2009 - A safe operating space for humanity FIG 1

“Throughout my career, and especially as a designer at IDEO,” writes Nathan Waterhouse, “I’ve been a passionate believer of the value of placing people first, of designing from an end–user perspective. [...] Perhaps it was the abundance of rhetoric about human needs [at the recent Skoll World Forum] that made me ask the question ‘But what about the rights of nature, other creatures, or of the planet itself?’”

“We are taught to think about the world in three lenses as designers: desirability – what people want, feasibility – the capabilities of a firm, and viability – its financial health. We are taught that we should start from the perspective of people’s needs first: desirability. This way of thinking, however, is selfish. It focuses on the needs of humans, but in doing so, ignores the needs of the rest of the 8.7M species that share planet Earth. What would be desirable, feasible, or viable if we took the perspective of planet Earth and ran it through the same venn diagram?” [...]

“Although we don’t believe earth is the centre of the universe, we still behave as if humans are the most important species alive today.”

In the end, he says, “we need a new approach to design that takes into consideration what is important for the natural systems we depend upon and take for granted. Perhaps we should call it Holistic Design: designing with a frame that includes the natural and human systems in combination to ensure we consider the bigger picture.”

(Disclosure: Nathan Waterhouse studied at the renowned Interaction Design Institute Ivrea where he was a thesis student of Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels).