPHY

Design Philosophy or THE ENVIRONMENT

The environment: ecosystems, flora and fauna. It can also mean: political, economic, social, technical, tribal and global environments.

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The Environment, the common thought that springs to mind are the popular images and emotional responses to fluffy animals, odd creatures and the unique flora and fauna of ecosystems relatively untouched by human intervention.

This natural history is often accompanied by the dialogue of an ecosystem in decline, distress and failure during the greatest extinction on earth since the dinosaurs. A decline, distress and failure because of the negative effects of human cohabitation of the world, particularly since the industrial revolution, and now …Space! While this interpretation of the word ‘Environment’ is the most popular interpretation, it is not the only one.

The environment can mean ecosystems and their flora and fauna It can also mean, or be associated with, the following: political, economic, social, technical, tribal and global environments. These previous factors being concomitant drivers to the natural environment’s seemingly catastrophic decline through loss of natural habitats, species extinction and pollution. Thus potentially impacting the long-term welfare and wellbeing of human beings, animals, insects and plants.

“Space the Final Frontier” or so the makers of one of the longest-running science fiction television shows “Star Trek” would have us believe.

While the show is progressive in that it hosted the first African American woman, Nichelle Nichols, in a major role as a communications officer on the Star Ship Enterprise, other than a servent …the coming together of nations and genders from across the earth for space exploration, albeit Science Fiction.

George Hosato Takei – playing Hikaru Sulu ‘Sulu’, an American born from Japanese parents, controversial since it was not long after world war two where, 20 odd years earlier, the US military nuked, Japan’s, Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“Scotty”, James Montgomery Doohan (Canadian), playing Scottish actor Montgomery Scott whose most often said line is, “She cannot take it anymore!”

Finally, there is Leonard Nimoy a.k.a. Doctor Spok, an alien from a fallen civilisation seeking a home and a kinship with humans. If there were a single line that describes Doctor Spok it would be “The needs of the many outweigh the desires of the few!”

I almost forgot, the charismatic and enigmatic Captain James T. (Tiberius) Kirk, William Shatner, with his penchant for alien women and looking serious! His hobbies being: ” beamed up” and running around with a gun that fires an electrical impulse that could be set to stun or maximum. Yet this is the stuff of dreams… if we did not dream, therefore, there could not be a reality!

Star Wars is much more believable! It is said there are only six storylines in cinematography and fiction, all stories are a variation of these. Star Wars being no exception. Good versus evil, a son trying to prove himself to his father, boy gets girl, comedy, intrigue and drama as well as a good deal of technology and you’ve got yourself a Sci-Fi Movie. All you need now is to patent the action figures and accompanying paraphernalia and you have a highly successful business in toy making. This is not the Star Wars I mean.

The connection of Star Trek and Star Wars to the environment and the environment of space is pollution. Pollution in the form of radio wave noise. Astronomers are most familiar with this phenomenon from sunspot activity affecting radio wave noise levels in telescopes on earth and in space. Star Trek and Star Wars, in space, is amongst the space junk of radio waves being transmitted across the universe and the far off reaches of space since the invention of the radio. Since radio waves travel faster than space crafts it is highly possible that the first encounter with humans, for aliens, is going to be in the form of radio and images beamed long ago.

Should anything be listening out there it is possible they like Star Trek and Star Wars, perhaps, finding our technology amusing! Perhaps they are hungry… hungry for more TV shows like Star Trek or Star Wars. One can only speculate!

If there are aliens listening to our radio waves the most often repeated phrase they would hear coming from earth would be “Coke is it!” The essential ingredient in Coca-Cola is water, without water there would not be a drink. Fine, there are other flavourings including a minuscule portion of flavouring from the Coca Plant, hence the name Coca-Cola and Coke. This small portion is acquired under special license and processing restrictions sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration from the USA, and it is patented, so you can look it up at a Patent Office! The Coca-Cola Amital Company, the biggest drink company in the world, makes its living out of what is essentially water. Just as a side note, if you go to an Australian convenience store that sells petrol (gas) (benzine) and water, you will find the water is more expensive than the petrol per litre! I seem to be digressing from the environment and the environment of space to soft drink prices, so I’ll pull myself back to the topic.

