Xin and Adam connect up with the new head of the University of Auckland’s Design Programme Dr Angus Donald Campbell and PhD candidate Chris Berthelsen to share stories of local making from Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Tāmaki Makaurau and South Africa.

Angus Donald Campbell: How is the project coming along in Wellington? Are you zooming us from your new studio?

Xin Cheng: Not yet! It’s a little bit early for that studio. We’ve been setting it up and putting up curtains because otherwise, it’s like a fishbowl with people walking by. Today we’re going to meet with the waste minimization person from the WCC.

Adam Ben-Dror: It’s an amazing site. It’s on Wellington’s premier entertainment strip where there are many bars and clubs so we just have to leave before 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays. We’re still setting up but we’ll send through some pictures.

ADC: How long do you have it for?

X: Until Easter. The public programme will start in March.

ADC: Sounds wonderful.

Chris is co-teaching with me on a course that is being developed as we speak. It is called Local Making, well, its official name is Local Design Manufacturing, which is terrible. It will be changed to Local Making, and that’s how we’re going to embrace it—we’re going to be bringing our own interests. Chris, I have some great guest speakers.

X: Sounds great!

ABD: What year level is it?

ADC: It’s an elective so it will be for the 2-3 year Bachelor of Design students. 23/24 students are part of it, which is great, not too big a class.

X: Sounds good! We’ve also been trying to define what local making is.

ADC: Well I suppose I don’t necessarily know. The way that I’ve framed the course is really about exploration for all of us, especially for myself. I can bring a lot of my own experience from Africa which I’m going to draw on but I am going to bring in some local experts too. I am inviting Wikuki Kingi, as a new kaiārahi in the Faculty, he’s a well-known Māori carver. I’m hoping I can convince him to come and do a lecture, but I’ve also invited David Hakaraia.

ABD: He’s amazing!

ADC: We’re hopefully getting him in. I’m trying to get this idea of arts/design/craft and the fuzzy world between them and really look at the idea of localisation, local teachers, appropriate technology and also extend into the work that Chris and I are doing—we call it ‘design on the margins’ in a sense, or lay-design—to get the students to look at what’s going on in their local communities but also to use their own cultural heritage and with this forward-looking lens and what might be. We’re encouraging them to make something, whatever that might be, it could be a product, a collaboration, but particularly focusing on using local resources. That’s the idea, it’s all an experiment. We’ll see how it goes!

ABD: Sounds really exciting.

ADC: It actually would be great for you both to speak at a class as well.

Circuit boards are cut up with shears and sorted to increase their value to scrap metal dealers. Earthlink, Taitā.

X: We’ve been looking a lot at e-waste and looking at what happens when e-waste is recycled. It seems that mostly they just cut up all the gold bits and then sent them to Belgium to be processed. But there is this place in Auckland called Mint which is working on processing gold and other precious metal extraction using bacteria. So they’re looking to set up these local processing plants for e-waste.

Chris Berthelson: Have you talked to Abilities? It is also in Auckland, on the North Shore. Adam, that’s where we got all of those smartphones, they have that small shop, or room, where they collect smartphones all over the city and then send them to Japan via this company called Abilities. Abilities employs mainly the students that have graduated from the local special needs school, they take them all apart and then distribute them to different recycling or dismantling places from there. It might be an interesting middle-zone, to find out what they do.

X: We’ve been researching a similar place in Lower Hutt called Earthlink. They work with people with barriers to employment. Used electronics are taken apart for recycling.

C: I haven’t looked that deeply but I don’t think there is a large scale activity or operation in this country that co-opts the power of mealworms, which eat polystyrene and then digest it, poo it out or extract it as non-poisonous materials. It is something that I was thinking of doing with the local intermediate school this year, maybe doing a small scale experiment.

It’s quite interesting, mealworms are pretty cheap to buy. I don’t know if it’s easy to find them. I’m not sure how they feel about only being fed on polystyrene but the research, which is of course done by humans, seems to look like they don’t have any negative effects on their bodies, but who really knows, right?

