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2013 Knossus, Inc.

Review of Ecological Design: Inventing the Future
courtesy of The Visioneering Group

If war and disease were vanquished for all time, would our survival problems finally be over - or only just beginning? Decades ago, R. Buckminster Fuller, the "Leonardo of the 20th century," recognized that at current levels of consumption modern technology, operating at optimal efficiency, would soon be able to sustain less than half of the world's population. Without a dramatic swift in values -- and some radical redesign solutions - the planet would become inhospitable to most of the people on it.

Fuller's ideas and inventions spawned a design revolution whose impact continues to grow along with popular awareness of the need for sustainable living systems. Now an important new film/video documents the history of ecological design to introduce the general public to the unusual concepts the unique creations of some of its most outstanding exponents. Among the many trail-blazers featured are Fuller, Paul MacCready, Paolo Soleri, Peter Calthorpe, James Wines, William McDonough, Ian McHarg, Andropogon, Edmund Bacon, Jay Baldwin, Ted Nelson, Amory and Hunter Lovins, John Todd, and Steward Brand.

The opening sequences of Ecological Design: Inventing the Future contrast the ecologically-conscious value system - and living shelters - of nature-based peoples with the materialistic basis of industrial society and its resultant urban sprawl. Systems theorist and futuristic Hazel Henderson points out that the planet is now teaching us directly - through positive and negative feedback - that we have to change how we think and live. Futurist Mary Catherine Bateson explains that while we cannot solve our problems with solutions that worked for small communities with limited technologies, we can learn from them. Landscape architect Leslie Sauer offers assurances that our cities are actually far more recoverable than we've generally believed. The remarkable design innovations represented in the video offer ample testimony to that view.

To facilitate urban recovery, the "design outlaws" featured in Ecological Design approach design problems not as isolated situations but as integral parts of interactive systems that can be designed to function harmoniously together. Using unconventional strategies that simultaneously satisfy both human and environmental needs, they seek to create self-sustaining eco-communities that operate like "living machines," thereby improving the quality of life for current inhabitants, and assuring the same quality for future generations.

This remarkable documentary by Knossus, Inc. is beautifully filmed in 16mm and includes historic and contemporary footage covering some of the greatest moments in the history of ecological design. Educational and inspirational, it demonstrates that large populations of people can prosper together, without undermining the environment, through city planning and technologies designed in partnership with nature. Themes explored in the video include the industrial age; the design revolution and the "outlaw" perspective; designing with nature by learning from the earth; designing for prosperity by giving back more than we take; regenerative design through partnerships with other life forms; and designing our future - the new collective dream.

The film/video's award-winning creators include film-makers Chris Zelov and Brian Danitz, writer Phil Cousineau, and composer David Darling. Just released this fall, Ecological Design has already garnered top prizes at three film festivals. A companion volume and teacher's guide will be available in the spring of 1995. -Laurel Airica