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Forests full of strangers: why visual sustainability matters

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Visual sustainability in the built environment

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It is not clear that either the categories "given" to us by our senses, or those abstracted for us by the processes of scientific investigation, constitute the most "real" or even the most "useful" modes of apprehending the fundamental nature of being or experience. The categories offered by traditional myths and religious systems might play that role. Such systems of apprehension present the world as a place of constant moral striving, conducted against a background of interplay between the "divine forces" of order and chaos. "Order" is the natural category of all those phenomena whose manifestations and transformations are currently predictable. "Chaos" is the natural category of "potential" - the potential that emerges whenever an error in prediction occurs. The capacity for creative exploration - embodied in mythology in the form of the "ever-resurrecting hero" - serves as the mediator between these fundamental constituent elements of experience. Voluntary failure to engage in such exploration - that is, forfeit of identification with "the worldredeeming savior" - produces a chain of causally interrelated events whose inevitable endpoint is adoption of a rigid, ideology-predicated, totalitarian identity, and violent suppression of the eternally threatening other.
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Nowadays design is faced with the challenge to contribute to the transition towards a sustainable society. Design for Sustainability (DfS) is the response to this challenge. It includes but goes beyond what Design for the Environment or ecodesign provides, by integrating social, economic, environmental and institutional aspects and by offering opportunities to get involved, express one’s own identity beyond consuming standardised mass products.DEEDS, a Leonardo research project, had the mission to embed sustainability in design and design in sustainability. For this behalf, the project partners approached the issue from the angles of design, sustainability science and sustainable consumption analysis, developing tools and rules (the SCALES principles) to support DfS and to incorporate it into design education and practice.The paper describes the framework conditions as explored by sustainable consumption research, the obstacles identified by DEEDS and gives hints how to overcome them based in the lessons learnt in the course of the project.