Discover more from Creative Destruction
Rabbit Holes 🕳 #11
From the earliest circular economy to trauma-informed placemaking, the dark matter of the plant kingdom and designing for the last earth
Wow! Last week’s issue added quite a lot of new people to the subscriber list. Welcome y’all!!! 🤗
Just to clarify, I switch between longer deep dives, like last week’s Pleasure Activism, and a shorter format in which I highlight five perspective-shifting ideas or stories I came across lately. I call that one Rabbit Holes. So here we go!
Rabbit Holes 🕳
👘 Japan’s Edo Period: The Earliest Circular Economy
Sometimes we just need to go back in time to find the blueprint we need to build a better future. A super important core element here is the idea of allowing the ‘natural’ world to dictate life, thereby giving rise to a deep sensitivity to the seasons and to the interplay between nature and society overall.
“A the start of the 1600s, Japan’s rulers feared that Christianity […] would spread. In response, they effectively sealed the islands off from the outside world in 1603, with Japanese people not allowed to leave and very few foreigners allowed in. This became known as Japan’s Edo period. […]
It also meant that Japanese people, living under a system of heavy trade restrictions, had to rely totally on the materials already present within the country which created a thriving economy of reuse and recycling. In fact, Japan was self-sufficient in resources, energy and food and sustained a population of up to 30 million, all without the use of fossil fuels or chemical fertilisers.
The people of the Edo period lived according to what is now known as the “slow life”, a sustainable set of lifestyle practices based around wasting as little as possible. Even light didn’t go to waste – daily activities started at sunrise and ended at sunset.
Clothes were mended and reused many times until they ended up as tattered rags. Human ashes and excrement were reused as fertiliser, leading to a thriving business for traders who went door to door collecting these precious substances to sell on to farmers. We could call this an early circular economy. […]
Allowing the natural world to dictate life […] gave rise to a sensitivity to the seasons and their abundant natural riches, helping to develop an environmentally friendly set of cultural values. […]
In an age when the need for more sustainable lifestyles has become a global issue, we should respect the wisdom of the Edo people who lived with time as it changed with the seasons, who cherished materials and used the wisdom of reuse as a matter of course, and who realised a recycling-oriented lifestyle for many years. Learning from their way of life could provide us with effective guidelines for the future.”
(This is so interesting that you can expect a follow-up deep dive coming soon!)
❤️🩹 Trauma-Informed Placemaking
The world needs regeneration! Not only with regard to nature (e.g. rewilding, soil regeneration etc.) but also with regard to people and societies. Healing trauma is regenerating societal well-being.
“[Trauma is] an experience that shatters an individual’s sense of safety, order, justice, predictability and connection in the world. Traumatic experiences can trigger long-lasting mental and physiological effects, which can be mitigated — or made worse — by one’s surroundings. […]
So it’s unsurprising that trauma — both individual and collective — is starting to become more of a consideration for urban designers, planners and policy makers looking to create public spaces that allow for healing.
[…] Trauma researchers and psychologists are already building consensus around some of the most important elements in establishing a sense of trust and safety in one’s environment. Being in a supportive community, having connections with other people and the natural world, and taking opportunities to move and be safely grounded in the body all play important roles.”
🦠 Phytonutrients: The Dark Matter of the Plant Kingdom
We’re only at the very beginning of really understanding the specific benefits of plants. I mean that not only related to food, nutrition and human health, but also with regard to their overall role within an ecosystem.
“Most of us now know that we need vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates and even fiber in order to live. But what nutritional science is just beginning to understand is that while these substances are indeed our bodies' fuel, it is another entire category of sub-nutrient that may be the glue that holds everything together, and catalyzes the processes that allow us to use nutrients.”
“Phytonutrients are produced by plants to protect themselves against disease and predation, or to boost their growth. Many of these compounds have been found to have a range of positive health and wellness benefits for humans, too, with some showing anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties, among others.”
And here comes the startup Brightseed:
“Science has long known that plant bioactives are critical to human health, yet 99% remain unknown and uncharted, representing the “dark matter” of the plant kingdom. Brightseed’s A.I., Forager, is illuminating this dark compound space by discovering all of the plant bioactives in the natural world and mapping them to human health outcomes.”
“To date, Forager has mapped 1.5 million plant compounds, more than 10x than what was previously known.”
🎨 Designing For The Last Earth
As we continue to enter what some call peak or late stage capitalism, we’ll see more and more domains that have been heavily influenced and corrupted by capitalism strive to become ‘free’ again.
“In our efforts to get business to take us [design] seriously, we have distorted the true value of design, which is what makes it unique in the first place. The true value of design, however, was never to find a single solution to a problem. But to understand, and explore.
When we started seeing things clinically through the business lens, we basically started producing as a factory. We became means to an end. We had to shut up […]. And so we assimilated. Efficiency, consistency, design thinking, risk aversion, MVP, PMF. Valuable terms, alas limit the scope of the core value of design in the first place; To understand and explore.
We need a sense of wonder. We need the re-enchantment of imagining. For a long time, we have ignored the imaginative in our profession and focused solely on logic. But, how else can we dream of what’s possible? We need stewards in design who can help people rediscover what is meaningful and step away (even if momentarily) from the clinical lens of business logic by which design has merely become a business tool (read: design thinking). As human beings, we can’t understand nor explore when acting purely on logic. Imagination is critical.
In order to gain a meaningful re-enchantment, Design needs to embrace and capture the folkloric aspect of community as a learning approach. […] What I call Design Folklore is a communal and co-created future […]. Design folklore is the part that makes up our lived experiences working as designers. It is informal, unofficial, and often purely spoken discourse. […] It is through storytelling and informal communication that the story of design changes in locales, languages, and cultures while keeping shared traits in each and every version.
This meaningful re-enchantment of our profession would assist us in breaking free from worldviews that have reduced design to being so procedural and tactical.”
🎭 Human Creativity Got Reduced To ‘Content Creation’
By calling art ‘content’, art is given a very specific purpose: to serve the algorithms and the businesses that aim to seek and hold consumers’ attention. Art is reduced to a tool that captures attention.
The video below is quite interesting and entertaining, but I actually wanna highlight the comment section even more. So first some mind-bending comments and then the video:
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading!