Lampoon, Pistoletto

A world in Hitachi Design Studio presents A World in Transition: defining a moment of ‘liminality’

The highlights from the Hitachi project online event explaining the changes needed within the system to ensure a future for the planet and human beings

Three transitions – A World in Transition event

«How can we, as a society, make the industrial, economic, and ecological transformation needed to restore that broken human-nature relationship in our time, starting right now?». That is the question which started the Hitachi project and its interactive digital experience A World in Transition, together with Tacrum, an innovation designer studio. The initiative presented three transitions for human nature recovery at the COP26 in Glasgow. 

Koji Sasaki, PhD is Chief Researcher at Hitachi and Senior Researcher at Keio University. He discussed the background of the project. Explaining how it was born when the Coronavirus started to spread and the bio crisis was becoming clearer to all. They encouraged him to start programs within the company in order to promote sustainability. Both on a social and environmental side. «As the Coronavirus continued, we found ourselves in what anthropologists define as a moment of ‘liminality’. A temporary social state where the older order collapsed but the new order has not been established yet».

They reflected on what kind of world they would like to have after the pandemic; analyzing the lockdown situation in terms of consumption, biodiversity, energy and thinking about a sustainable perspective for the future. The collaboration with Yosuke Ushigome, director and creative technologist at Tacrum, was key to analyzing the narrative of sustainability leaders; therefore to develop a website where the public can access the research. The website focuses on the nine different transitions that the world is passing through and the related discussions between experts and organizations from all over the world. 

The broken human-nature dialogue

Hitachi was one of the partners of COP26. They had the possibility to expose the idea of transition which resulted from previous research done. The company chose to focus on the Anthropocene; developing three of the most urgent transitions: the climate, biodiversity, and human life. «The world is at a tipping point. For instance, wildfires, extreme weather, marine pollution and the pandemic, all point to the same conclusion. Our current relationship with nature isn’t working. Human prosperity comes at the expense of the planet, we need a new vision».

This is the introduction to the start of the website experience. The analysis of the three transitions comes through their problems; their obstacles and their breakthroughs. Thus whilst understanding how there is still interconnection. Ushigome explains that each transition represents the world we have, the world we want and the pathways towards it. In addition, the illustration and sound design try to give a sensitive feeling to each world. Together with some key traits identified through the studies. 

This is similar for the ideal worlds. The pathways represent different areas in which there is a need for transformation. For example, Ushigome continues, in creating fairer and more equal communities. The obstacle is the lack of inclusiveness in decision making. The potential breakthrough for that is to empower, protect and collaborate with local and marginalized communities. Through linkages, it is clear within the website that there is an interconnection between breakthroughs and other transitions. For example the above mentioned to one within climate decision making.

Lampoon, Three transitions, a video by Hitachi x Takram

A World in Transition – Mindset potential in the saving action

«Mikaela Loach is a climate-justice activist, co-host of the Yikes Podcast, writer, and fifth-year i am a medical student. She is one of three claimants who took the UK Government to court. To challenge the Oil & Gas Association’s policy in the North Sea and the subsidies and tax breaks the industry is given». Explains Lucy Sigle, writer and chair of the A World in Transition event. Loach focuses her speech on the need to get out of individual thinking. This is to say to be able to join a community guided change, necessary to save the planet and human beings. 

Her example is about the stock Cambo campaign. Cambo is an oil field off the coast of Shetland in the North Sea of Scotland set to approval last year. Within six months of online campaigning and grouping; Loach and others had the opportunity to stop the approval of a field with 170 million oil barrels. As a consequence, the emissions resulting from those burning would have been the equivalent of ten years of emissions from Scotland alone, she clarifies. 

The halting of this approval of these fields represents an important step for the climate change situation. Social media activation; the occupation of the UK government in Scotland; eighty thousand petition signatures, and media campaigns were some of the most concentrated areas of the action. To conclude, emphasis is placed on the need for activation; where passive citizenship is no longer an appropriate way to be able to live on this planet.

Possibilities and changes, imagined and implemented future world

Tim Smit, co-founder and executive vice-chair of the Eden Project. «The revolution everyone talks about is happening, we’re going through a greater change now than at any time since 1912 to 1920. We think we had a lot of changes but they have been iterations». He continues saying that it seems impossible to think humans are not learning from past shocks that are shaping the future, a radical change compared to a monster. Livestock and the animal protein market have colonized the food chain. Putting aside environmental damage, the resources are in the middle of a scarcity period; where one can only imagine how much food costs will increase in the future, as well as the demands of substitutes. 

The exploitation of fermentation technology in crops enables the possibility of buying cheap food around the world. Smit claims referring also to the probability of electric transportation usage increase and price decrease. Smit continues that in the future, there will no longer be roads. In addition it will no longer be necessary to drive. 

Horticulture – the future

Big cities will be organized and divided into small villages that will become greener. This seems to predict the outcome of the project started in China; by his company that already saw a decommissioned quarry transformed into a cradle of life.

«Horticulture is a reality, growing vertically fifty feet into the sky by twenty feet long. These containers can feed small villages of 500 people with vegetables. They can also grow trees and inject mycorrhizae into the soil. This revolution is happening and it’s scaling», Smit affirms. This revolution will lead to the spread of renewable energy at a low price. Every town will be able to produce internally in terms of food. This effects redistribution of wealth and the end of the consumer era; something which started during the pandemic, Smit points out. In other words it favors a moral compass guided by spiritual awareness. All these changes in thirty years, according to Smit, will lead to the disappearance of nations. Each place will be the center of the world; with advanced digital connectivity, cheap transport and renewable energy to grow any food.  

Why do we consume the way we do?

Aja Barber did a reflection on consumer behavior, in particular in the fashion sector. She is a writer, stylist and consultant in fashion, with a focus on sustainability. Her book, Consumed, investigates the common roots of colonialism, consumerism, and climate change. She tries to explain the connection of these aspects through the analysis of fashion, sustainability and social phenomenon, such as racism and feminism. «If you look around in your room, you will find something manufactured in the global south. Often there is a good chance the artisan wasn’t paid enough. When it comes to what we wear, to clothing, we choose to buy and to participate in this system», Barber affirms. 

The problem doesn’t only lie within fast fashion, according to Barber. Everything that has a very cheap cost comes from exploitation of a worker. The consumer must understand that someone is paying for that low cost, but it’s never the big company. «We have to understand that eighty percent of garment workers are women. In the UK, there is an estimation stating that we wear our clothing only seven times. A fast fashion company in 2017 sold feminist t-shirts for 6.99 dollars», Barber continues.

The aim is to encourage the consumer to not act as such

Consumerism is now part of everyday life. Above all, here many are born with these values. Pursuing the well-being and happiness that is sold and bought without being aware of what one is doing. 

Food, fashion, fuel, finance, family and friends are the basis of Farhana Yamin’s speech. She is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer, climate change and development policy expert. Before talking about climate change, she emphasizes how to reach the solution in each sphere. This is to say putting justice, equality, diversity and inclusion at the forefront. «If we did that, we would be prioritizing black and brown people;, young people, disabled people, the interests of the global south, marginalized communities». To conclude, mitigation can no longer be the answer. A leadership that proposes concrete actions needs to guide the citizens. COP26, maybe, was a starting point to develop this approach.

A World in Transition 

An online event that took place on the 27 of January. Held by 5×15 and made to follow the launch of ThreeTransitions.Earth. A world in Transition event brought together different experts and activists in the environmental and climatic sector.

Chiara Narciso

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.