DOORS OF PERCEPTION PORTFOLIO

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Below you will find short descriptions of the main projects we have produced since 2000. We also publish Doors of Perception Report, a free monthly email newsletter here.
Four Days Halifax (week of sustainability events, Halifax Nova Scotia, 2009)

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Four Days Halifax (week of sustainability events, Halifax Nova Scotia, 2009)

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Doors of Perception helped to organize Four Days Halifax – a time-compressed mini-festival whose aim was to help the city get its hands muddy in a green economy
Our starting point in Four Days was that many elements of a resilient Halifax already exist in embryonic form – but not all of them are visible in their own backyard. The most important preparation work was to identify these local assets: people, mainly, but also projects and places.
Peter Wuensch and Rachel Derrah from Breakhouse, a Halifax a design firm that’s headed strongly into social innovation, and Joanne Macrae and Sera Thompson from The Hub Halifax, duly rounded up some inspiring people and projects.
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2012 Imperative Teach-In (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2009)

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Designers have an important role to play as enablers of the a transition to a sustainable system. As a society, we have the capacity to create systems that will allow us to live within the limits of the earth’s ecosystem. But the necessary changes are not being made – or not fast enough. How might we help design education focus more urgently on the transition to sustainable One Planet Living? Jody Bohnert conceived and produced 2012 Imperative Teach-In as “a massive social learning project” – based on the example of a similar teach-in, held in 2007 at the New York Academy of Science, that reached a quarter of a million people from 47 countries. The idea was to embed ecological literacy in design education by 2012 – to help students, faculty and staff re-frame design in the context of resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. Doors of Perception contributed a speaker and promotional support to the event.

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Do we need any more things?

Well, it’s a question. All objects use resources, and have consequences. It’s one of the topics i touched on during my lecture at the LIFT conference in Marseille last week.

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Urban farming: the new dot com?

In September a new event called Agriculture 2.0 will introduce a select group of alternative agriculture entrepreneurs to investors. SPIN-Farming LLC, together with NewSeed Advisors will co-host Agriculture 2.0 in New York.
Roxanne Christensen, co-author of the SPIN-Farming online learning series, says a wave of innovators is developing profitable models for sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture. These new entrepreneurs are developing breakthrough technologies, approaches and business models that, she says, “can help create a post-industrial food system that is less resource intensive, more locally-based, and easier to monitor and control”.
When I first wrote about SPIN-Farming here last July, I was intrigued by the idea of a franchise-ready sustainable farming system that could be deployed quickly and on a wide scale. (That is the concept behind SPIN Farming; it stands for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive).

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Dodo and chips

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Before my recent visit to Helsinki, I was told by one of its members, Päivi Raivio, that I needed to know about an environmental organisation there called Dodo. And so it transpired that I was taken in conditions of some secrecy to this guerilla potato planting event. Given the generous volume of soil the team had amassed, Helsinki’s eco-warriors will soon be enjoying a bumper crop.

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Hackers help government to open up

Paul Jongsma draws my attention to an intriguing event on 13 June called HackdeOverheid (Hack the government). HackdeOverheid will focus on building prototypes or web platforms that demonstrate in practise how government services can be improved when they are based on open-ness. The idea is to harness the passion of eager developers, who already know what’s possible on the web, to the cause of open government. This event follows on from another recent workshop called Ambtenaren 2.0 (Civil Servants 2.0) which explored the the basic principles of open data with civil servants. Paul Jongsma knows as much about this stuff as anyone I know, bar none, so it should be a good event.
if you can’t go to the Dutch event but are interested in this (large) subject check out, too:
Mydex
Open Rights Group (ORG)
Rewired State
Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore

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In transition

Fui So means “ability to rejuvenate” in Mandarin. I learned this from Wong Lai-yin, a Chinese participant in last week’s Transition Towns event in London.
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Transition initiatives and groups are multiplying at extraordinary speed: 170 communities have been officially designated Transition Towns (or cities, districts, villages – and even a forest); and a further 600 communities are “mulling it over” as they consider the possibility of kicking off their own Transition Initiative.
The atmosphere in London was remarkable. A powerful positive energy suffused the 400 focused participants. But the mood was practical and collaborative, not at all apocalyptic.
The transition model (I’m quoting their site) “emboldens communities to look peak oil and climate change squarely in the eye”. These were 400 no-longer-scared people getting on with preparations for what is to come.
Transition events address the question: “for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how are we going to rebuild resilience in response to peak oil, and drastically reduce carbon emissions in response to climate change?”
The core activity of a Transition Town is Energy Descent Action Planning (EDAP). Rob Hopkins , who developed the process and founded the movement, describes the capacity of a community to embark on an EDAP as “resilience.”
As a word, resilience (or “Fui So”) is powerfully more positive and motivating than “sustainability”.
Many of the sessions were run on open space lines: anyone could suggest a topic and lead a discussion – and anyone else was free to join in, or not, as they wished.
The Transition WIKI opens with the statement, “Here’s how it all appears to be evolving…”. That statement helps explain why the movement is growing so fast: The founders don’t know what each group is doing, and they don’t need to. The whole thing has been designed to be emergent and scalable.
The fact that this was a middle class and mostly white group of people worried several people in the crowd. There were calls for more diversity and inclusivity.

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One mound at a time

I’ve been on the road most of this month talking and meeting and transitioning (see above) like mad – but not actually dong anything practical. So yesterday I spent the day up in the mountains helping to construct a bio-intensive, multi-layered planting bed under the instruction of a noted agro-ecologist called Robert Morez.
The technique involves layering all sorts of bio-material to create a mound that will supply nutrients to plants, and retain water effectively, for three to four years. The mound is a synthesis of Robert’s scientific work over decades combined with his practical experience working in Burkina-Faso, Togo, Benin, Maroc and Tunisia.
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