India Climate Justice
About 6500 years ago, the “settling down” of humanity, concomitant to its adopting agriculture and large scale rurality, led to nomadism receding to the peripheries of the human lifestyle spectrum. Subsequent waves of knowledge, craft, industrial and communication revolutions, not only created the technological pools for design and other cultural productions to spawn, but eventually caused the mainstreaming of globally organised systems of production, consumption and waste. The efficiencies inherent to these systems and their technological states necessitated ever denser human settlements. So gradually, cities displaced villages as the dominant human settlement type. Eventually, by 2007, the world officially turned majority urban. India is predicted to do so in 2045.
In fact, the story thus far portends that urban future to be anything but settled. About 150 years ago, the fossil fuel driven Industrial Revolution drastically enhanced human mobility in range, speed and capacity. As the world “shrank”, people travelled faster ( their ideas with them) and cultures collided. Over time, “world-class” cities became progressively modernising portals to regional, often traditional, identities.Increasingly, these economic behemoths transformed from local cultural anchors to sites of a ubiquitous globalised monoculture and diverse diasporic sub-cultures. Travel and trade, between and within them, have become human endeavours of vital importance. As our cities explode into vast peri-urban sprawls, we spend more of our day and our lives in travel. Production and consumption in transit is fast replacing static “places” of cultural and economic activity. Fluid peripatetic identities and nomadic lifestyles appear to be replacing stable or “settled” ones.
The past 20 years has witnessed unprecedented mobilities of ideas, voices and data. From the miniaturisation of communication devices to the explosion of social media, the internet today racks up mindboggling speeds and capacities, far outpacing what has ever been achieved through physical displacement. In India, in particular, mobile communication technologies and their inherent productions and consumptions have reached settlements yet remotely connected to physical transport networks. This has brought unmediated shocks of modernity to traditional cultural systems, heightening identity and cultural conflicts and crises.
But the breathtaking speed of human progress has come at an almost unbearable cost. The ecological impact of enhanced human mobilities has been to greatly amplify, if not trigger, global climate change and biodiversity loss. As the world braces for utterly sporadic and extreme climate events, the globalised models of development adopted thus far appear to be very vulnerable to domino-like collapse. With the climatic, ecological and economic fragilities it shares with its immediate neighbourhood, India is also due to experience mass migrations and disastrous dislocations caused by climate events.
In a sense, India appears to be at a mobility inflection point. While we race to improve and expand our networks of mobilities between our “sites” of settlement, we seem to be at a cusp between urbanism and nomadism. Given our disparities and diversities, and the impending climate crisis, the choices and innovations adopted or evolved by Indian design in its practice, processes and pedagogies bear urgent examination. In the face of its early rumblings, the 10th Design X Design Roundtable examines the significance of the Indian mobility transformation for Indian design.
In the face of its early rumblings, the 10th Design X Design Roundtable examines the significance of the Indian mobility transformation for Indian design through three questions:
Question 1: What do you see as the most significant form of mobility (of people, objects, environment and/or ideas), that Indian design must be immediately cognisant of?
Question 2: Wayfinding is imperative to mobility and design foretells paths to the future through practice in the present. How must Indian design reorient itself to respond to the demands and outcomes of mobilities?
Question 3: Are Indian design practices sedentary? More often than not the designer is far removed from the sites of production and consumption of her designs. How can, and what kind of, connectivities reduce the gulf?