ABD: True.

C: It’s quite interesting anyway. Physically the worms are ok but psychologically we don’t know.

The teacher I am working with at the intermediate school wants to also breed the mealworms to use as a protein source. I am not sure if the Ministry of Education is keen on getting us mealworms, feeding them polystyrene, frying them and then giving them to the kids.

ADC: That’s probably a bad idea.

C: I’d prefer not to eat animals in general, but if we’re going to eat them as a protein source it could be ok, so it’s another nice example of local makers. Of course, polystyrene is a ridiculous thing to deal with.

ADC: Yeah but if they don’t, they’re not very productive so they only degrade polystyrene at a rate of 34-39mg per day. So that’s…

C: That’s why we need a lot of them.

ABD: You need a lot!

C: I’m not in a hurry but I guess the world is.

ADC: They say there was no difference between the mealworms that were only fed polystyrene and mealworms fed conventional food during one month of the experiment.

C: Maybe we can fill up the whole school gymnasium with polystyrene and mealworms. You can’t throw out any polystyrene that you’ve produced in your consumption practices. You have to store it in the gym all year.

ABD: It’s like a Peter Robinson installation but with mealworms.

ADC: I had a friend back in South Africa, that was experimenting with black fly larvae they are particularly juicy and full of protein, they’re brilliant chicken feed. He had a house that he was renovating and on the top floor, a bit like Dexter, he sealed up all the windows and filled it with plastic sheeting and filled the small space with these black fly larvae, these huge flies, really big, as an experiment to see how productive they could be. It was quite successful, but yeah, pretty smelly and not something we could recommend doing at home.

ABD: What were they eating?

ADC: Just kitchen scraps. That is something, I don’t know about you, I find it so bizarre here, living in an apartment we don’t have a garden so throwing away food waste is the weirdest thing I’ve ever had to do because back in South Africa, we had a huge compost heap and it was always about making compost for the garden. The fact that the city doesn’t have a composting programme—they have it in some places but not in others and in some commercial spaces it is a privatised programme—I find it so weird. All of that organic waste should be separated out. It shouldn’t be going into landfills, it should be going to productive use. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that? I find it strange.

X: Yes, me too. However the Auckland Council is investing in a biodigester instead.

ABD: Maybe the biodigester doesn’t even service Angus’ area?

ADC: No.

ABD: That was a controversial thing. Auckland city council recently invested in this multi-million-dollar anaerobic biodigester and there are a lot of community gardeners and farmers who are saying, actually what we don’t need is another waste monopoly. We need local, community-scale composting where communities are learning how to do it themselves and enjoying the benefits, fertile soil, social cohesion, climate change resilience, all these great things.1

ADC: Yeah.

C: It’s actually quite scary to see, as you said, the creation of a centralised waste production management monopoly instead of people being able to deal with it themselves in small groups.

ABD: Of course, because then you have many trucks driving around the city, privatizing this valuable resource which is labeled as waste instead of allowing it to benefit the community. In Wellington there is an amazing group called Kaicycle who have built an urban farm on what used to be a gravel parking lot. They have a few electric bicycles with trailers, you pay a subscription and they pick up your organic waste weekly. They compost the food scraps and have turned a clay site into rich healthy soil which they grow food in and which makes its way back to the community in the form of vegetables. Their philosophy is around viewing the soil as a living system rather than an inert growing medium.2

ADC: It sounds like an incredible project!

ABD: It is incredible and it started just as a grassroots organization, by a bunch of young people. The last time we spoke to them they wanted to scale up their project and get to the point that when the council says, “right we need to deal with everyone’s food scraps in the city, we cant just have them going into the landfill”. Kaicycle will be able to make a compelling case for community scale composting with many composting sites throughout the city. So we don’t end up with the same thing as Auckland where you get a foreign owned millionaire company building a biodigester that doesn’t really benefit the community.