I’ve been looking at space and the mechanisms by which we know space and it is felt the one stark difference between earth and any other planet that we know of is… We have a large amount of water in its natural state! In fact, we have so much water in its natural state that two-thirds of the earth is covered by it! We have so much water that if the predictions of global warming are right, we’re going to have a problem with too much water!

If you make the assertions that the universe is ever-expanding at an increasing rate then, from what we know of our local space environment, water in space is rarer than diamonds on earth yet here on earth we dump raw sewage, plastics and noxious chemicals in it like it is an infinite resource when some peoples struggle to find sanitary water.

On the other hand, diamonds are not nearly as rare as you might think. Cartels control the supply of diamonds, hence keeping the price of diamonds buoyant. Most diamonds, these days, are found on the sea bed floor, trawled up by ships analysing the luminosity of random pebbles, looking for how they glow under ultraviolet light. Diamonds are quite useless other than for the heads of drilling equipment for oil rigs and drilling installations.

There is the aspect of opulence, pride and wealth associated with the fashion status diamonds have held for a long time. Were people to widely find out about blood diamonds, the dangerous and slave-like conditions children endure to satisfy, perhaps your desire for e.g., a diamond engagement ring. The diamond industry might suffer the same fate the fur industry suffered when it became public knowledge of species extinction and cruelty to animals in the name of fashion.

Another use for diamonds is the lenses of spacecraft video and photography cameras. These lenses are manufactured diamonds that still have a hardness of 8, equivalent to a ruby (the second hardest thing known to mankind). A natural diamond having a hardness of 10, forged by carbon being compounded by the unreplicable forces of nature, the hardest thing known on earth.

Space, contrary to popular opinion and song, is very hot! The manufactured lenses survive the rigours of extreme heats and random space debris. Perhaps diamonds are useful in this way, as vehicles for the common people to see the beauty of space through photography and film. Pictures of one world, a world without borders and vast oceans!

Yet again I have digressed! “Star Wars”- was a US Space/Military installation on the radar by the then US President, Ronald Reagan, supported. A team of weapons designers; engineers, scientist and cosmologist (Carl Sagan), dreamed up a defensive weapons system in space. The system was being designed to be able to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles as they travelled through the earth’s stratosphere on their way to their target, the USA.

The defensive missiles were nuclear, and while I don’t know much about physics I do know “what goes up must come down.” Now the concept of gravity (Newton’s law of universal gravitation) is not very new, Isaac Newton (1680s), but I would hazard a guess that a nuclear explosion in the earth’s stratosphere would find radio-active particles coming down all across the earth at increasing speed. As this attack was predicted to not be an isolated incident, it was presumed there would be a full-scale attack, of which multiple nuclear weapons would have their radioactive debris fall to earth or the enemy’s missiles would hit their target and thus release the power of nuclear bombs.

To put this into context this was at a time of the height of the ‘Arms Race’, a time when US President, Ronald Reagan, publicly said “Let’s nuke those Russians!” and Russia responded by going to the top level of high alert! a.k.a. a button push away from a full-scale nuclear war where only rats and cockroaches are predicted to survive!

It is said the Russian soldier that had the job of pushing the button hesitated, possibly thinking of the humanity of his next action. He was then told to stand down while Russia remained on high alert, considering a pre-emptive strike.

Ezio Manzini commented (I am not sure who he was quoting) “…if there were to be a full-scale nuclear war the next war would be fought with rocks and clubs.”

Things being what they are, once at the peak of the arms race there is only one way, down. Global nuclear disarmament negotiations are headed towards real nuclear disarmament now, nearly 40 years later. An Australian initiative! Not just the semantic argument of a slow down in the increase of nuclear weapons.

Since 1944 humans have been reaching for the stars through ventures into space. Fédération Aéronautique Internationale stipulates that for spaceflight to qualify for going into space the craft needs to reach an altitude of 100 km. From ‘Sputnik 1’ to ‘Space X’ there has been a multitude of different types and reasons, now including tourism, as well as numbers of spacecraft to exit our atmosphere, from just about every country in the world.

