Monthly Archives: September 2010

Rethink the future

This evening, I thought I’d be a busybody and attend an event for the launch of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. I’d never heard of the lady, and I imagined her to be kinda older and from a titled background (I don’t know why, maybe it’s the name). Turns out she sailed around the world, at 28 years old, broke records, became a Dame off that, all pretty impressive. I think she’s a really inspiring character and a goal-setter who actually seeks to achieve those goals to the highest standard possible. She was very emotive, confident and great speaker/presenter I think – no notes, held our attention, all the sentences in one piece. The video presentations were also very professionally done and informative.

Superficial impressions aside, I think the message really resonates. ‘Rethink the future’ means creating a sustainable future. Because at the moment the status quo is to take stuff from the ground, make something with it, (buy it), use it, throw it away. But where is ‘away’? It festers in the landfill, and with a growing population and increasing consumption, that is not sustainable. So we should use technological know-how to create material and products that can be reused again and again or are thoroughly biodegradable. Electric cars that run on renewable energy. Fridges that can be made into something else at the end of their life. Even we humans are biodegradable! So we need to put more effort into the stuff we make to make them sustainable. It’s not merely recycling. It’s actually producing things in a different way, through a different product cycle model. Ellen MacArthur mentioned ‘circular economy’  and apparently China are onto that now. So things don’t get thrown away and instead go on to be different things or can decompose.  Waste should also be minimized on production, be it material or energy. For example, in the exhibition just now, a textile student came up with a weaving machine that creates the fabric pattern pieces to spec, so there is no cutting involved and no wastage; just sew the pieces together.

Seems like an exciting but also challenging future to face. I say, it’s definitely a very great time to be in science, design and engineering!