Friday, November 21, 2008

What's your post-apocalyptic vocation?

Green design.
Sustainable design.
Climate change.
Design for change.
Design for impact.

It's all the buzz: "Stop THIS from happening." "Do this or THIS will happen." "We have to figure out how to convince everyone to do THIS." Everyone is talking about design for prevention.

Why don't we jump ahead, assume a mass-scale world tragedy will happen, and design for the post-apocalyptic world. After a conversation with Jean, Joe, and Andreas on Thursday, I'm convinced that the designers with real foresight will start tackling post-apocalyptic problems now.

We don't know the tragedy that will ultimately push us over the tipping point, but it's likely that one event will lead to another. Rapid sea level rise will lead to mass inland migration, shortages in food, and civil war. An earthquake through the Nevada desert (yes, there is a fault that runs right through Yucca Mountain) will lead to radioactive contamination that spreads from local areas to the greater watershed, and eventually the ocean, effectively destroying marine life much like DDT did, increasing in concentration up the food chain. Rising carbon emissions will cause a runaway greenhouse effect, warming 80% of the earth to intolerable levels, causing mass human extinction, and spawning new habitat for wildly proliferating insect populations. Maybe the magnetic poles of the Earth will swap, ie. North becomes South. It's happened continuously in Earth history, we don't know why, but the rock record tells us we're overdue for a magnetic flip. Or, our demise could come through lack of differentiation in our food. The world currently supports only twelve major crops. TWELVE. The world corn crop could fail if attacked by a resilient pest, and lack of crop diversity will cause the whole crop to fail, not just a localized area. Food shortage will lead to failure of the world economy, civil, and international strife.

No matter which way we end up pushing our planet over the brink, one thing is for certain: we'll need new jobs. Specifically, folks with jobs that fufill needs at the top of Maslow's heirarchy, the self-actualization jobs, are going to be out of work. Wedding planners, hairdressers, divorce lawyers, plastic surgeons and fashion models should start thinking ahead. Personally, I'm already trying to determine my post-apocalyptic vocation (PAV).

How will my skills transfer? Will I be a leader or a worker? Will I become nomadic, migrating with the new seasons, or will I work in an established new colony? Will I abandon Earth like those in the scarily psychic movie, Wall-E, and sit in a chair, not knowing that there are other people around me?

I re-watched Wall-E yesterday, and this time, without nature's call beckoning me away before the very end of the credits, I stayed to watch them through. Mort Grosser tipped me off over the summer that if I watched the movie to completion, the very very last thing would blow me away. It did. I'll let you watch for yourself and have your own private moment of fear, but I will say that it offers up yet another mode to drive world catastrophe.

So, what's your PAV?

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