Posts by aquinto

How coastal communities are adapting to a changing weather

Polar bears in the North Pole, sighted by the USS Honolulu.

Global warming and the global climate crisis continue to make headlines in news outlets: from increasing floods, to droughts and fires. By the end of the century, global temperatures are expected to increase 4C under the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.

21.5 million people were displaced each year between 2008 and 2016 by some form of weather-related incident, including floods, storms, wildfires or extreme temperatures.

There is a correlation between higher temperatures and an increase in the number of natural disasters.

With some locations becoming drier with decreased rainfall patterns, and others more susceptive to being flooded, communities that were previously unaffected by natural disasters are more likely to suffer climate-related shocks in coming years.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, cities like Wilmington, Annapolis, Maryland, Sandy Hook and Atlantic City have seen a 10-fold increase in flood frequency since the 1950s, according to the EPA.

A study on the impact of climate change on European coasts estimated a 30-fold increase in damage from coastal flooding by mid-century and a 700-fold increase by the end of the century on a current path trajectory, with a $1 trillion price tag, without any future flood protection measures.

Malé, the capital of the Republic of Maldives. Photo by Timo Newton-Syms from Helsinki, Finland and Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, UK

Coastal area residents, particularly in developing countries and small nation states, are increasingly more vulnerable to these calamities.

In 2015, India and China respectively had 3.7 and 3.6 million people displaced from disasters. It is expected that over 140 million people will be climate-related migrants by 2050 in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

Indigenous communities are increasingly exposed to sea-level rise in areas like Panama, Louisiana, and low-lying islands in Asia and the Pacific, where 80% of the world’s 370 million indigenous people live, forcing them to move farther and higher inland.

In the Guna Yala region, off the Atlantic coast of Panama, 49 Guna communities have witnessed a 15cm rise of sea level rise in recent years. It is estimated that 28,000 people in the region will need to relocate to the mainland in the coming years, not only due to sea-level rise, but also because of deteriorating coral reefs and a diminished fishing output that these communities rely on.

Rural communities in developing nations are also distressed by changing weather patterns. The Isle of Jean Charles, in Louisiana, once the only home of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, has shrunk from 34 square miles, to less than half a square mile. The Biloxis have been relocating to higher ground for the last couple of decades, with support from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) accompanied by a $48.3 million grant to acquire new land some 12 feet above sea level.

Adapting to sea-level rise

As global temperatures keep rising in coming years, natural disasters will steadily increase. However, the world is better prepared to handle natural disasters. According to the International Disasters Database, the number of global casualties related to natural disasters has been contracting, partly due to better early-warning systems that facilitate faster evacuations.

In 2018, nearly half of all deaths from disasters took place in Indonesia (5,510 casualties), as a result of tsunamis and earthquakes in the region. In response, President Joko Widodo presented a plan to build a massive sea wall around Jakarta’s coast to abate damage from the sea and to help reduce the ocean from further encroaching on the capital’s coast, currently at a rate of 8 inches per year.

Jakarta joins other cities that advocate for sea walls, whether in the form of massive barriers, or vegetated buffer zones and wetlands that reduce damage from flash floods and hurricanes. In the U.S., following Hurricane Sandy’s devastating impact on 13 states, many cities along the East Coast received federal funding to better prepare for hurricanes. Cities from New York to Miami are investing millions to protect their coastlines. New York is planning to build a vegetated flood-protection zone around lower Manhattan. Norfolk has a $4 billion coastal resilience work plan underway, while Miami is investing close to half a billion dollars to address sea level rise.

In addition to coastal barriers, some cities implement policies like building codes and zoning laws to ensure schools, hospitals and workplaces are located in safe areas and can withstand the passing of hurricanes and floods. In addition, some cities have other financial instruments to help them recover from hurricanes and storms more quickly — including flood insurance, resilience bonds, or municipal and federal budgets allocated for stormwater management programs.

The Maeslantkering is a storm surge barrier that automatically closes when Rotterdam is threatened by floods. Photo: Dronesupport nl. via Flickr.

