Since prehistoric times, humankind has worked with nature on everything. We grow our food, build our houses, extract materials for our products and energy. Over the centuries, people have increasingly tried to control, manipulate, and dominate nature. Humanity treats nature as a factory that can be managed, adjusted, and conditioned according to need. Because of our constant craving for more – more stuff, more revenue – the relationship between people and nature has been severely disrupted. The relationship is now one in which we have transcended nature, in which we have forgotten that we are one with nature.
Therapy between human and nature
A dead tree is worth more than a living tree right now. Monocultures simply yield higher economic returns. On a human scale, we're squeezing the life out of nature. We maintain it with precision, just long enough for short-term gain. We inconveniently postpone the long-term consequences.
The irony is that our constant drive for growth has meant that there are fewer and fewer different species and plants on the planet. But it's diversity that keeps systems alive. Ultimately, we all want clean air, a clean living environment, clean water, and fertile soil to feed our growing population.
Circling us are worrying predictions and figures about the environment and climate. Which makes it sometimes difficult to stay optimistic. But what's foremost natural to us humans is solving problems and making new things. And designers do this hand in hand with nature.
The nature of the beast
In the subtheme 'It's in our nature', DDW explores the relationship between human and nature. First, we zoom in on the solutions that can be found in nature, the greatest source of inspiration when it comes to adaptation. On a microscopic scale, designers work with living materials. What is it like to design on this small scale? What ethics are involved? And how will we interact with these living products? Do we again control and suppress nature, or do we help it?
We then zoom out on the bigger picture. We look at 'the nature of the beast', our nature as human beings. Can we align our drive for progress with the nature around us? We not only look at products and materials but at the systems and processes that make them possible. How do we redesign the human systems that are currently disrupting nature so much? What role does design play in this? When we talk about growth, can we primarily think in terms of the flourishing of our living environment?
The search for The Greater Number in nature is not about more or less, it is about 'equal to'.
Do you have an individual or collaborative work or project that ties in with this subtheme? And do you want to participate in DDW21? Contact Programme Manager Marleen van Bergeijk.
The Greater Number: The search for the better number
Is the path we want to take after the Covid crisis the same one we've been taking in recent decades? A lot of people have been asking themselves this question over the past year. More and more people think that this could be the time for a big change and a new perspective. They want to break with this blind focus on economic growth and are ready for a different system that is more focused on well-being and happiness. To investigate the role that designers can play in the search for this new system, Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2021 has chosen as its overarching theme ‘The Greater Number: The search for the better number’. With this theme, DDW is first and foremost calling for less. Where less is not the best solution to more, but better. In 4 subthemes, we explore different perspectives to this quest, and we invite the design field to reflect on this and participate in DDW21.