Designing sustainable futures for all, not just humans

Preparing design graduates to help create a more sustainable world – with a ‘more than human’ approach to design – will be a key topic of a public forum at QUT on November 2.

Transitioning Towards Sustainable Futures will be the first learning and teaching symposium hosted by the School of Design and will be held online and in-person for academics, research students and interested members of the community.

One of the keynote speakers will be interaction design expert Professor Ron Wakkary from the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology, who is an advocate for ‘posthumanist design’ and argues that decades of human-centredness have enflamed the problems facing our planet.

Symposium organiser Professor Marcus Foth, from the QUT Design Lab and leader of QUT’s More-than-Human Futures research group, said climate change and environmental crises were key motivators for today’s design students.

“We are seeing many of our students who are facing eco anxiety and are looking at the world and its problems and asking what we can do about it,” he said.

“They are looking at their degree and education and how it fits in with those big picture goals – and they’re calling for new strategies to help them cope with this daunting future and the work their generation will be leading.

“Our symposium will enable us to discuss how research in the arts, design and humanities can inform new approaches to education, so that we can better prepare this next generation of design graduates to tackle the planetary problems they are inheriting.”

Professor Foth said sustainability required a broader approach than “technological fixes”.

“Technological ‘fixes’ are often just bandaid solutions that distract us from tackling the root causes of problems,” he said.

“We need a radical shift in how we view the world – and practise ecological stewardship – in order to move away from human-centredness at the expense of the planet’s health and wellbeing.

“It’s not just a matter of putting energy efficient lightbulbs in your house, we need much more widespread reform work.  And we want to be guided by Indigenous research and practices.”

At the symposium, keynote speaker Dr Mary Graham from the University of Queensland will discuss why we need Aboriginal political philosophy now, more than ever, to rekindle a caring relationship with the planet.

The event will be opened by the QUT’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability Strategy), Professor Kerrie Wilson, who will discuss QUT’s own journey toward becoming a sustainable university.

Interested people can see the program and register online for Transitioning Towards Sustainable Futures.

This article first appeared on QUT News on 25th October 2021.

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