Coastal communities will adapt to sea-level rise in different ways. Wealthier cities are more likely to adapt and recover from natural disasters more easily than their counterparts in the Global South, due to their increased technical and financial capacity.

Less prosperous coastal communities, despite being the countries with the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions, are more likely to depend on relocating their populations. Over 200,000 households in Bangladesh have already been forced to relocate.

The Paris Agreement stipulated developed countries would provide aid to developing nations to better prepare for climate change, amounting to $100 billion every year in technical and financial assistance — a responsibility mostly being led by the European Union after the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, and a commitment that has yet to materialize.

Kiribati’s former president Anote Tong, bought land in Fiji as contingency for evacuating the country’s population and to send a message to the rest of the world that the survival of their country is at risk, including the lives of around 100,000 Kiribati citizens. Without adequate funding and technical capacity, more countries might follow suit, relying on relocating their coastal populations, as a way to adapt to coastal flooding.

Is Mexico paying for Trump’s wall?

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump declared that if elected he’d build a wall along the US-Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it.

Trump publicly announced various estimates for his border wall. The cost estimates ranged from $8 billion to $25 billion in 2018, a figure that was requested to US congress that year, and one of the reasons for declaring one of the longest government shutdowns lasting over a month until January, 2019.

Some of Trump’s arguments pointed at how a new USMCA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico would somehow cover the costs for the wall. Or that adding a tax on remittances would cover the cost of his border wall.

The math behind Trump’s Mexico will pay for the wall arguments may be flawed and we may never know the actual cost of a 2000-mile fortified wall. However, Mexico has been pressured to comply with Trump’s anti-immigrant demands.

Three of eight border wall prototypes installed near San Diego in 2018. Images: Prototypes

Mexico becomes the wall

Through different strategies, the U.S. federal government has reduced the number of asylum seekers and migrants coming through its southern border.

U.S. asylum requests have been denied more frequently in recent years, reaching their highest denial rate since 2012. In 2018, 65% of asylum requests were denied in courts.

In June, President Trump threatened to impose import tariffs to its southern neighbor if Mexico didn’t drastically curb the flow of immigrants through its territory within a 45-day period.

This “deal” also required Mexico to begin talks with the U.S. on a “safe third country” agreement that would obligate asylum-seekers from Central America to request asylum in Mexico⁠—forfeiting the possibility of asking for asylum in the U.S. for Guatemalan nationals, for example. Such agreement has yet to go through Mexico’s Congress and be approved. The U.S. government has sought the same agreement with Guatemala.

Mexico, coerced by Trump’s tariff threat, sent 6,000 army troops to detain and deport Central American migrants headed north. Forty-five days later, Mexico reported how the migrant flow was reduced 36%, temporarily avoiding import tariffs.

By that point, the U.S. had returned over 50,000 asylum-seekers to Mexico to wait for their court hearings, for a period that can last months with the current backlog in asylum applications.

Having U.S. asylum-seekers wait their hearings in Mexico increases the vulnerability of many migrants who are often targeted by criminal groups in Mexico. In late August, a dozen of migrants who had just been sent from the U.S. to Nuevo Laredo, just south of Texas, were picked up by criminal groups directly from the bus were they were transported across the border.

Mexico has deported more Central Americans in recent years than the U.S. Source: CATO.

Mexico at a crossroad

Mexico, threatened with imposed tariffs by the Trump administration and overburdened with the recent influx of migrants from Central America, is at a crossroads for finding solutions with its neighbors north and south.

Between January and July, Mexico received nearly 40,000 asylum requests, the highest number in recent history.

Foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard has acknowledged the poor and overcrowded conditions where migrants are held in one of 60 detention centers in the country — in some facilities nearly 5 times over capacity. In a Chiapas detention center, some 400 migrants were detained in a space designed to hold 80 persons.

Mexico is also facing increasing pressure to ensure the protection of human rights for migrants and asylum-seekers passing through the country. In order for Mexico to sign a “safe third country” with the United States, both countries should pay attention to the current human rights violations migrants are exposed to as they transit through Mexico.

Seeking to address a core reason for migration, Mexico is investing $100-million dollars in agricultural and forestry projects in Central America to create jobs. A similar program is currently being tested in Mexico’s rural regions called Sembrando Vida (Planting Life).

In its first year in operation, the program is employing over 250,000 agricultural workers in a combined area of over 500,000 sq. km. to grow maize and other products, including fruits and wood using sustainable agriculture methods.


Although the construction of a wall has not come to fruition under Trump’s presidency, political pressure on Mexico has proved to be a good strategy to curb migrants from coming into the U.S., at least temporarily.

In recent weeks Mexico has been pushing back, capping the number of U.S. asylum-seekers that can be sent into Mexico to wait their court hearings.

As climate change, a lagging economy and social unrest continue to be leading causes of migration in in Central America, both the U.S. and Mexico may be better off joining forces to address root causes of migration, instead of considering building walls, and whether Mexico will pay for those walls.

Urban Data and Urban Resilience

This article was published during my time at 100 Resilient Cities.

Cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network are embracing the use of information and technology to improve the livability of cities. Due to the growing interest in open data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and increasing use of sensors, cities are collecting and using data to plan for a multitude of resilience challenges, and inviting the civic and private sectors to take part in the process.

Using data for city services and planning

Large U.S. cities like Los AngelesSan Francisco, and New York have open data portals in which various types of information are published: data sets on active building permits, crime incident locations, traffic statistics, earthquake fault zones, among many others. In October 2018, 100RC hosted a three-day CoLab in New York to explore potential data-driven solutions to city services. London has been measuring issues that are less tangible, such as social cohesion. One of the city’s key metrics, that 84% of Londoners get along well with neighbors from different backgrounds, is based on interviews with local residents. The city also utilizes measures of factors such as overall life satisfaction and food security, providing critical insight to program and policy design (source).

Figs. 1. London’s well-being map. Each dot represents a borough.
Fig. 2. London’s Data Store dashboard, showing key indicators at a glance. The portal holds over 700 datasets of publicly-available statistics on the city.

Singapore applies its urban data toward planning new city sectors. The city’s Punggol neighborhood is a great example, designed by the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the city’s public housing authority, with both environmental and affordability concerns in mind. Data inputs such as wind flows, solar radiance, and the height of buildings were utilized to select the best locations for amenities as wide-ranging as parks, public plazas, childcare centers, and playgrounds. These all converge to allow children to be outdoors throughout the day, according to urban planner and HDB CEO Cheong Koon Hean.

Fig. 3. Wind and solar radiance modelling of the Punggol eco-town in Singapore.

Cities elsewhere are turning to data more than ever before to help solve pressing resilience challenges. The cities of Miami and Miami Beach recently received grants to develop a visual platform that will allow residents to see for themselves the impacts of rising sea levels on buildings and to plan accordingly for that future (source). New York City is working to coordinate a new level of data integration among its many municipal agencies, with the immediate goal of creating a 3D map of all underground assets. Greater Manchester’s Smarter City Programme has been working with stakeholders across six key themes to improve city operations and residents’ quality of life. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, the CityVerve consortium is optimizing bus schedules, preventing overcrowding on public transportation, and reducing journey times (source).

Engaging residents with data

It is estimated that by 2025 there will be more than 80 smart cities in the world (source). Advances in innovative technologies are dramatically changing both how cities operate internally and how they are interacting with their constituents. Yet how does the average person access urban data and make sense of it all?

Alex Dodds of the Sunlight Foundation suggests that it is the city’s role to not only inform its residents of progress through the use of statistics and data, but to also use those assets to create a common understanding and shared narrative (source). Dodds uses a Tactical Data Engagement process to bring data to the community level. By engaging with residents from the beginning, the process helps identify use case scenarios for data and build consensus on possible interventions.

The Urban Institute (UI) also uses in-person workshops to communicate data and findings with community members. In what UI developed into a Data Walk, community members are prompted to react to a simple visualization of statistics published by their city, allowing the organization to gather feedback directly from end users of public services, based on their personal experiences.