The problem now is that much of it is still there. Orbiting the earth at enormous speed, crashing into existing space crafts, plummeting back to earth while burning up and… making it hard for other crafts to avoid the space junk on exit or entry.

In roughly 80 years we have polluted space with so much space junk that the reasons for going into space are now being hampered by the result of going into space. Like falling on your sword the greatest technicians, scientists and engineers in the world didn’t see that one coming. Sadly like for Laika (Soviet Hero and Space Dog, 1954 – 3 November 1957) there was no plan to bring it back!

If in 80 years, as a species, we have polluted space to the aforementioned extent, then what of the earth since the industrial revolution and before. Industrial revolution starting in 1760. The industrial revolution being a benchmark for environmental decline. Decline noted by the centralization of human populations, cities, due to the demand for factories (manufacturing) and mining. Taking the agrarian culture into specialised occupations symbiotically.

Coincidently the first recent species extinction, 1662, was the Dodo bird. A large flightless bird native to the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. European sailors taking a liking to its meat and eggs, breaking the natural cycle of young birds turning into birds that could lay, by virtue of being eggs. The mature birds being killed for their meat and not being able to reproduce. The Dodo, being squeezed at both ends of the life cycle became extinct within 64 years.

At this point, it is interesting to note that with nearly every extinct civilisation before the industrial revolution, a desert appears. With the exception of the Incas, Aztecs and the Gobi desert.

Civilisation being taken to mean a centralised community of highly interdependent people. Desert not being taken to mean a completely barren wasteland with no people, fauna or flora. A desert meaning an active environment containing limited people, fauna, flora and resources like water.

The exceptions, Incas and Aztecs, exist in a high rainfall area. The wilderness, with Amazon type conditions, could possibly quickly grow back and mask a once baron land over 500 years.

The Roman civilisation, also being a high rainfall area still has limited flora and fauna, with the exception of pigeons, but many people due to the availability of water.

Ancient Greece, Athens, is much the same situation as Rome.

Going back, Egypt and areas of the locations of the pyramids. A dry baron desert with the Sahara desert not far away. The Sahara desert has recently been identified as a thriving tropical rainforest. This rainforest, during the period of the civilisation pertaining to the ancient Egyptians, is thought to be the source area for the procurement of the resources to build the pyramids. Since the stone to build the pyramids is sourced from northwest Africa, it is reasonable to conclude these resources were used to build the pyramids and sustain the culture. The other option is that telekinesis was used to lift the rocks across the Sahara and place them on the pyramids, instead of paid slaves with masonry and engineering skills. The occurrence of small rounded ceramic ovular disks strewn across the local landscape possibly suggesting a currency for trade and the payment of slaves.

The Sumerians, 5,500 years ago. Also a desert landscape.

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Fauna Extinction
Flora Extinction
Human Population Growth

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Carl Sagan is credited with sending the first physical images into space. The Pioneer F Plaque, an image of some symbols, along with drawings of a man and woman. Not being an alien but always keen to learn a new language. I’d say if this was a message from aliens to earth this could mean, assuming they were like us, greetings (the man waving), there’s a couple of white guys on earth (man and woman), there are no clothes on earth (man and women are naked), come and get some dinner (I’ve provided you with a plate)… here are some instructions on how to get here (solar system drawing depicting earth’s location). It is curious to consider that most to nearly all projections of what aliens might be like, from the perspective of a human, are of aliens lacking a sense of humour!

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Pioneer F-Plaque

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You could draw a parallel between the Pioneer F-Plaque, Star Trek, Star Wars and the ‘Coke is It’ mantra. They’re all instruments of marketing! The Pioneer F Plaque, advertising earth and humans, the height of civilisation on earth. Star Trek and StarWars, vehicles attracting ratings to justify the cost of advertising revenue …and Coca-Cola advertising flavoured water at exorbitant prices. “The medium is the message” and so if you disagree I would posit we are just arguing about delivery systems for advertising and the motivation behind the advertisement.

