Testing the Waters

by Barent Roth, Professor of Sustainable Design, The New School

This week at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) International Design conference in Seattle we will be trying something new, something called a Swarm. Borrowing elements of brainstorming, design thinking, and the intensity of a hackathon, designers will cluster in groups of eight to ten and try and harness the power of collaborative timed competition to create ______.

As a veteran of engaging, inspiring conferences that result in nothing more than digital handshakes in the aftermath, I will instead try to lead our group to take advantage of the incredible brain power in the room by creating something lasting and meaningful. It’s ambitious, and unlikely, but it can be done. In the fall of 2011 I started teaching Sustainable Design at The New School. The school and its collaborators at the Stevens Institute had just completed their entry into the Solar Decathlon, an amazing competition that challenges universities around the world to build a solar powered home. Seeing all of the entries at the National Mall in DC makes you feel like you are getting a little glimpse of the future, a stroll down an idyllic sustainability lane. Yet after proving their photovoltaic collectors can easily power the needs of a family by actually living in their new constructions, the students dutifully deconstruct the homes and take them back to campus limbo, all except for The New School’s entry, the Empowerhouse. The Empowerhouse is now a home for a family outside our nation’s capital. During the design process the post competition phase of the house was carefully considered and addressed. On a much, much smaller scale our Design Swarm will attempt a similar form of longevity.

The Empowerhouse (photo by Martin Seck)

The Empowerhouse (photo by Martin Seck)

During our 3.5 hour workshop, we will be creating an ocean trawl for 5Gyres to be created using Shapeways 3D Printing technology. A trawl is a simple tool pulled by a boat made to float atop the water’s surface and collect debris in a large net. The report last December that revealed the incomprehensible 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans was thanks to the 5Gyres organization pulling a trawl through the global seas.* This inspiring marine research non profit wants to make it possible for others around the world to build their own low-tech trawls in order to test their own waters. Shapeways not only allows 5Gyres to produce a trawl but equally important, Shapeways can deliver the Trawl parts directly to citizen scientists, or actual scientists, for assembly, helping to make this horrific submerged pollution problem more visible.

Trawl in Action (photo by 5Gyres.org)

Trawl in Action (photo by 5Gyres.org)

Details of the Design Swarm are being kept intentionally vague to keep the conference attendees and the Design Swarm moderators on their feet. What we do know is that we will work in thirty minute bursts and have design minions sketching, CAD modeling, and prototyping our ideas for us while we try to solve our chosen problem. Ideally we can follow the lead of The Empowerhouse and create something 5Gyres can actually use to help illuminate the scope of the worldwide plastic pollution problem.

Debris gathered from a 5Gyres trawl of the Hudson River NYC, June 2015. (photo by Marcus Eriksen)

Debris gathered from a 5Gyres trawl of the Hudson River NYC, June 2015. (photo by Marcus Eriksen)

There will be a follow up post after the Design Swarm to report on the results.

* PLOS One (Public Library of Science) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913

The Accommodator’s Dilemma

by Eliot Michaelson

The basic question I want to ask is this: suppose that you’ve been convinced that killing animals for food is bad.  You don’t want to be party to bad things happening, and accordingly you’ve become a vegetarian or vegan.  Still, you live in a society full of people who aren’t vegetarians or vegans.  So how should you interact with them?  Should you be tolerant of their moral choices, even if you’re convinced that these are the wrong choices (and even though, per our assumptions, you’re right)?  Or should you somehow alter the way that you interact with non-vegetarians?  Alternatively, for those non-vegetarians reading this, we can put the question as: are your vegetarian friends morally required, at least by their own lights, to shun you?

“…are your vegetarian friends morally required, at least by their own lights, to shun you?”

A brief aside for those who’ve read my older posts.  As you can probably tell, I’m setting aside the Futility Worry for the time being in order to focus on a different question: not whether or not one should be a vegetarian, but rather how one should conduct oneself as a vegetarian.  For the purposes of this post, I’m just going to assume that any time someone declines to purchase or eat meat, one is doing something good; correlatively, when one decides to purchase or eat meat (except perhaps in some very special circumstances), one is doing something bad.  We can assume that any individual choice has some direct or indirect effect on animal welfare, or not.  For present purposes, this won’t matter much.

Now back to the main question.  For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to assume that there are basically only two ways you can go (as a vegetarian) in response to quandary: first, you can be what I’ll call an “Accommodator”; or, second, you can be “Resolute” (admittedly, these are less than perfect titles, since it can often seems good to be resolute and bad to accommodate, and I don’t want to prejudge anything here — so please try to hear these neutrally).  What I mean by the former is that, in rough outline, you choose to offer your thoughts on why one should be vegetarian in some limited range of circumstances, and are willing to accommodate the preferences of your meat-eating friends, family, and acquaintances to a fair extent when attempting to coordinate eating plans with them.  Perhaps you start by suggesting a vegetarian restaurant or by offering to cook a vegetarian meal, but you’re willing to compromise on someplace that serves both meat and decent vegetarian fare if pressed.  Likewise, you probably avoid directly confronting these friends and acquaintances, at least regularly, about their leather shoes, jackets, etc. (though hopefully not fur).  On the other hand, you might choose to be “Resolute”.  That is, you might decide to voice your views on the evils of meat eating on a regular basis to those around you and to refuse to share a meal with others unless it is going to be exclusively vegetarian.  Obviously, there are quite a few options in between these extremes, and many vegetarians probably in fact vacillate at different points in their lives (I certainly have).  For the time being, however, let’s stick with our simplifying assumption and pretend that these are the two main ways that one might respond to the circumstance of being a vegetarian in the contemporary context — that is, in an overwhelmingly non-vegetarian society.


Continue reading “The Accommodator’s Dilemma”

John Bartlett Teams Up with Farm Sanctuary

CFDA award winning fashion designer, vegan and animal advocate John Bartlett has teamed up with Farm Sanctuary — North America’s largest and most effective farm animal rescue and protection organization — to create a capsule collection of tees (called “The Ambassador Collection”) that are both meaningful yet minimal. Models for this shoot were The Discerning Brute pals, the flawless Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture and dreamy Bo Roberts.

The collection launches Monday, August 6th and retails for $40. It will be sold exclusively at www.johnbartlettny.com.  10% of the proceeds from the sale of each tee will be donated to Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org) to fund the nonprofit’s lifesaving work on behalf of abused and neglected farm animals.

In keeping with the clean, minimal style style of Bartlett’s Tiny Tim Collection, the limited edition collection consists of three black tees (in both men’s and women’s sizes), each features a bleached silhouette of one of the three most recognizable farm animals in our country (a cow, chicken and pig). The tees also feature a cryptic and staggeringly large number, bleached onto the sleeve. This statistic represents the current number of animals (of the species featured on the shirt) slaughtered for food in this country each year – a number that will come as a surprise to many Americans.
The shocking numbers are as follows:
  • • 9,000,000,000 + chickens
  • • 110,500,000 + pigs
  • • 35,000,000 + cows

We hope that with this collection (and with your help) we can all do our part to help lower these numbers.

TAFA Fashion Panel

On Saturday, July 29th 2012 I had the honor of presenting alongside fashion icon and hero to animals John Bartlett, and Andrew Page, managing director of Wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States. The Taking Action for Animals conference is an annual conference held in Washington D.C. that provides people with opportunities to collaborate, learn, and take more effective action as animal advocates.

Our panel, “Fighting Fur From Within – Working With Designers and Retailers” — Fur Panel at Taking Action for Animals 2012 focused on challenging the fur industry from inside fashion culture. John Bartlett, now vegan, was once known for his leather designs and had even used fur in the past, shared insights and anecdotes from his involvement with CFDA to conversations he’s had with popular designers (who you’d be surprised to hear have serious qualms with the fur they use). Andrew provided facts, figures and the current laws governing international fur farming and trapping. Traps were passed around the audience. Confiscated samples of real fur were compared to the latest faux, and I spoke about the semiotics of animals in the fashion system. (for more info on my Fashion & Animals presentation, click here)

Austin Armacost Bears his Buns for Animals

Marc Jacobs’ ex beaux bears his buns in some behind-the-scenes photos released from a recent anti-fur ad shoot for PETA! Many designers, including Austin Armacost’s ex, continue to use fur even though fur is the ultimate symbol of ignorance and lame class status posturing. It’s outdated, stale, and yes – it reeks in the rain. Gross.

“As a gay model, I have always been dismayed that some otherwise progressive people in the gay fashion pack have such disregard for the animals who are skinned alive for coats, collars, or cuffs [including my ex Marc Jacobs],” Armacost told PETA.

Simone Reyes, Michael Musto, Cazwell and others look on… and behind that sign.

(source, Huffington Post)