At least three or four times a week I troll my favorite website worldchanging.com. During a recent visit, I discovered Viridian, the design movement that takes its name from the Latin viridis, meaning “green.” The goal of the movement, started by Bruce Sterling, is to advance environmental awareness through revolutionary art and design, or as phrased on the official Viridian website, to “create irresistible demand for a global atmosphere upgrade.â€?
What I find so intriguing about Sterling’s Manifesto of January 3, 2000 is his supposition that global warming is not an economic or political problem but rather a design and engineering problem–even a problem of artistic sensibility. He goes on to posit a theory of change that requires creating an “advanced cultural eliteâ€? who will generate new awareness and requirements for more enlightened ways of living. Sterling argues that the task of this group is to:
“…design a stable and sustainable physical economy in which the wealthy and powerful will prefer to live. Mao suits for the masses are not on the Viridian agenda. Couture is on the agenda. We need a form of Green high fashion so appallingly seductive and glamorous that it can literally save people’s lives. We have to gratify people’s desires much better than the current system does. We have to reveal to people the many desires they have that the current system is not fulfilling. Rather than marshalling themselves for inhuman effort and grim sacrifice, people have to sink into our twenty-first century with a sigh of profound relief.â€?
In a world that has largely defined environmentalism in terms of constraint, sacrifice and doing without, I find the notion of fulfilling people’s desires through smart design not only refreshing but also radical. It’s a tall order, but presumably one worth aspiring to.