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Alternative trade networks and the coffee system

Every day 1.5 billion cups of coffee are drunk somewhere in the world – quite a few of them in this house – but few of us in the North know much about the 25 million families that grow and produce this valuable bean. After reading a new book called Confronting The Coffee Crisis I […]

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Toxic sludge machine

I was critical last week of commentators who describe the financial crisis as “psychological”. Those who blame a “lack of transparency” are on stronger ground – although ignorance of the facts or the law is not a valid excuse in other domains of life. The process chart above describes something called a Financial Products Markup […]

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The big chill

Shopping for a snack in central London yesterday evening I counted an extraordinary 78 metres (256 feet) of chiller cabinets in one small central London branch of Marks and Spencer. Marks and Spencer have made a laudable commitment to make all it UK and Irish operations carbon neutral within five years. “We’ll maximise our use […]

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Could ‘green’ energy kill the desert?

(Summer re-run: first published 22 February 2009) One of the more remarkale sights on my recent trip was this vast wind farm outside Palm Springs. Located on the San Gorgonio Mountain Pass in the San Bernadino Mountains, it contains more than 4000 separate wind turbines and provides enough electricity to power Palm Springs and the […]

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Measuring what matters

Totally lost amongst the financial news last week was discussion of a new report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb). According to this EU-commissioned study, the global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis. The report puts the annual cost of forest loss at […]

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Fish systems and design

A grim new film, The End of the Line, reveals the impact of overfishing on our oceans. It exposes the extent to which global stocks of fish are dwindling; features scientists who warn we could see the end of most seafood by 2048; and includes chefs and fishers who seem indiferent to the ecocidal consequences […]

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Traditional knowledge: the dilemmas of sharing

I learn from Kris de Decker’s excellent Low Tech Magazine that an International Traditional Knowledge World Bank (ITKI)has been launched. It’s an ambitious effort to preserve, restore and promote the re-use of traditional skills and inventions from all over the world. Someone has done a lot of work to set this project up. There are […]

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Whole, whole on the range

My toughest work this year has been serving on the jury of this year’s Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Our work has been demanding because we’ve had to assess high quality entries that range from the use of social media to organize urban food systems, and transforming Chicago into a giant water treatment machine; to helping Indian […]

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What should design critics write about?

What issues should the next generation of design critics write about? Where and how should they do this writing? And, how will they get paid for doing so? This is the text of my keynote talk yesterday to Crossing The Line at the School for Visual Arts in New York. “The first question is easy. You […]

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