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From Oil Age to Soil Age: Pathways to Sustainability

On the occasion of my lecture (with the above title) at the Design Museum of Barcelona, during the Victor Papanek exhibition, I was interviewed about relational design, the potential for social and ecological transformation, and the mixed blessings of terms such as ‘future’ or ‘resilience’

Q: You define yourself as a bioregional designer. What does this mean?

JT: During my professional career, I’ve been trying to understand why all the arguments about the damage we’re doing to the planet have never stuck. What I’ve understood is that we had been having discussions in a very abstract sense about words such as ‘sustainability’, which don’t necessarily touch us in our daily lives. There’s a metabolic gap between the natural and the man-made world. Because of this split, we’ve been able to carry on being told the world is in sick condition, but not really feeling it was our responsibility. This is where the subject of a bioregion comes in. Place has a power to connect people to the reality of the situation and to provide a context for networking with people that we would otherwise disagree with. Bioregion is an alternative to all those abstract words, I use it to provoke people to ask “How can we make our place healthier, and have a better future?”.

Q: Your last book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today, looks into a future economic scenario. What is the role of design?

JT: It is diverse, but has a certain common thread: design is more about relationships between people than it is about products. The kind of practice present in all those projects is how

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