ADC: Back in South Africa we had one of the biggest food markets in the southern hemisphere. The whole food system was so broken, but ultimately most of Southern Africa would send their produce to Johannesburg to this huge food market, it was government-owned land and basically, there would be middlemen that would sell the produce on behalf of the farmer and most of the time it would get shipped somewhere else. It would get brought in and off it would go. It was one of the biggest banana processing plants in the world because most bananas are picked green and then they’re kept in containers green and they don’t ripen—the minute they expose them to ethylene gas, they suddenly ripen. The farmers would send and store them at this place and when they wanted to hit the markets on the ground, then they’d be sprayed with ethylene gas then they’d go out.

They had this biodigester, it was this ridiculous thing because the produce was always owned by the farmers, it was theirs until it was sold but then it became this big thing where if they took the rotten produce that didn’t sell and put it in the biodigester, how do they pay the farmers whose produce it is because they, the farmers, still own it, even if it’s rotten. The logistics were so hard that they decided not to do it—they created all the infrastructure but they never did it because they couldn’t figure out how to pay for it and most of the farmers just said to throw it away because it was too hard to deal with the logistics. It was nuts, purely a financial position, well, an ownership position actually.

C: Now they have the biodigester there, we can just gather all of Auckland’s food waste and ship it over there. Solved the problem! They can ship back the compost.

ADC: We’ll send the gas back!

ABD: Bring the gas back.

ADC: Build a pipeline.

C: Put it through Australia.

E-waste is dissembled and sorted. Earthlink, Taitā.

X: That links into something I have been thinking about in terms of scale. I have been learning about circular economies, then I realised that most of the discussion is around dealing with things on a large scale. With e-waste recycling, for example, they extract what they need, such as precious metal, and throw away the rest. However, I have come across an example from a makerspace in Taipei–it’s situated in a small neighbourhood, in a garage that faces onto the street where they run a repair cafe. People could also bring their waste and this small group of people think of ways of working with it all. There was one example where one of the long term volunteers modified the motor of a vacuum cleaner and turned it into a table saw. Which looked great and worked well. With A Place for Local Making, this is the kind of creativity we’re interested in. However, on a larger scale, when you have hundreds of vacuum cleaners and other devices, you don’t have the manpower to process all of them. In terms of a profitable business, you can’t pay people to do those things.

ADC: That’s a bit like the Cubans. have you seen The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, the documentary? It was about the fact that as an island, Cuba suddenly became completely isolated and it was a most fascinating case study because everything that was there was suddenly seen as a resource rather than waste. It was a complete shift.

ABD: Amazing!

ADC: For example, I might be preaching to the converted, but what they had in Cuba had to be made the most of. For example, an appliance like a combo washing machine and drier – in Cuba, it’s so hot that they never actually used the drier. So, they had a whole new kind of artisan develop: the person would cut the washing machine in half and then use the bits of the drier to save space and would take the drier and the driers motor. They would turn that into all sorts of other equipment. fans, make the motor into tools, whatever it was, it’s sitting there doing nothing when they didn’t have anything coming into the country. It was a waste of resources. I find Cuba fascinating, as a whole case study. I’ve done a lot of research about it because it’s very much linked to my own interests.

It’s an interesting one Xin when you talk about this idea of scale because, do you know Nabeel Hamdi, the author? I’m trying to remember what his book was called [Small Change]. He’s a UK city planner and he writes this amazing book ‘Small Change’ and ‘Small is Beautiful‘ by Schumacher. A lot of the work I did in South Africa was coming up against this idea of small interventions that were really efficient and very localised versus this idea of scaling up, more expanded with more and more money. I find you can get to a certain point or scale, and then it always became so much more difficult and so much less efficient. And so, I’m a big believer in small, distributed change as opposed to large scale intervention— just as this biodigester in Auckland sounds like a terrible idea versus Kaicycle, this localised neighbourhood thing. Interestingly a lot of the farmers that I worked with in Johannesburg were mostly doing small urban farms but what was fascinating was that none were millionaires but they were all doing way better by far than the average person’s income in South Africa, actually some of them were doing, what would be considered quite successful enterprises on small pieces of land but in very innovative ways. It was around layering what they were doing, building in levels of resilience, not just doing one thing, but multiple things, not too many because then you’re all over the place, but focusing on a range of approaches and some of them were making really good money doing consultancy work, helping others to set themselves up, training workshops. So, you know, their activities were not always just about selling the food, that was just part of the bigger system that they were developing.