Fig. 4. A Data Walk session uses simple graphical data to prompt citizens to react and express their personal viewpoints on the data related to an urgent issue they are experiencing in their city.
Fig. 5. As cities develop their resilience strategies, 100RC uses a Perceptions Assessment tool to report back to city leaders how their initiatives match citizens’ perceptions.
Fig. 6. A City Resilience Index (CRI) graphic for Santiago, Chile. The CRI is a way for cities to assess qualitatively and quantitatively the city’s resilient qualities.
The informal sector context

While many cities in North America and Europe produce an overwhelming amount of data, cities in the Global South often face a data challenge of a different kind. Approximately one-third of the world’s urban population currently living in informal settlements, making it crucial to understand the context of this sector. In cities where neighborhoods were built informally, where the legal status of building ownership is blurred, and where the local economy is mostly driven by cash transactions, data collection requires more on-the-ground methods.

In cities like SuratSemarang, and Porto Alegre, 100RC has partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to assess the preparedness of informal communities in facing climate risks. WRI’s Urban Community Resilience Assessment (UCRA) tool has been utilized to collect census-like data related to the quality of urban services, as well as individual perceptions on the vulnerability of communities to floods, landslides, fires, or earthquakes (source). With its heavy emphasis on technical aspects, UCRA also measures social indicators like the size and strength of informal social networks in a given community: how well neighbors know each other. This metric helps determine how well a community will adapt and recover from a given emergency, given that cohesive communities are more likely to help each other in times of a disaster.

Data and urban resilience

As cities continue implementing data-driven projects and smart city agendas, it is key for city officials to consider not only the collection and publication of data, but also engaging with citizens in data analysis and related resilience benefits. MIT’s Urban Risk Lab has taken this concept to a new level with a platform to crowdsource data collection and tools in times of flooding. Urban Risk Map, beta-launched in Florida in response to Hurricane Irma, is operational in Indonesia and Semarang, and harnesses social media and real-time reporting to aggregate flooding data into a map interface.

Fig. 7. RiskMap aggregates data from social media to create maps of flooded areas.

As the field of urban resilience continues to evolve, the factor which remains constant is community engagement. The situation is no different when it comes to data. Urban residents are key stakeholders for the collection and use of data, and their contributions are critical when applying that data to urban planning processes.

Measuring the value of design

In the 20th century the role of designers was majorly understood as that of shape-makers, skilled folks who refine the way objects look. Think car-styling, or how the fashion industry delivers new clothing styles every season. Beyond surface and form, design is a skill that creates new products or services. Design has been embraced by business schools, like Rotman School of Management, and even governments, like Singapore or South Korea have incorporated a design culture to improve on public services.

However styled, or invisible the outcomes of design might be, design has the ability to deliver financial value. For many years the Design Management Institute tracked how design-driven companies, like Apple, IBM, Nike, Starbucks, or Procter & Gamble outperformed others in the Standard & Poors 500 index by over 200% between 2005 and 2015. In their studies, designers have a seat at the C-level of these corporations and are able to consistently innovate across their industries.

Graph of Design Value Index 2005-2015
Design Value Index 2005-2015

 

How can designers demonstrate the value of the work they do?

Ultimately, designers can demonstrate value on a before-after basis, before and after a product re-design. For instance, increase in sales of a product, customer satisfaction, overall revenue growth.  The Design Management Institute has a tool to help frame how designers add value in four parameters: revenue, customer experience, organizational learning, and processes. 

In another project I was personally involved in (The Sustainable Design Standard), a cohort of designers created a framework for evaluating the value of design incling metrics beyond financial value. Based on the premise that designers can also create social, cultural, and environmental value, we created metrics to determine whether designers are helping create products that are healthy, that promote human rights, or that do a lesser damage to the environment. Spoiler alert: Virtually all products designed today are not sustainable.

Provenance is a good example of how designers can gauge the performance of the things they design. The Provenance tool enables both consumers and companies to trace who and how products were made. The tool visualizes the supply chain of participating products and is connected to a verifiable database that rates suppliers and materials.

