July 7, 2020
Designing with More-than-Human Food Practices for Climate Resilience
Climate change is an increasingly urgent, complex problem, with consequences threatening human and non-human lives across the globe. Legislative and citizen-driven responses are valuable but insufficient, and their practical feasibility is unclear. Emerging design research suggests embracing imaginative, creative approaches to support engagement with climate-change issues and inspire collective reflection. This workshop investigates how such approaches can be applied through co-creative design experimentation in the context of human-food practices, which are now recognized as a key driver of climate change. We will reflect on existing climate-change mitigation proposals by imagining their plausible implementations as climate-resilient food practices, emphasizing more-than-human concerns.
Anthropogenic climate change is a multi-layered, complex problem, with increasingly urgent socio-ecological consequences affecting the lives of all living entities on the planet. Rising sea levels, increased occurrence of wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events threaten human and non-human life, communities, and critical infrastructures . Local and national governments , NGO’s and citizen-led organisations , and others are responding to the imminent and impending consequences of these threats with proposals for climate-change mitigation. Such efforts are necessary and valuable but insufficient. The need to transform our societies towards socio-ecological sustainability is clear but how such proposals will work in practice is not. Many proposals lack the concrete economic and political scaffolding necessary to make their implementation feasible and cannot be assured of uptake. Emerging research in the area  proposes embracing imaginative, creative approaches to effectively communicate climate-change issues in order to enhance feasibility. Imaginaries of future situations can provide orientation in decision making to help people grasp how proposed climate-mitigation measures may affect their lives. Hence, imagination can support engagement with climate change issues and inspire collective reflection on the possibly radical effects that such measures may have .
Drawing on this emerging body of research, this workshop explores how such imaginative approaches can be applied through co-creative design experimentation in the context of food and food practices. Through speculative prototyping, a foraging walk-shop, and discussion we will reflect on existing climate mitigation proposals by imagining their implementations as climate-resilient food practices emphasizing more-than-human interests. In this time of rapidly changing climates, food is a critical concern: human-food practices are recognised as a major driver of climate change and all 17 of the UN’s sustainability goals can be linked to food . Within the rich variety of research projects tackling food sustainability issues, we believe many fail to consider more-than-human perspectives. This human-centric approach is increasingly untenable: a more-than-human view acknowledging the interdependencies of life would allow for a more comprehensive consideration of proposals and their broader consequences .
The workshop is organized as part of a two-day program titled Experimental Food Design for Sustainable Futures; taking place on the second day, following on from the day 1 workshop Fantastic(e)ating Food Futures: Reimagining Human Food Interactions. The two-day program focuses on experimenting with food as bio-design material and socio-culturally potent, aesthetically rich starting point from which to critically reflect on social and ecological uncertainties.
The primary objective of this workshop is to engage in co-creative, imaginative design explorations of climate change mitigation proposals and related socio-ecological uncertainties through the context of food systems. We will explore how various elements of climate change mitigation proposals may apply to food system contexts, craft and debate creative envisionments of climate-resilient futures, and speculate on how a more-than-human perspective can be included. Our goal is to contribute creative, actionable visions that can be taken forward to support positive societal transformations towards sustainability. We hope to create an interdisciplinary forum to share experiences, creative practices, and imaginations concerning climate change and discuss new ways of taking these visions forwards in our (organizers’ and participants’) existing work with policy makers, citizen groups, and NGOs [1-3].
To facilitate a discussion about climate change mitigation and related socio-ecological challenges, we narrow the scope of our inquiry to climate-resilient food practices and processes. Our focus on food is motivated by three factors: (i) human-food practices are key drivers of climate change and play a crucial part in mitigation proposals; (ii) food and food practices are universally relatable, providing a viable starting point for interdisciplinary collaborations; (iii) food extends to more-than-human life as a key concern in creating sustainable living systems. Critically, while food gives the workshop focus, the discussions will transcend food-related issues to address broader contexts of climate change and related mitigation plans.
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