Another thing, one of my friends worked for one of the big French energy companies and he was based in South Africa, we had some very interesting conversations. He was building some of the big power stations in South Africa and what was interesting was, I had this particular conversation with him at a BBQ, talking about how this company had missed the boat and all of their products were huge big infrastructure, they had to deal with really problematic government tenders, everything was always big, slow, and expensive. He was using Google as an example who set up a distributed solar grid in the United States where ultimately Google would pay you to put solar panels on your roof and although you would get sufficient power for your house, they would put more solar panels than you would need and all of that would then be sold onto the grid and although each of the individual households wasn’t using a lot of electricity on their own. Everyone was like, ‘great put solar panels on my roof’, but when you put all of that together, you suddenly had a huge energy player but it was a really resilient model and a relatively low-cost entry into the market for Google and it was ultimately incredibly useful for each of the individual households as well. It’s interesting when you start to think of the ideas of scale because, I mean this as an industrial designer, a lot of industrial design has been about the idea of mass-production and this problematic idea that you can meet everybody’s needs by producing a whole lot of one thing. So, it becomes interesting because the scale is a key consideration.

One of the readings I’ll present to the students is from Helen Norberg-Hodge, she’s an anthropologist and worked a lot in Ladakh. She’s such an amazing author, ‘Local is our Future‘ is one book. I can’t remember what the other was called but it was about the time she’d spent as an anthropologist in Ladakhand, she looks at Ladakhi culture and how it’s so autonomous and self-supporting and how western culture came in and eroded that completely. She talks about ways to overcome what has now become this idea of globalisation and massification of everything, of scaling everything to this idea of localisation. They do such good things—it’s—they organise these amazing events with incredible speakers and every year they have the Dalai Lama and people like Russel Brand join in and all these other eco-warriors.

X: Great! We’re going to have a reading group so we’ll read some of her texts.

ABD: What you highlighted is so great – that as soon as they became isolated everything that was waste became resource. Also the idea that industrial design is built on the premise of being able to meet everyone’s needs if you just make a lot of one thing or many things on mass. And we see the outcome of this strategy at these places that are doing e-waste recycling. The tools that they use are safety goggles and a hammer and they have piles of laptops, flatscreen TVs, phones, any e-waste you can imagine and they’re smashing them up to retrieve tiny amount of gold and other precious metals. No doubt some of them are broken, maybe beyond repair but that’s one of the results of mass production, you just have so much of everything, and you just have to smash it up because “its not worth anything” as a laptop or cellphone anymore. You can just buy a brand new one for cheap. Then of course, if we stopped being able to import laptops or TVs for a year, suddenly those would become this really valuable resource that we would look after.

ADC: Exactly, exactly.

ABD: Stop it! Stop smashing man! Turn off the crusher with laptops and cell phones! We need those.

Flat screen televisions piled up waiting to be recycled. Earthlink, Taitā.

C: That is what New Zealand or Aotearoa was in the 40s 50s 60s anyway. You know, due to the import restrictions and all of those aspects where you couldn’t buy a car or you couldn’t afford a car, it all had to be made here.

ADC: And I mean that was exactly the same with apartheid South Africa. Because of apartheid, South Africa was forced to be very innovative, to really think about meeting the needs of the local market. I mean apartheid was a terrible thing, I’m not in any way condoning it, but it ultimately forced this level of creative autonomy within South Africa, and so you ended up having these incredible manufacturing sectors like fabrics and textiles, there was automotive, you know all sorts of local industries, whereas the minute that the democracy came along all of that got eroded. And the global markets opened up, and it was just all about scale and cheap imports and subsequently, the whole textile industry is destroyed now. The fact that Africa has massive amounts of resources in terms of ore — South Africa ships iron ore in its raw form in boats all the way to China to get processed and then we buy the metal back, it’s absolutely insane.