Provenance app

Designers are known for their skills to create attractive products. As the design practice continues to evolve this century, we can expect the design industry to lead the way in making complex information easy-to-understand and actionable.

SD Standard

How can a designer have a positive impact on the planet? What should designers consider? Should designers be accountable for the emissions they contribute to producing from the products they design? Or should we be held accountable for the human rights we promote? Or fail to support?

The SD Standard is a project I’ve been working on with other colleagues, mostly Valerie Elliott, and Tuuli Sauren. It is a rating system where a designer can self-assess her or his design, and one’s own practices as a designer in terms of social, cultural, environmental and economic impact. This system is focused on communication design projects, such as editorial, graphic, illustration, and web design. While the current system can also be applied to product and environmental design projects, it needs further testing in those categories.

To make this a practical set of tools, our core team is developing focused metrics per design category. A book, for example, carries different environmental factors than a website. While it makes environmental sense to design a durable chair, it makes little sense to design durable packaging for cookies. The current SD Standard encompasses about 60 metrics, which are being fine-tuned and focused, based on the nature of a given project.

You can learn more about this project on the SD Standard website.

Conejo en la Luna – A socially-driven enterprise

Conejo en la Luna is a company that sells artisanal food products, made mostly by women who work in rural parts of Mexico. My work with this project was to design the visual identity, packaging and other communication products for the company.

The brand positions the product with other gourmet products, and communicates the social mission of the company: to bring the products made by small producers to larger markets, where their products can be bought at higher prices. Part of the sales are invested into training programs that ensure the producers comply to quality standards.

Project website: conejoenlaluna.org

Advertising in cities: Learning from Netflix, Intel and Google

When it comes to the visual landscape of cities, advertisements and billboards have played an important role across the world. Take Times Square. It is the world’s most visited place. This New York intersection provides a spectacle to over 300,00 visitors and tourists who pass by everyday.[1] These signs, designed to insert brand names in our minds to increase sales, play a role as entertainment with their flashing lights and moving images. Times Square is an example of Robert Venturi’s “less is a bore” dictum. The more signs, the more entertaining.

Times Square

Times Square. By Terabass (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

In dealing with outdoor advertising, cities negotiate both sides of the visual noise spectrum, either relying on advertising to bring in tax revenue to the city, despite the visual saturation it produces. Park benches, bus stops, trash cans and even wifi kiosks, like in New York, are subject to being covered with advertisements. On the other hand, some cities have opted for a visually clean and ad-free urban environments, like Sao Paulo that in 2007 removed 15,000 billboards and 300,000 over-sized storefront signs, or Chennai, India that banned new billboards in 2009. [2]

no-advertising billboard

A “no-advertisement” billboard by Lead Pencil Studio, installed on the US-Canada border.

The attention people put on an outdoor billboard is now challenged by online ads, as more people have access to mobile devices with internet access. Whether riding a subway, or sitting through traffic, our attention throughout the day is grabbed by screens large and small, at work and while traveling.

Google continues to dominate the online advertising industry through ads placed on websites, search results and other Google products like Gmail and YouTube. Google, along with other websites that rely on advertising, like Facebook and Yahoo, have contributed to build an ad-based model for a great part of the online content we consume. If the world wide web had a physical representation, like a city, it might very well look like Times Square, except with a population of over three billion, the equivalent of the current number of people with internet access.

The City is the battleground of the values of the culture

—Max Lerner, 1958

Learning from Netflix: An ad-free world for cities is possible

Netflix is the 35th most visited website in the world.  In 2013 Netflix began producing its own shows, reducing the need to rely on third-party produced content. Every year Netflix commissions dozens of shows, documentaries and films. Its original content produced by world-famous directors, producers and actors. Since Netflix began streaming movies, it did so without any ads. All content is paid for by the fees paid by the 74 million users it currently has.

Cities that adopt a Netflix model would eliminate outdoor advertising altogether, and invest in cultural production that would in turn attract companies and retain the city’s talent. As urbanist Richard Florida proclaims, cities with a strong “creative class” attract talent and investment. Cities with a strong cultural agenda and tolerant to people of different cultures, sexual orientation, or viewpoints, are more attractive than cities without such an offer.

