I had the opportunity to meet Michiel Schwarz last September when I spoke at the Hello Etsy conference in Berlin. His purpose at the conference was to present his concept and book: Sustainism: A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era.
The New York Times did a fantastic review of the book – calling out its good points and problem areas. Alice Rawsthorn writes that the book is more an exercise in branding and that today’s “designers are already well aware of the principles outlined in the book, most of which have been analyzed in greater depth elsewhere. “ Very true, but although the book was originally created for designers, I see it more as a place for non-designers to find tangible manifesto points that they can easily process and assimilate into daily life. Truth be told, we human beings need things simplified for us sometimes and I think that the tidy graphics might just find a voice on office walls and farmers’ market pamphlets. At least I believe that it is worth a conversation.
In his talk in Berlin, Michiel admits that the book is “naively optimistic,” in that it doesn’t address the real issues that we need to overcome: climate change, “social inequalities, and the degradation of nature.” However, he says, “We believe that it is important to shift from the negative to the positive,” and mentions a conference talk given by William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle, where McDonough decries the focus that is always placed on what we are NOT supposed to do.
“We hear over and over again that we need to reduce everything to zero, that we need to reduce emissions to zero, zero this, zero that. In this way, we are making the future on the things that we don’t want. We need a future on the things that we DO want. That’s why it was so important for us to name where that future is.”
Michiel’s point is that, “we are moving into a new cultural era,” and that hopefully the manifesto of Sustainism will give us symbols to describe the move from modernism to sustainism.