ABD: I think we do that with the pine that we grow, we used to process it here but now most of it is sold and shipped to China and Australia who process it. Some of it is bought and imported back into the country as a “value-added product”.

ADC: It’s crazy! You know when the Suez Canal was blocked by that boat that got stuck there, I was like, yes! And COVID has created, all of these impacts on the global supply chain and it seems like we’re going to be experiencing it for quite a while.

X: We talked to a textile recycler in Lower Hutt and apparently he ships all of these collected textiles overseas for processing and then he would import rags back. But now, because he said that the price of shipping containers has gone up tenfold, it’s really not profitable anymore. Yeah, so he’s not sure what to do.

ADC: Yeah yeah yeah yeah it’s so difficult with these things that fluctuates so much.

ABD: I’m really interested in these ideas of local making, repair, recycling, small scale solutions. They’re such interesting things to be practicing and encouraging a community to participate in when you still will live in a world of material abundance and easy access to products. You don’t need to scurry around looking for parts to repair an old laptop or fix an old cellphone. You could just buy a new one. But you’re encouraging people to engage with a different set of values, it might not be convenient to repair an old laptop, it might take a lot of time and effort. You’re doing it for a different reason. You have to make a very intentional decision to engage with these objects and to stick with them and then maybe the reason becomes clear later on.

ADC: I think that this is way too much, yeah? My own studies went into the philosophy of technology and it also becomes really interesting when you start to understand that the technology itself has moved to a point where it requires such a level of specialization that it eliminates the average person’s ability to engage with it. For example, you know the laptops you’re talking about Adam? I think if we all, you know, like back in the days, where everybody tinkered in their car and was able to open up the hood on a Saturday and you’d know how to check your spark plugs and change the oil. It was a machine and it was relatively simple, it was accessible, it was understandable. To some degree, it took a little bit of learning to be able to understand but now… We just got ourselves a second-hand Nissan leaf, that thing has got so many buttons and computers and it’s more complicated in some ways than my laptop. There is just no way that I would want to even start to fiddle with it in the same sort of way that you could with a petrol car. I had years ago, a Land Rover Defender, you know that was like a giant Mechano set. It’s quite interesting, there was a fascinating study that was done, and I am using cars again as an example, around what the most sustainable vehicle actually is. By sustainable, it was looking at the full lifecycle from the actual materials that went into this manufacturer’s car and its whole life. Interestingly, it’s almost the complete opposite of one what one might think, the Toyota Land Cruisers were the most sustainable vehicles, and it was because you can keep them going for much longer than any other car, they were built tough, easy to fix and the parts are readily available.

A lot of the time we get sold on this idea with these EVs that they’re super sustainable but during the working life of a car, the biggest amount of pollution happens in its creation in the first place, not in it’s use.

Having a car last as long as possible is really what you want, as opposed to this idea of radical new technologies. Anyway, that’s the first EV I’ve ever had so I’m kind of taking it as an experiment.

ABD: I feel like your view is different to many of the designers I know, and certainly most industrial designers. When I was doing my undergraduate degree in Industrial Design at Victoria University they put it to us as students to think about what the role of industrial designers in New Zealand might be. We live on an island and we used to have a large manufacturing industry, but when trade tariffs were removed in the 70s and 80s we stopped manufacturing things in New Zealand. Anything that was being made locally could suddenly be Imported cheaply from overseas. The school encouraged students to adopt digital manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting as the way forward. The idea that we could use these tools to manufacture what is needed, whenever it is needed. I’m simplifying here but that was the gist. But I am far more interested in imagining the role of a designer in New Zealand as someone who looks to the materials that are around us. The designer can think what might be able to do with the 12.5 million tonnes3 of material going to landfill each year, Including 99,000 tonnes of e-waste3 and 150,000 tonnes of textile waste3. What are the possibilities with all of this material, e-waste, plastic, wood, textiles that the other kinds of designers are creating? Could the designer’s role be to work with communities and develop skills and possibilities for all this material? Its like the biodigester vs the local composting that we spoke about earlier. Do we need 3D printer technology to print a spoon or can you learn to us a whittling knife and a tree branch? The students graduate knowing how to use state of the art software and million-dollar 3D printers but they don’t learn to work with their hands and learn about materials. And It leads to all sorts of strange products which don’t make sense if you spend time engaging with materials and seeing what is ending up in landfills.