The piece “Perception” by Tunisian-French artist eL Seed spans over numerous brick buildings in Cairo’s neglected Manshiyat Naser neighborhood. (Photo: eL Seed; Image via egyptianstreets.com)

Learning from Intel: Collaborating with content creators 

While some public transit systems post poems and artwork on their advertising spots in subway trains and buses, much more can be done to output creative work in cities. What if cities followed the steps of Intel to create novel cultural projects? In 2009, Intel partnered with VICE to produce a series of events and creative works. Since the beginning of Creators Project, both brands have made possible 600 collaborations with artists involving the likes of Daft Punk, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Ai Wei Wei, Pharrell, and other innovators that combine art and technology. Intel has tapped into VICE’s experience curating content in order to deliver cultural projects that entertain millennials and adults all over the world.

If Intel’s Creators Project promotes the use of products that bear their computer chips to a young audience, then cities that follow their steps could partner with like-minded companies. If Intel appointed will.i.am as its director of creative innovation, then cities could also bring chief creative leaders into government. If the Creators Project reaches a global audience of over 85 million, then cities could promote their brand globally.

Learning from Google: Relevant information in the right place

The world’s biggest company has expanded its revenue year after year thanks to the growing rates of internet adoption across the world and the increase of mobile devices users. One of the keys in providing a successful service is Google’s relevance of search results, whether searching on a desktop, browsing maps or videos on a mobile device. What might cities be like if their outdoor advertising was run by Google? Would the aggregate preferences of people passing by in a given street corner, determine the type of ads that are delivered to that group of people, based on their tastes, surroundings or destination? The same billboards could at other times deliver information about the city’s services.

The way Google has managed to continue bringing in more cash is not by its ability to place ads on websites, but by deciphering the relevance and value that an ad has to its target audience. It is only a matter of time when we will see new developments in advertising, now experienced in small screens, brought to large screens in physical spaces. In public spaces, like Times Square, we might soon see advertisements  delivered by the aggregate interests of people passing-by at any given time. Or cities could tap into Google’s data to deliver relevant information: maps and information for tourists, reminders about the city’s services, invitations to government-citizen dialogues, statistical data about a city block, etc.

The conventional advertising model based on displaying a single message to as many people as possible is no longer the only, or even most effective model to promote brands or products. Cities will continue to be working experiments for how advertisements and cultural expressions intertwine. Cities can learn from Netflix the importance cultural production plays to add value to public life without the use of ads or billboards, creating a clean visual culture of their cities. Mayors can also learn from Intel as a model for collaboration with like-minded companies and how to promote a city to a global audience. Or following Google’s model of relevant advertising, cities could deliver the right messages to the right people in the right places.

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Notes:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_Square

[2] Can cities kick ads? Inside the global movement to ban urban billboards. Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian. August 12, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/aug/11/can-cities-kick-ads-ban-urban-billboards

US Clean Power Plan halted by Supreme Court

The COP21 meetings in Paris this past December were applauded by some as an historic event that would allow the 195 signing countries to collaborate on a plan to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and  avoid global temperatures from rising 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.[1] That is the estimated threshold that would ensure low-lying nation states like the Marshall Islands don’t disappear due to rising sea levels and hotter temperatures in the coming decades.

Last year, in preparation to the COP meetings, the US announced in April its proposed emissions reduction plan: to lower greenhouse gas emissions up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.[2] This target would imply improving energy efficiency in areas like electricity generation, transportation, and energy use in housing and commercial buildings. Four months later, in August, President Obama announced the final version of the Clean Power Plan, a document that outlined a path to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.[3]

Earlier this year, on February 9, the US Supreme Court halted Obama’s plan to regulate power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions, as outlined in his Clean Power Plan, responding to a challenge placed by twenty seven states, some companies and lobby groups,[4] including major oil producer Texas, and coal-dependent West Virginia, where over 95% of its electricity comes from coal[5,6]. This judicial process could delay the implementation of the Clean Power Plan as late as 2017.

