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Observers Room: John Thackara

MONTHLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER: DECEMBER 2010 - JANUARY 2011


Hello! This is my second email newsletter from Design Observer. As I explained last time, this document replaces the Doors of Perception Report that accompanied my blog at doorsofperception.com. From here on, you can follow me by visiting my blogsubscribing to my RSS feed, or by following me on Twitter @johnthackara. (Or you can unsubscribe.) During 2011, Doors of Perception will focus on new projects whose details will be announced there shortly. Meanwhile if anyone you know is looking for a speaker — including a lo-carb online one — my 2011 brochure is now online.    — John Thackara
NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE >>


JOHN THACKARA

I am Compost

Something special is happening in France. A 73 year old Algerian-born farmer, philosopher and environmentalist is beginning to impact not just on the electoral process, but the culture of this resolutely human-centered, nature-dominating country.
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JOHN THACKARA

Spaced Out in a Flat World

Tom Friedman's book The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) is filled with anecdotes about change in different parts of the world that threaten our fat-cat lifestyles in the North.
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JOHN THACKARA

The Service Ecology of a City

Milan has approved a new Territorial Government Plan (Piano di Governo del Territorio) in which public services, and the way they are planned, are at the centre of the whole project.
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JOHN THACKARA

How the Banks Want to Make China Sick — and Broke

Is it me, or are some banking people incredibly stupid as well as being venal and sociopathic? 

A Deutschebank report about health spending in China states that “at less than five per cent of GDP, Chinese expenditure on health is distinctly lower than that of OECD countries. So it would seem a good idea to improve the health system.
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JOHN THACKARA

Afghan Culture Museum

A lifetime ago, during a six month journey in Afghanistan, I passed the spectacular site of Bamiyan, shown in this photograph, on my way into the Hindu Kush. This was long before the three enormous statues of Buddha, carved into the sides of cliffs, were destroyed by the Taliban on the grounds that they were an affront to Islam.
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JOHN THACKARA

Plan B "Best Architecture Book of the Year" in the Netherlands

Totally thrilling news has reached me from the Netherlands: my book Plan B: Ontwerpen in een Complexe Wereld (Plan B: Designing In A Complex World) has been selected by the influential magazine de Architect as their best architecture book of the year.
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JOHN THACKARA

UnBox: Where Next for Design in India?

UnBox, a three day festival in Delhi, in February, brings together creative collectives from around India. One of these groups, Clay Futures, will brainstorm scenarios to do with sustainable, medicinal, and air filtering bentonite — hence the picture above.
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JOHN THACKARA

The Unwatched Swatch?

If it is true that the world’s information base is doubling in size every 11 hours then a lot of eco-design information, that could be valuable for professionals, presumably goes un-noticed and thus unused.
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JOHN THACKARA

What Should Design Researchers Research? Report from 2020

I was invited by the Design Research Society to speak at their symposium in Birmingham, UK. Their theme: 2050 and All That.

So first I did a quick scamper through Peak Everything: peak climate, peak biodiversity, peak oil, peak food, peak water, peak credit and so on; I touched on Adbusters' notions of a Doomsday Machine Economy and True Cost Economics; and I repeated my proposition that we are all emerging economies now.
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JOHN THACKARA

Use Fewer Words — Or Less Ink?

From drinking bottled water, to a single search on Google: even the most innocuous action seems to have a dire consequence for the planet somewhere down the line.
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JOHN THACKARA

Has Venice Cracked the Bottled Water Conundrum?

Italians are the leading consumers of bottled water in the world. They drink more than 40 gallons per person annually. Among many ecocidal by-products, until recently, discarded plastic bottles littered canals all over Venice, a world heritage site.
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JOHN THACKARA

This is Not an Object

Well, I know these things “look” like objects, but that's because you have not read a new book called Nonobject about the design philosophy of Branko Lukic. Branko's collaborator on the book, Barry Katz, cites respected commentators in support of his proposition that although these images appear to depict objects, they do not.
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JOHN THACKARA

Jellyfish Farm

Scientists warn that most natural seafood could disappear by 2048. The tragedy is that fishermen, wholesalers, food processing firms, retailers, chefs and consumers, do not actively “want” to destroy the world’s fisheries. But they are prevented from seeing, and responding appropriately to, the bigger picture by the linear structure of supply and communication chains.
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JOHN THACKARA: RECENT ESSAY


The Gram Junkies

The Gram Junkies: In Transportation Design the Key Issue Is Not Speed, but Weight

In the matter of mobility and modern transportation we all need to become gram junkies.
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JOHN THACKARA: RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Animate Earth
Stephan Harding

Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, July Oskar Cole, Laura Allen, editors

Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change
Clive Hamilton

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