ADC: For me, technology is a tool, and like what I said before, it’s also a veil, in the sense that it hides a lot. So, like the fact that we are chatting online at the moment and all my files are no longer on a hard drive they’re sitting on a cloud server somewhere else. A lot of the things that we’re relying on are hidden and much more convoluted ways than they were in the past, and so that becomes a lot harder it’s almost like you’ve got to be a really critical consumer to be able to really think about these things and to conceive of the kind of impact your having where, because I think that it’s not always as clear, now that everything has been distributed on the Internet. So for me, technology is a tool and technology isn’t necessarily this idea of high tech, I think that technology is… a lot of the work that I did in South Africa was around the notion of appropriate technology, so you know appropriate technology is quite different. Appropriate technology is about technology that is suited to its context it’s not something that is brought in from outside and is not understood locally. It is the technology that you’re able to repair and fix yourself and it’s designed in that way. So, it’s designed to be repairable, it’s designed to be accessible it’s not designed in a way that hides and adds layers of complexity that the average individual can access. So all of this, Adam, all of this comes from Development Studies, particularly around the kind of problems that happened in Africa around a lot of big global organizations, bringing their biodigesters, bringing the dams bringing their power plants into the African context, under the guise of Development. And all of the problems that then arose from that because it undermines you know local labor. Medupi, which is a huge big power plant built in South Africa that was built recently was using, I think it wasHitachi was doing the boiler and they brought their own labor to actually install it, so again, all of the knowledge then remains with the actual technology producer and doesn’t develop the local community. For me, its about making technology something that is more accessible, more understood and suiting technology to the particular place in space that it’s going to be used. So, I’m really excited about the fact that in our new FabLab we have Arduino – all the little bits and pieces and kit and I don’t know much about Arduino, but for me technology is very much a tool that extends our capabilities as humans.

So it has a really important role to play, so if you want to be more successful as a farmer, bringing technology and to help you it’s really a good way to go, but it’s about acknowledging, at the same time, the kind of incredible role that the natural environment plays and it’s not about saying “Oh well, we don’t need soil, and we can just plant our lettuce and water, and adding a few chemicals and yeah there we go we’ve got beautiful lettuces!” You know when you eat those lettuces you’re just not really getting the food you’re getting the chemicals that will put in the soil.

ABD: You’re like a mealworm eating Polystyrene.

ADC: Exactly! So I think as humans, we assume that we can rationalize and reduce things down so it’s like farming has become NPK or Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), and soil is no longer soil it’s not a living thing, it’s just a growing medium. There is a misunderstanding of the complexity of the natural environment and also, at the same time, the lack of understanding of the complexity of the technological environment that we’ve also ultimately generated. I suppose, its about finding that sweet spot between the two. Inherently there’s nothing wrong with 3D printing, but I think if you think 3D printing is going to save the world that’s a very problematic mindset to have. I think that there are a whole lot of distributed technologies for different industries that potentially offer great opportunities for us to have localized production. I’m a huge fan of wood and I think you know it is a massively renewable resource, it’s an air cleaner, a carbon-capturing device. It’s all these things, and so if we are using wood for production… it’s an incredible material. I follow a lot of these amazing Japanese wood workers who have the most incredible wooden joinery that you’ve ever seen because I think a lot of it… I think it was a Charles Eames was asked what did he understand could capture design in three words? He said “connections, connections, connections”.

So you know it’s all about how you put things together and thinking about how those things connect. And I think that it is in the technology and the way that we make it, is about thinking about how things come together, but also how you take them apart. I don’t know if it’s all that clear but there’s something there.

X: Well, I think, when it comes to thinking about how to take things apart, when we visited Earthlink, the recycling place, I think it gave some really good clues about what to design and what not to design. One of the things that they send to the shredder is like plastic that was fused to metal but then it’s impossible to separate that metal out. So, if the designer thought about those things they wouldn’t have to throw out so much stuff

ABD, That’s it, we know that if you can take something apart easily then it’s more easily repairable but it’s like those values don’t align with the manufacturer. It’s not necessarily the designer just thinking I’m just going to glue stuff together it’s the manufacturer saying we want a really cheap TV then designers go okay, we glue it then, it’s the cheapest way to do it.

ADC: But it’s so the technology itself almost takes on an agency. Like food packaging, for example, most food packaging at the moment is already complex, multi-layered plastic sandwiches and it’s because you’re increasing the shelf life of the products massively because you put it in this special kind of layers and no air gets inside. The problem is not so much that, it’s actually we shouldn’t be packing food in the first place and we need to be changing the whole food system from a distribution point of view. The idea that you can have a globalized economy, is inherently where a lot of these problems arise. In some ways COVID has been really beneficial and that it has forced a lot of countries to really think about themselves, almost in a nationalistic kind of a way – what if the world kind of comes to an end, how will we survive? And you know, ironically, my wife and I, these are the discussions we had. You know the world looks like it’s pretty shot, you know, things are already not going well, where in the world, do we want to go. In the hope that our son is going to have the best chance of survival. And yeah we ended up in New Zealand, and I think that it was a few months ago that there was a study done that if the world totally fell apart and there was nuclear war, New Zealand is probably the best place to be. That is a kind of “glass is half empty” kind of approach, but at the same time, I think that that kind of mentality is almost what one needs. Not the Prepper, American, buy all the food in the store and take it down to your house with your guns. Not a do-it-for-yourself kind of mentality, because I think that that’s also another end of the scale that’s really problematic, But rather it’s much more about an idea of localized communities. For me, psychologically and just in terms of human nature, one of the biggest things that we’ve lost is that connection with our Community. That’s where all of us has gone wrong because the Community is about having resources within a particular place, it’s about getting your food from a particular area, about knowing the woodworker who can kind of help you with your house and it’s about knowing the local shoemaker. It’s about that idea of localized at production the idea of… even if you look at a lot of anthropological books, even archaeological books, some of the histories of the development of Homo Sapiens, it was all around collaboration that we actually succeeded as a species

But we’ve got to a point where we are, we are completely destroying ourselves now because of the way that we’ve actually developed as a civilization, we’ve uncivilized ourselves. So anyway, that’s a whole other discussion.

ADC: Yeah, yeah sure I’m really enjoying meeting with you and talking about these things. What is your studio called?

X: A Place for Local Making.

ADC: That’s brilliant.

For me, I like the idea of craft. If we think about what craft was or is: it was about local resources translated into something of use and sometimes it was functional use and sometimes it was from a spiritual point of view. But it was always done in a very considered and, in many cases, really beautiful way and that’s why it becomes a really interesting parallel to design. Because design, has always had this idea of aesthetics, but a lot of the time, the things are made far away. They’re not localized. So that’s where we are all interested in these ideas of local interventions and communities and how people do it themselves, as a more authentic almost localized approaches to design. This challenges the notions of what is taught in design education and what is taught about how to be designer. Everything we’ve been talking about is almost inherently human: it’s natural, it’s part of us. Where it has gone has been mutated through ideas of economics and through globalization in really problematic ways. I really encourage you to read Helena Norberg-Hodge’s books – I think you both will find them fascinating.

1 Turning waste into resource: Auckland city’s new living compost hub

2 Compost, our superhero: Part One

3 Estimates of waste generated in Aotearoa New Zealand

4 Is Voluntary Product Stewardship for E-Waste Working in New Zealand? A Whangarei Case Study

5A global avalanche of used clothing is coming. NZ needs to do more to save it from landfill