In this part, I present the theoretical frameworks for the research. I will elaborate on the ecological urgency of the planet; the context of ‘change makers’ and investigate the cooperative transdisciplinary circumstances between them, including a critical framework of such, the role and expectations of design, and a pedagogical context, which includes both a critical framework of ‘unlearning’ and the consequence of all of these upon design education.

In this chapter, I will elaborate on the ecological urgency, as it gives the context for design to act upon. We are living in the Anthropocene[1], facing climate change, (global) social inequality, increasing poverty, pollution, material scarcity, etc. Design as a discipline cannot be seen as separate from this context. Design is part of this ecological system. Design depends upon natural resources for materials and energy, and also depends on the people that produce the designs, for example. Design needs to re-think design systems that contribute to pollution and have a negative effect on people’s lives.

There is urgency for design to start acting positively towards ecology, because the consequences are a threat to humanity. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that consequence of “climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat – to peace and prosperity”… “these are scientific facts, not politics. … Climate change is a direct threat in itself, and a multiplier of many other threats,” (Guterres, 2017) The issue of climate change is interconnected to prosperity and peace. This consciousness of the interconnectivity is the core of ecology as described by Guattari (1989). The ecological issues are urgent and reveal a necessity to become aware that we, as designers, are part of the ecological system.

First image of the earth as seen from the moon on the cover of by LIFE MAGAZINE; The 1968 Special Issue featuring NASA

The first image of earth seen from the moon was the moment we got a visual understanding of this ecology. This image was featured on the cover of LIFE MAGAZINE; ‘The 1968 Special Issue featuring NASA’.

Buckminster Fuller connected and popularized the term “Spaceship Earth” to this image. In ‘Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth’, (Fuller, 1969) Fuller described the urgency for gaining an awareness of being part of the ecological system that we depend upon, as “Astronauts” aboard “Spaceship Earth”. He described it as “paradoxical but strategically explicable, that we have been misusing, abusing, and polluting this extraordinary chemical energy-interchanging system for successfully regenerating all life aboard our planetary spaceship.” (Fuller, 1969, p.15) Fuller said that since we were not given an ‘Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth’ “we are forced to use our intellectual capabilities.” (Fuller, 1969, p.16).

The ecological issues are urgent and need to be addressed. In order to be able to do this design has to be aware to be a part of the ecological systems. Design needs to start acting positive towards ecology. Design needs to start cooperating with others. These others could be regarded as change makers. I will elaborate on this in the next chapter.

[1] Anthropcene: scientist Paul Crutzen first suggested we were living in the “Anthropocene,” a new geological epoch in which humans had altered the planet. An area of human dominance of biological, chemical and geological processes on Earth. (http://e360.yale.edu/features/living_in_the_anthropocene_toward_a_new_global_ethos, accessed April 2017)