The Multispecies Roundtable for Climate Impact is speculative and critical design proposal I developed in collaboration with new media artist and interaction designer Diego Maranan (UP Open University), biologist and artist Angelo Vermuelen (Space Ecologies Art and Design network) Birdie Salva (Curiosity) and Arlene Sy (independent artist). We exhibited this at the 2017 Balance Unbalance conference at The Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.
Speculative and Critical Design (SCD) is a methodology that considers the wider social, political, and ethical implications of design by challenging commercial and traditional design with new ideas. SCD aims to provoke thought and public debate about social conditions through the use of creative techniques, such as artwork and design fiction.
This speculation was prompted by a potential project in Disaster Risk Reduction that would have required our research and consultancy firm Curiosity to help address knowledge controversies that erupted from indigenous and artisanal groups' contestation of geohazard data and disaster models. This geospatial information contrasted with knowledge derived from lived experience and relationships with flora, fauna, and the elements leading towards an ethnoscience of disaster.
In this speculation, we re-imagined the disaster risk reduction space as a domain in which stakeholders of climate change --technoscientists (represented by hazard modellers), marginalised groups affected by disaster (including indigenous groups), artificial intelligence, plants, and animals-- could sit together as equals to discuss disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
My with encounter this proposal while re-organising my computer files, four years after we developed it, triggered another rethink of the societal relations of disaster and climate change. Certainly, the world has changed since our proposal exhibit. The effects of climate change have truly escalated. We're also in the middle of a raging global pandemic. The debates about how to address survival of all forms of life have also switched focus. Influential to the re-imagination of our worlds is anthropologist Arturo Escobar (2017), who argues for the need to centre the voices of the suffering, human and non-human, and whose ways of life signpost better futures. These voices have been regarded as minor inconveniences to the unstoppable and extractive energies of global industrial capitalism: the force that underpins the climate emergency.
Image Credit: Arlene Sy/Curiosity
Perhaps the SCD concept that we need in this moment should not be a roundtable. Let it be a multispecies classroom, equipped with full surround sound, capable of turning the whispers of the creatures most damaged by the excesses of our society into clear and resonant voices as they mentor us towards a kinder world.
Cajilig, P.G., Maranan, D. S., Sy, A., Salva, O., & Vermeulen, A. (2017, August). Multispecies Roundtable for Climate Impact: A Speculative Proposal. Poster presented at the Balance-Unbalance 2017, Plymouth University, UK. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.909098
Escobar, A. (2017). Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of World. Duke University Press.
Johannessen, L. K., Keitsch, M. M., & Pettersen, I. N. (2019). Speculative and Critical Design—Features, Methods, and Practices. Proceedings of the Design Society: International Conference on Engineering Design, 1(1), 1623–1632. https://doi.org/10.1017/dsi.2019.168