Many of the future global challenges have already been identified, including global warming, growing inequality, uncontrolled globalization, discrimination, and the destruction of forests, páramos, and water sources. However, the solutions to these problems continue to be unclear. The lack of political, economic, and social will has not allowed a consensus to be built regarding which path to take.
“In many instances, we behave as if we were climate change deniers. We know the facts, we understand the problem, but we seem incapable of changing our behavior,” said Alejandro Gaviria, vice-chancellor of the Universidad de los Andes, during his opening address at Cumulus: the Design After. This is a global conference that brings together the highest-level educative institutions from around the world in the service of art, design, education, and research.
This is the second time Cumulus has been held in Latin America, and it seeks to reflect upon new design challenges, the moment of expansion and integration that design is experiencing with other professions, and its role in the construction of the future.
Themes such as design focused on biodiversity, on social processes; on fiction, architecture, and games that construct a future; on the construction of the city and the countryside, and empowering small communities set the agenda for the event, for which design is in charge of guiding change.
Gaviria commented that “I suppose you are skeptical about traditional forms of social change. You want to emphasize the technological and cultural transformation. You want to highlight bottom-up innovations, the mobilization, and the alternative ways of changing reality".
A complex biodiversity
Brigitte Baptiste, biologist and, recipient of an Honorary doctorate in Environmental Management, ex-director of the Alexander Von Humboldt Research Institute, and current vice-chancellor of Universidad EAN recalled the great design challenges when building the future in her inaugural speech. “We do not live in a finished world; we live in a world that is constantly being constructed”.
The inaugural speech was given by Brigitte Baptiste, president of Universidad EAN.
Cities often grow without any planning, or they devour everything around them, agriculture extends consuming hectares and hectares of countryside, mining and oil extraction invade the fields and the páramos and in some cases contaminate water sources. There are also increased confrontations between different social groups. “We feel as if we are entering a time of madness”, said Gaviria.
However, the growth and expansion of humanity make it necessary to find new spaces to live in and to produce sufficient food for everyone. Resources from mining and oil are necessary for development, and everyone coexisting together is fundamental.
Brigitte assured that “The contradictions should be resolved by design. We are still not aware of the relation between the destruction of the ecosystem and future problems”.
According to her, design can combine conservation with innovation to achieve a balance. Design can find the balance to follow to confront future challenges. There are native forests, for example, that are recovering from destruction, but it is a slow process. It is at this point that design should articulate solutions to make the coexistence between development and the complex biodiversity of ecosystems possible.
Design students win the Biodesign Challenge, which is an award endorsed by Peta, the Stella McCartney brand, and the Stray Dog Capital corporation.
The university and Jeffrey Sachs, who is the representative of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, announced their alliance.