Bill Mollison:”Grow your own food”

London: Short of starting a farm, what can we do to make our cities more sustainable?


Mollison: Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, “Oh, a few minutes every week.” By the time you have taken your car and driven to the supermarket, taken your foraging-trolley and collected your wild greens, and driven back home again, you’ve spent a good hour or two — plus you’ve spent a lot of money.



Vandana Shiva:”United States patent system is somewhat perverted”

Q: You describe a dramatic case in which some American researchers traveled to India and basically co-opted time-honored and widely known folk-remedies for purely commercial purposes.


Shiva: Absolutely. I have called this phenomenon of stealing common knowledge and indigenous science “biopiracy” and “intellectual piracy.” According to patent systems we shouldn’t be able to patent what exists as “prior art.” But the United States patent system is somewhat perverted. First of all, it does not treat the prior art of other societies as “prior art.” Therefore anyone from the United States can travel to another country, find out about the use of a medicinal plant, or find a seed that farmers use, come back here, claim it as an invention or an innovation, take a patent on it, and grab an exclusive right to the use of the products or processes that are linked to that knowledge.


Wangari Maathai :”if we all do the little we can, collectively we can make a difference

Q: Sometimes people look out at the world or they hear these scary stories about global warming and climate change and it feels so overwhelming, and often times it can make somebody just feel helpless to do anything about it. What can people do to get involved? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a part of the change, but just doesn’t know how they can make a difference?


WM: Well, if we had a lot of time I would give you a story of a hummingbird – I usually give the story of the hummingbird and say that this hummingbird – well, I can’t tell you it all but if you google it you might get that story because I have told it so many times it is now in the Google [note: here is the link]. But it is essentially the story of a hummingbird that refuses to join the rest of the animals when a forest is burning and instead decides to go and bring water from the river, with its little beak, takes a drop of water every time and brings it and puts it on the fire. But the fire is so huge. But the moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter how small the action is, if we all do the little we can, collectively we can make a difference. 

And there are very many little things that we all can do. For example, I learned in America a long time ago, the three R’s, the principle of three R’s – reuse, reduce, recycle. And as I say those words, there are so many things individually we can do to reduce – we don’t need to consume as much as we are consuming. Reduce. And by reusing, we can reuse a lot of things we just throw into the dumpsite. And reduce the production. The more we reuse, the more we can reduce. And in Kenya, one of the ways in which we do that is to promote the use of reusable bags instead of using plastic which is then thrown into the environment, especially the very thin plastic. The other thing that I learned from Japan was that you can also try not to waste, especially people who live in very highly industrialized worlds – they are so wasteful. And we waste because there is plenty. 

And this concept in Japan, by the way, is called “Mottainai” and it is a concept that is based in Buddhism and it used to encourage Japanese before they became so rich – it used to encourage them to be grateful about what they get from their resource, from their world, from their environment – to not waste resources, and to be grateful. And also to be respectful. Respect, be grateful, do not waste. And I was told as the Japanese children would eat rice, even if they left one grain on their plate they would be told by their parents, “Oh, what a mottainai! You finish your food!” And it’s only one grain of rice. So, there is so much wasted of resources where we have a lot of it. 

And let me give you a story – recently I was in the Congo, and I was visiting a very commendable milling factory in the middle of the Congo forest. And that factory is supposed to be harvesting trees sustainably. That is why I had gone to visit them. And they did demonstrate to me how they take these huge, 200 year-old trees, and they actually mark the tree that they are going to harvest. And I was very impressed. But – eventually when we go to the factory, I asked them, “How much of this tree do you use?” And they told me only 35% – the rest is wasted! The rest is put on fire because they have nothing to do with it – they say they don’t know what to do with it, so they allow people to come and burn it into charcoal – literally burning it, reducing it into ashes. That’s waste. So when we say, please do not waste. Be respectful. And be grateful. You know, when I looked at that tree and realized that only 35% will be used, I just thought to myself – what a mottainai! Wasting 65% of a tree that is 200 years old. Honest. 

So there is a lot that we individually can do. In our homes, when we go shopping, as we travel, there is so much we can do. And even though we think that that particular action at an individual level may be very small, just imagine if it is repeated several million times. It will make a difference. So that hummingbird’s actions may look very small, but it is very powerful if it is repeated many million times.

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Dieter Ram: We have to move away from the throwaway habit

Q: How has design changed in the last 50 years?


image source : internet

Dieter Rams: What I am especially bothered by today is that, particularly in the media, design is being used as a ‘lifestyle asset.’ I’m bothered by the arbitrariness and the thoughtlessness with which many things are produced and brought to the market. There are so many unnecessary things we produce, not only in the sector of consumer goods, but also in architecture, in advertising. We have too many unnecessary things everywhere. And I would even go as far as to describe this as inhumane. That is the situation today. But actually, it has always been a problem.

We need to deal with our resources differently, in terms of how we waste things. We have to move away from the throwaway habit. Things can, and must, last longer. They must be designed so that they can be reused. We need to take more care of our environment. That means not only our personal environment but also our cities and our resources. That is the future of design, to take more care of these basic elements. Otherwise I’m not sure what the future of our planet will be. So designers have to take on that responsibility, and to do so we need more support from government. We need political support to solve the problems with our environment and how we should shape our cities. As designers, we shouldn’t be doing this for ourselves, but for our community. And the community needs support, not only to interact with each other democratically, but it also needs support to live democratically.

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