Posted by Big Gav

IDFuel ("fuel for industrial design") is one of the new wave of "Viridian Design" groups.

They have discussed peak oil twice from an industrial design viewpoint recently - at The End Of Consumerism and Time for an Oil Change

While it's a highly contested point, it is believed that world oil production is in the process of peaking. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2020, we will reach a point where we will never be able to take oil out of the ground as fast as we are at that moment. Take a look at petroleum consultant Jack Zagar's presentation for a more in-depth descriptin of the situation. Since oil production will be fixed, we will no longer be able to drive growth by tapping greater reserves of oil-energy, like the U.S.A. did in the 1940s and 1950s. Even more important, to designers, will be the declining availability of petrochemical plastics for products. And since China has just become such a big consumer of manufactured goods, that supply will be decreasing even faster.

Lets face it. We've dug ourselves quite a hole, and we won't get out of it just by saying "Don't use plastic in your designs anymore." In order to avoid completely running out of petro-plastics, we'll need to look at a few options:

  • Champion long-term design, or at least upgradable design. We have to re-instill the idea that the plastic parts of a product are valuable, and don't imply disposability.

  • Incorporate renewable plastics, where possible. Designers can use their collective influence to demand that chemical companies create these products for us, but we've got to do it together.

  • When developing products, imagine them existing in a world where people don't over-consume. What would that product look like? Does it more easily match a variety of decor using low-material additions? Is is part of a class of products which, despite being designed by different companies are still inter-changeable so that you don't need, for instance, one remote control for every device in your house? Or maybe they multi-task, eliminating the need for both a computer and television (or three televisions)

  • Use alternative materials when possible. Seriously. This is the easiest and most quickly applicable method. Treat plastics like they are rare materials with very special properties. Because they are. You don't see people making any old thing out of Gabon Ebony, just because they feel like it.

First off, please understand that many of our references come from very, if not radically liberal organizations. Unfortunately, sites like "Peak oil and the extinction of humanity" tend to make people dismiss the issue as ridiculous. But bear in mind that even the most conservative experts, like the USGS and Bush Administration Energy Advisor Matthew Simmons acknowledge that peak oil is a problem which will come at the most in the next 10-20 years, and at the least, in the next 2-4. This problems is very real, and will have very real consequences, whether we act to solve it or not. If we do act though, we have the opportunity to lessen the blow or even dodge it altogether.

The Viridian Design movement was started by Bruce Sterling - it is his attempt to create a Green movement without what he perceives as the self-righteousness of the current Green movement. He called his movement the Viridian movement to signify its desire for high-tech, stylish, and ecologically sound design. The Viridian Design home page, including Sterling's Viridian Manifesto, is at

Other Viridian site include WorldChanging, TreeHugger and Massive Change.

Some people consider the Viridians a replacement for traditional environmentalism, which some deem to have failed (WorldChanging agrees that things need to change for environmentalism to have an impact in future, but doesn't buy the Viridians vs Greens argument).


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