The marketing mantra “Sell the Sizzle, not the Sausage!” In the Kachung language, it translates to “This is what you want! This is what you get!” …the conceptualized thought surrounding an object, or service, is greater than the sum of the parts of the object or service. Hence the concept of supply and demand, manipulating the price of an object, or service, by notions of ubiquity and rarety. This, with the marketing strategy of spin to product positioning; the look, feel and status associated with purchasing choice. Is it really a choice or are we confounded by different variations of much the same thing?

In the case of an unofficial chat with the owner of a large small-goods factory in Australia, just in case you don’t know, small goods and small goods are two different things.

The mainline of this small-goods factory is bacon! There were two basic types of bacon, smoked and double smoked. There are four or five distribution channels and for each of which there are around 8 to 17 different product variations of the same thing, smoked or double-smoked bacon. The only differentiating factors between one product and another is the cut of the bacon and the packaging.

I’m not sure but you can check the variation in prices between one packet of bacon and another at any bacon outlet. You will understand that choice means you are really only just paying for the difference in packaging as one pig is the same as another. It’s the packaging, carefully designed to seduce you so marketers can open your wallet and get out your cash, so to speak. The same packaging which you throw away and generally can’t be recycled, in Australia, the same rubbish we export to China now. If you have eaten bacon in Australia, then chances are you have eaten bacon from this factory.

A more recent study, although very loosely, was looking into buying a personal computer. Choice in the absence of real choice was the problem. The only real difference between one computer and another was memory, ram and aesthetics, besides the operating systems of Microsoft, Apple and Linux. Yet the greatest variation was in the aesthetics.

A plethora of finishes, as well as surface details and yet very little difference in performance features. Price, was a feature too, from A$298 to A$2,549. So much attention to surface details and aesthetics, when the product ultimately gets to the end of its useful life after three to five years. This coupled with a comparatively insignificant choice in the function of a computer, to compute. I don’t know? Maybe it’s a man thing! Another example of this phenomena is the ‘Light Bulb”.

The light bulb, Thomas Edison invented one of the first practical light bulbs. The first mass producer of the light bulb went out of business because their light bulbs never broke. Thus fulfilling consumer demand by creating endless light, nobody ever bought a light bulb, they bought light. The light bulbs still work to this day, though now superseded by newer technology. Why would you need to buy seemingly endless light bulbs when you can get ones that don’t break unless you drop them or have an accident with one. Thus creating rubbish designed to fail and end up in landfills or complex recycling depots, like the fate of computers.

As a side issue, what is the human cost to this behaviour? When hoards of people are devoted to labour, procuring resources and designing systems to achieve one thing, something that breaks. These peoples lifes, resources and creativity could be diverted to more meaningful pursuits like technology to aid the environment. Instead, they’re being fritted away in a vain attempt to break the cycle to which workers, consumers and marketers/designers have bought into.

What stood out the most, from this part of Ezio’s dialogue, was the connection between the natural environment and the decline of that natural environment. The environmental impact in the context to engineers, architects, scientists, industrial designers, social designers, furniture makers. This environmental impact in the context of the political, industrial and military complex. This environmental impact anybody has made in the creation, co-authoring of anything that is a product of their craft/industry/profession. Anyone that has been a consumer, with its flow-on effects to environmental impact. Just about everybody except rare, isolated nomads in Africa, forest dwellers in the Amazon and New Guinea highlanders. This is anybody that has been in contact with civilisation as we know it. This environmental impact, of the aforementioned, in the context of responsibility!

Responsibility is a matter of qualistic interpretation, i.e., Qualistic – (ITALIAN/ENGLISH) the personal attributes to the individual’s concept of quality.

Responsibility for the environment’s decline could be interpreted as; something we are all responsible for, some people are more responsible for than others, someone/people are clearly to blame. I would best guess we should be looking for a solution rather than a perpetrator. In some sense, we’re all perpetrators, even if you are doing absolutely nothing you are not contributing to the long-term solution.

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Use less, recycle more, buy things that last, buy of your time and culture, educate.

Think globally, act locally and act in your best interest to change.

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