What does delaying the Clean Power Plan amount to? 

It equals the reduction of anywhere between 652 and 870 million tons of carbon dioxide. That amounts to the annual emissions of up to 166 million cars.[7]  It also equals nearly half of the US commitments in greenhouse gas emissions reductions declared for COP21.

Countries that joined COP21 in Paris now have until April 21, 2017 to sign the agreement, and have even more time to ratify the agreement, meaning they have to pass the necessary laws in order to fully commit to COP21 targets. Although COP21 can go forward without the US, halting the reduction of greenhouse gases from electricity production, puts in jeopardy the Obama administration’s legacy on climate change and delays the feasibility of preventing global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees, as outlined in the COP21 negotiations.

CPP-ing

 

[1] Adoption of the Paris Agreement. United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Dec. 12, 2015. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09.pdf

[2] US Climate Commitment Should Spur Other Countries to Act.  and http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/04/us-climate-commitment-should-spur-other-countries-act

[3] Climate Change and President Obama’s Action Plan. https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change

[4] US Supreme Court puts Obama climate regulations on hold. Jeff Tollefson. Feb. 10, 2016. http://www.nature.com/news/us-supreme-court-puts-obama-climate-regulations-on-hold-1.19346

[5] U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Lawrence Hurley and Valerie Volcovici. Feb. 9, 2016. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-supreme-court-blocks-obama-s-clean-power-plan/

[6] West Virginia. State Profile and Energy Estimates. http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WV

[7] Estimates based on EPA’s 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/ghgemissions/US-GHG-Inventory-2016-Chapter-Executive-Summary.pdf), and EPA’s Clean Power Plan factsheet (http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/fact-sheet-clean-power-plan-numbers).

 

Book: Spanish edition of Do Good [Design], by David Berman

Haz el bien diseñando, the Spanish edition of Do Good Design, by David Berman, explores the ethical implications of communication design and the role designers play as accomplices in mass media production. The author has decades promoting social responsibility among design professionals and has been influential in the adoption of web accessibility legislation and ethical rules of conduct for design associations in his native Canada and internationally. In the first part of the book, Berman invites designers to question whether the things they design prompts people to do good things or whether they help craft visual lies and biased messages that incite irresponsible consumption.

In his book, Berman argues that by designing marketing campaigns, ads and packaging, designers play a crucial role in influencing people’s decisions. He presents several examples of posters, ads, found street signage, packaging and billboards from his trips across different continents. These examples act as short visual literacy lessons that shed insights on major brands’ messaging tactics: How children incidentally recognize the cartoon character behind Camel, the famous cigarette brand, more easily than Mickey Mouse; how sex and the female body are used to sell water, magazines, phones, servers and even political campaigns; how Coke is the world’s second most recognized word after OK, among many others.

“We live in a time where it’s easier to leave a more influential legacy popularizing our ideas than spreading our genetic material” — David Berman

The book presents a plethora of examples that demonstrate how communication design can have a big impact. One of the more famous case studies is the design of the US presidential election ballots in 2004 that affected the election results that put President Bush in power. Or how the design of tabulated sheets, designed by Herman Hollerith to compensate for his cognitive deficit, led to the invention of computing and the founding of IBM. Designing for the extremes, or for people with all cognitive or physical levels of dexterity and visual cognition is a strategy that creates better products that function for everyone, explains Berman.

Toward the book’s final pages, several tips and practical advice for designers to “do good” at a strategic level: To consider cultural, social, environmental and financial sustainability at the beginning of each project; to commit to the design profession and join professional associations,  implying these organizations require a minimum ethical commitment from its members, just like doctors and lawyers abide to certain rules of conduct; to donate 10% of our time to worthwhile causes on a volunteer basis.

This well-researched and visually compelling presentation is a thought-provoking call to action for all designers, not only communication designers. The book’s marginalia includes brief case studies of design professionals who are already “doing good” in their own work. Rather than providing answers, the book invites designers to create their own solutions based on their local context.