It was around the end of 2017 that I was scrolling through the internet and discovered this video by Paul Nicklen (https://www.instagram.com/p/BcU-6PsAoIp/): An emaciated polar bear - gripping, overwhelming and devastating. This video set into motion my interest in anthropogenic-environmental-destruction. Upon researching further into this pressing global issue, I began to understand that this problem is so much more complicated than everyone deciding to ride a bike to work. This is deep-rooted in some of humanity’s most poisonous values: greed and selfishness. We pillage the earth of its resources - converting bountiful, magnificent ecosystems into polluted, broken lands; then we move onto a new landscape and the processes repeat itself
Image Credit: Paul Nicklen, Sea Legacy
I don’t think anything symbolises this entitlement to nature more than single-use plastic; my least favourite design. To create an item designed to be only used once, yet to last for eternity is just mind-boggling to me. It is entitlement to the carbon-rich fossil fuels used to produce them and it is entitlement to the organisms and habitat the plastics will pollute after use.
Now, I can understand that my perspective on the failure of single-use plastics is extremely biased. Since seeing the video of the polar bear I have become something of an obsessive environmentalist… So what if I was to remove this determinant of value and look purely at the functionality of single-use plastics. From this perspective, one can applaud the design of single-use plastics. They are extremely light and cheap. They are easy to access, produce and require no kind of circular recycling system, only to be thrown in the trash and bought again.
However much I dislike single-use plastics, I still find them extremely inspiring. Whereas ‘favourite’ designs act upon a pull method, pulling designers towards similar smart designs; inspiration from a least favourite design acts on push, pushing designers away from the design’s shortcomings and towards more intelligent creations.
I find this inspires me to learn more about how we can make products more sustainable; whether that would be engineering them out of compostable material, designing items to be easily disassembled into the different materials for recycling, or even on a broader level, our relationship with trash and how we could change that to become part of a more circular system.
Paul Nicklen & Sea Legacy. (2017, December 6), Untitled video (Polar Bear). Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BcU-6PsAoIp/