Transdisciplinary Design

Notes of Sustainability

Posted on December 21, 2018

Recently I read an amusing Introduction about cancer. “Now although many causes of cancer we are still not sure, at least we know the most significant also unexpected factor is aging. So, maybe our goal is not “secure” but to make cancer controllable in order for removing the representation of fear of cancer. We may learn how to get alone with this “old friend” rather then expect a magical solution.” It stimulated my contemplation of what is the real sustainability. to introduce a probable tool for reaching sustainability.


What is sustainability?

Even in a non-coastal city, Nanning, citizens noticed the winter period was drastically reduced from 3 months originally to 1 month. 15-20 degree Celsius as a normal temperature zone spreads over the winter. These days, strong “South-return weather” (warm air current flows back into a relatively cold area, which induces a sudden increasing of moisture of air) made air humidity reach over 93%, and every walls of buildings sweating. But what interesting was that, with the increasing worry about the tendency of climate change, the enjoyment for a warmer temperature is also appearing.

Numerous “warnings” from media try to call back this positive enjoyment, “the lack of vigilance”. However, citizens in Nanning, somehow, maybe show a reasonable standpoint that no necessity to fight against to climate change but adapting with. It recalls a theory of “back loop” introduced by the article, “Field Notes from the Anthropocene: Living in the Back Loop”. On the theory, the regulation of the world was depicted as a Mobius strip where climate change (negatively) only means the entrance of back loop:

“On one hand, the adaptive cycle contains a ‘front loop’ of early rapid ‘growth’, leading to a ‘persistence’ or ‘stability’ phase dominated by a few species and characterized by rigidity and the capture of earlier energies. Those ‘stable’ states are not permanent. Gradual or sharp disturbance can cause systems to slip into a ‘back loop’, marked by a ‘release’ phase where energies and elements previously captured in conservation phases are set free, unexpected new combinations emerge, and wild, exuberant experimentation becomes the modus operandi.”

We are immersing into a imagination of good life of current world, meanwhile, omit seeking possibilities from what we seen as “unacceptable future”. While news reports and institutional statements showing necessity of avoiding further climate change, folks are just following their intuition—adapting where they have already standing on. Is “sustainability” we pursue actually a unfeasible “drawing back”? Dose non-sustainability driven by our misperception? How many of us are with obsession of tiny loop but nearly blind to real cycle? And how might we find true sustainability on our new phase? Adaptation might be a good strategy.


Prototype for adaptation

In the case, a prototype applying for adaptation I found in daily life is “fishing net”.

I once was struggling about a core theory of Buddhism that “the origin of thing is emptiness”. The question was lingering around me: If everything refers emptiness, why we need compassion or any kinds of values? What is all for? Those puzzles were solved until I recall the fishing net that capturing large fish while also let the small flee, which is a perfect tool for adapting essentially without subversion. A fish is a thing, emptiness, but the specie of fish is a cause which reflects real life cycle.

There is no way in practice offer a individual overall situation of global fishing at any moment, similar to other unaccounted services we receive from living systems which have no known substitutes at any price (Natural Capitalism). Holding on our “fishing net”, which relies on our adaptation of life cycle rather than absolute logic of dataism (“everything that can be measured should be measured; data will help up do remarkable things — like foretell the future…”) , however, makes thing more sustainable.

Additionally, as a process of adaptation and acceptance, “fishing net” also fills up the deficiency of what described by Paul Hawken, “It (industrial capitalism) neglects to assign any value to the largest stocks of capital it employs — the natural resources and living systems, as well as the social and cultural systems that are the basis of human capital”,

Except building mental metaphor, maybe we should start thinking: could we apply the “fishing net” as a prototype to other fields?




Reference List:

[1] Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins. “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution”. US Green Building Council. October 12, 2000.

[2] Stephanie Wakefield. “Field Notes from the Anthropocene: Living in the Back Loop”. June 1st, 2017.

[3] 阿锄. “the Truth of scary cancer”. November 4, 2018.

[4] Documentary: “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”

[5] Byung-Chul Han. “Psycho-Politics: Neoliberalism and New Technology of Power”. Verso, 2017.