Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Massive Change: Bruce Mau Speaks

Today, I am featuring a guest post by my good friend Justin Kemerling, who is also a really talented graphic designer and all-around awesome guy here in Lincoln. Justin has something really important to say, so I hope you check it out...

For the first time in our history we have the ability to think about the welfare of the entire human race as a practical objective. This according to Arnold Toynbee in 1957. Today we are thinking even bigger. We are thinking about the welfare of all life.

What kind of process do we use to do this? To think about the welfare of all life on this planet at this moment in history? On Thursday, October 4th Bruce Mau visited Omaha. To a crowd of 720 in the Joslyn Art Museum he spoke about Massive Change.

According to Massive Change, we will build a sustainable world. One that eradicates poverty, shifts from a culture of war to a culture of life, and provides shelter for the soon-to-be 9 billion people living on the planet by 2050. All people will have drinkable water and enough food to eat while living intelligently with all life. Harmony will be reestablished. The climate catastrophe will be averted while our energy consumption will turn to solar, wind and other renewable resources.


By setting out to find solutions to practical objectives. This isn't utopian or out of reach. This is real. This is microcredit loans. Bus transportation in Curitiba, Brazil. The Segway. The LifeStraw. Featherless chickens. Open source. Cradle to cradle. And on and on.

Never before have all the problems in the world come back to a singular source to solve them. That is the profoundness of Massive Change. Design bringing everything together. Planetary issues being looked at as a design problem in need of design solutions.

In terms of the word "design", it isn't (only) visual. It is the system. The entire process. We can no longer just design the water bottle and its form. We must look at the entire life cycle of where it comes from and where it goes. It doesn't leave anything out. As our convergence of crisis in all areas of our world present themselves, we must solve them holistically, as if everything is connected, because dear friends, it is.

As it stands now, if everyone in the world lived like we do in America, we would need an additional 4 planet Earths to sustain us. We are faced with that brutal fact and have two choices that are becoming ever more apparent. Will we hunker down, get our wagons in a row, build up the fences and let fear manifest itself into a retrograde society? Or will we focus on the reality that is out there right now, perhaps just a little harder to see, and move forward into an advanced society?

Thinking of "reality" as a newspaper a mile thick, the first quarter inch is the typical New York Times, a compilation of the world around us crumbling into an abyss of death and destruction where no one can be trusted and everyone is out to get everyone else. The rest of that mile is Massive Change.

It is hopeful. It is happening. It is massive. It is the work being done to create a global society that is advanced, intelligent and in harmony with everything that surrounds it.

And as a movement it must begin to take hold. It's looking for believers and doers. To get out there and seize these days of extraordinary opportunity.

Now that we can do anything, what will we do? In the spirit of wonderful optimism and the massive changes already taking place, we will build our world.

Here are some relevant links to further stoke the fire:

Massive Change

Massive Change In Action

Arnold Toynbee

Microcredit loans

Curitiba's Bus System

The Segway

The LifeStraw

Featherless Chicken

Open source

Cradle to cradle


Justin (who is also a part of The Match Factory)


  1. "We are as gods. We may as well get good at it."

    Nice overview of resources and ideas. I hope to find some time to contribute more words, but for now, I just wanted to share a couple more links:

    Social Innovation Conversations, an archive of interviews that I haven't actually tapped that much, but which is connected to a tech-interview site that has excellent content. Currently has several interviews with Amory Lovins, who just came up in the Natural Capitalism thread.
    Long Now Foundation Seminars - the Long Now Foundation connects a lot of my favorite future-oriented thinkers, including Stewart Brand, Brian Eno, and more. The above link is an archive of digital audio of various lectures that may be of interest in the context of Massive Change, although they are not all that action oriented (unless you are thinking long-term, which, of course, they are!)

    I was interested to see you include Open Source in your list of references; I participate actively in open source projects, and its empirical demonstration of the economic benefits of cooperation are often inspiring to me.

    gotta run...

  2. Oh yeah, there's a Paul Hawken lecture on the Long Now seminars, to round out the Natural Capitalism representation -- but I didn't think it was all that great. I'd have preferred to scan a transcript.

  3. yuck featherless chickens

    kind of futurist tone. i love the idealism but if we're trying to use design to make due with the available resources and not ruin the natural world, mightn't featherless chickens prevent a conflict?