Recorded Talks

Watch a selection of my recorded Talks and/or Conversations here,
or go to my

This talk is about design ethics in an economy whose purpose is caring for life rather than extraction and production. I compare Earth Care to modern medical care and ask, could an ethics of care for humans apply to all-of-life design? I find inspiration in the world of nursing education.

From Control, to Kinship: Ecological Restoration in a More Than Human World

Ecological restoration is the new development paradigm. Technology can help us discover a sense of shared aliveness in more-than-human lifeworlds. Ecological restoration involves multiple practices: Science, Art, Social Innovation, and Design. AI, as a medium of experience and learning, can that enable these practices to interact. The true potential of AI is to help us reconnect with the living, and the real.

Rural Design in an Ecological Civilization

How can design contribute to the ecological development of rural villages in China, and more broadly? This short keynote by John Thackara covers: the recent history of design in a rural context; a recent exhibit of Urban-Rural opportunities; the skills designers need to make a contribution; the outline of an ecological literacy course for designers; Living Classrooms for urban-rural learning.

Design: The Journey Back To Local

Talk for Products of Design students at the School of Visual Arts in New York in October 2021. (Every year I do 1:1 crits with students as they begin their thesis projects; this talk sets the scene for those sessions).
You and I use more energy & resources in single month than our great-grandparents used during their whole lifetime. And we’re doing on a so on a finite planet.

Hour of Ecology: Gateways to Nature Reconnection

“The destruction will stop when we relate to nature differently” (Raimon Pannikar) But we won’t relate to nature differently just because someone tells us to do so. And besides, most messages get lost in our media-saturated ‘desert of the real’.
What does change people is a lived experience of connection with nature. But such experiences are not always easy to find, or access. And in any case, many such experiences are not set up to welcome new participants. ‘Hour Of Ecology’ will enable access to place-based nature connection experiences.

Beyond Calculation: AI and Sustainability

This 20 minute talk explores two questions: Can AI serve all of life, not just human life? And if so, how? It’s my keynote for International Forum on Innovation and Emerging Industries Development (IEID) in Shanghai 02 December 2021. I gave the talk at the invitation of Professor Filippo Fabrocini

Urban-Rural: Reconnecting by Design

Is the growth of cities over? In November 2019, the Zhangyan Harvests Festival, near Shanghai, explored diverse aspects of China’s emerging rural economy. As a festival centrepiece, the exhibition “Urban-Rural” brought together projects to do with Soils, Making, Feeding, Clothing, Dwelling, and Learning. In this short film, which was shot prior to the opening, Urban-Rural’s guest curator, John Thackara, takes you around the exhibition.


Elias Cattan

Architect Elias Cattan is a leader in the movement to reconnect Mexico City with its long-buried rivers and watersheds. Once a city of interconnected lakes and more than forty rivers, this legacy has been damaged by industrialisation, modern planning, and the rise of the car. During these years, rivers were treated as a problem to be hidden underground. A new generation of ecologists and architects, including Cattan’s design firm ‘Taller13’, is working with progressive city officials, and the private sector, to bring the city’s rivers back into the city bit-by-bit with nature-friendly ‘Complete Streets’.

David Bollier

Mutual aid. Local money. Collaborative care. Alternative futures are being created around the world -. but not, for the most part, in plain sight. David Bollier’s new book – Commoner’s Catalog for Changemaking: Tools for the Transitions Ahead – brings dozens of social projects like these to the fore. Inspired by The Whole Earth Catalog of the early 1970s, Bollier’s premise is that “the next big thing will be a lot of small things” – (words he borrows from the Belgian designer Thomas Lommé). Our conversation here ranges from the history of mutual aid and commoning, to our respect for a pluriverse of cultures that respect all of life, not just human life.

Dr. Sue Ishaq

The more we learn about life on earth, the clearer it becomes that the well-being of humans, and of non-humans, is inter-connected. They are a single story. Sustainable design, in this context, means designing for all of life – not just human life. That’s a big step! Not so long ago, human-centered design was considered progressive in itself – and now we have to design for all of life? All of life is not just large, visible lifeforms – like trees, or bears. It also includes microbes that are all around us, and inside us – but invisibly. Ninety nine percent of life, it turns out, is invisible – so how do we design for that? To begin that conversation, my guest in this conversation is Dr. Suzanne Ishaq – a microbiome researcher and founder of the Microbes and Social Equity working group.

Indy Johar

Indy Johar from Dark Matter Labs, and John Thackara, discuss: – Can AI serve all of life, not just human life? And if so, how? (with reference to John’s ‘Beyond Calculation’ talk); – Climate finance needs nature to be machine-like – but nature is not a machine. So, how to proceed? – For Indy, investing in nature an imperative – but how we invest in nature is difficult. – Are the ways we measure and value nature, adequate, he asks? – Or appropriate, asks John? – Is new language needed in talking about nature, and value? – Indy introduces Trees As Infrastructure (TreesAI – a platform to value and invest in nature beyond carbon).

John Thackara elsewhere on YouTube

More John Thackara talks,

Design Thinking for Business: Relational Ecology and Design

Royal College of Art. In Session:
The New Geographies of Innovation

John Thackara on Vimeo