The World is Smaller, Design is...

“Living, Designing, Learning in a Sustainable World”
Summer 2007 Issue of IDSA's Journal - Innovation

JohnPaul Kusz, IDSA
Doris Wells‐Papanek, MEd 

Since our emergence on the planet, we have been consuming its bounty to meet our needs and wants. This behavior has affected Earth’s evolution and well-being. In the distant past, the effects were synergistic or mitigated by the planet’s absorption and corrective systems, which kept the planet in balance, sustaining it, and us, for millennia.

The Industrial Revolution, and its associated increases in productivity and population, changed that balance. By the middle of the 21st century, our numbers will exceed nine billion people, each with a footprint that is likely to grow larger as a result of increasing consumption, due, in part, to the proliferation of our designed reality.

Today, more than ever, where we live, how we live and how we learn about and from each other are affected by design. As Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

But it’s more than our buildings that we design; it’s our products, our places and our experiences. These form an eco-industrial framework that defines and shapes us. Buckminster Fuller said, 

“Whether humanity is to continue and comprehensively prosper on Spaceship Earth depends entirely on the integrity of the human individuals.”

Since Fuller spoke these words, we have come to further appreciate the power of design to affect Spaceship Earth and its inhabitants.