March 6, 2017

Discussion Session 3.6.2017 – MLP Model Presentations

How might long-term technological trends affect your MLP maps and the leverage points they exposed?

How does an habitual way of thinking in short horizons of time impede our ability to see transitions in hindsight and follow a trajectory into a probably future?

Discussion Leaders: Gray Crawford, Ashlesha Dhotey, Rossa Kim and Eunjung Paik.

33 Comments
  1. Over the course of the MLP mapping assignment, my group (crime) struggled to identify that many ways that long term technological trends have contributed to our wicked problem area. Through our research, we have found that overarching social, economic, and institutionalized oppression issues have been the pervasive problem areas. While we don’t have that many technological trends, we did identify that technology has impacted the outcomes for ex-convicts. Specifically, as criminal records have become digitized, it has become much more easy to conduct background checks on potential employees and determine if those potential employees were ever involved in the criminal justice system. Before this technological infrastructure was in place, it was much easier for ex-convicts to start over in a new life after their time in prison. A criminal record is far more permanent today, and that creates a negative job outlook and lower possibility for rehabilitation.

    In regards to the second question, people are very predisposed to viewing problems within their own experiences, and thus explore issues as they observed them within their lifetime. This impedes our ability to see transitions, because we fail to identity many of the cause/effect relationships with the past that impact our relationship today. One thing I loved about the MLP map project was that we were encouraged to consider the past, present, and future together. This was instrumental for us to see, through research, the key opportunities for intervention in Pittsburgh.

    • Vicky and I are in the same group. We do figure out that due to development of information technology, background check become available for authority which means that ex-convicts could not simply restart their new life in somewhere else. I starts to think about whether it is right or wrong that your boss could access your background information simply because he intends to hire you. For sure, it seems to be reasonable for those jobs with higher security requirements, but how about normal jobs? Now background check become a regime and rightful action in current social system and people never questions about it. We treat ex-convicts as people who have higher possibility to commit a crime again. Once you do something bad, then you are different from normal forever. The record will follow you to everywhere.
      The whole background check system discriminate criminal and makes them hard to come back to mainstream society. I believe that there is no way to predict such systematic influence when information technology emerge. Just like you can’t imagine microwave change the way people eat and certain contribute to the problem of obesity.

      However, I still think MLP model is useful to examine the history and look forward to find leverage point. You could argue that the “car culture” in America is a wicked problem and each part are so interconnected that we don’t know how to deal with it. Through MLP, we could figure its historic steps through this 100 year and get clearer picture trying to figure out what we could do in the future.

      • Good points, Jeffrey. The technological trends which my group (food) kept coming back to were aspects relating to and being a part of the fossil fuel industry. Focusing in on oil alone, its discovery revolutionized farming equipment, which in turn dramatically increased the yields which farmers could now produce. But this didn’t stop with gasoline powered tractors and backhoes. No, oil made its way into fertilizers and pesticides.. I think it’s interesting to look back and examine this process, I wonder if each “step forward” in the growing reliance of fossil fuels was ‘calculated’ by the fossil fuels industry, or more ‘convenient’ to enabling more profit. The farmer could grow more and thus sell more. Companies realized that that they could have a new product to sell to an industry that expressly desired it. Was everyone aware of the negative environmental consequences of these changes and how they would affect the future of farming and of the world? Perhaps, perhaps it was more an ‘innocent’ desire for money (if that’s even a thing).

        As far as the future is concerned, I wonder how the perception of fossil fuels in the farming industry will be connected with the perception of fossil fuels for the rest of the world. Is there a similar push to create an “alternative energy” equivalent on farms? I’m still struggling to use the MLP to determine intervention points – after all, that is a very complex issue. But I hope, with time, we will be able to grow in our comprehension of ways to work with wicked problems.

      • Absolutely, I think in matters of “crime” technological innovation has definitely been involved, especially today when ankle bracelets allow some convicts to move around while still restraining them in certain ways. Crime is complex and I agree with the team that crime more than technology has direct influential rooting in society’s perception of both crime and criminal. However, in hindsight, since we were mapping a wicked problem in Pittsburgh, we invested our time more into coming up with a framework of impact at various levels specifically pertaining to social equality and inclusion. Thinking back from tech innovation standpoint, I think there have been innovations which have led to increase in production and distribution of arms and ammunition as well as innovations which have essentially changed the nature of crime which today we better know as cyber-crime. Well I recognize discussing MLP from this standpoint would require me to do MLP mapping again which will be super interesting.

  2. Scott Dombkowski March 10, 2017 at 5:25 pm Reply

    While completing the mapping assignment, my group did factor in technological trends and how they have affected practices. For example, the gentrification of Pittsburgh is directly related with the rise of tech companies. As demand for technology grows, companies like Google and Uber open new locations and hire more people. These new locations and employees bring new money into neighborhoods, displacing some of the old residents.

    You could argue that the whole concept of gentrification is part of the habitual way of thinking in short horizons of time. It may also be part of a thinking that today’s problems are unique to the modern world and have never been seen before. For instance, gentrification may not be a modern issue, but a bigger issue that has been going on for as long as humans have been on this planet. Just look at the Romans conquering Europe, Europeans colonizing America, or Americans trailblazing the West. These are all instances of groups of more affluent people displacing and forever altering the lives of less affluent groups of people. These instances should contain all sorts of lessons on how gentrification can affect the future, hopefully helping us as we move to improve our current situation.

    • Scott, I think you make a great point here:

      “You could argue that the whole concept of gentrification is part of the habitual way of thinking in short horizons of time.”

      The shuffling of human habitation is inexorable, and given that technological advancements are occurring so rapidly and there are so many established infrastructures that are ripe for restructuring, it’s inevitable that people will move to be near places of such opportunity.

      It’s plausible that many people being gentrified out were once themselves gentrifiers of a prior population.

      I also think that advancements in transportation automation may soon reduce the need for people to live close to the areas of their business, which will substantially lighten the demand for contested neighborhoods.

      • Interesting points Gray|Scott.

        I don’t disagree but I’d like to expand with an additional point of view. It is true that advantage, being unevenly distributed throughout neighborhoods, and being read by each individual in unique ways, causes individuals to naturally gravitate toward neighborhoods that they perceive to be advantageous. This is a natural process and unlikely to change.

        However, in my opinion, there are ways that we can deflect, incentivize and guide this tendency of people. For example, in a gentrifying neighborhood, a landlord might see rent prices rising in the buildings around her and think “Hey! I could be making a lot more money!” Up go her prices. On the other hand, if we implemented a law in which landlords were given significant tax breaks for maintaining affordable rent rates, that might not happen.

        Multiply that tiny change across levels of scale and a long horizon of time, and who knows, perhaps we’d be in a better place.

      • Our group’s deals with food and I have the same feeling. Recently I read a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The book mentioned that, in the era of hunting and gathering, human have the most balanced nutrition diet as they have to eat dozens of different foods in one day (human are omnivore themselves). Human migrated back and forth on the land, there was rarely an outbreak of plague. However, in the agricultural age, when people started planting crops, people’s nutritional intake began to become monotonous (depending on the staple food as the main source of energy) thus being malnourished. It was actually wheat domesticated human rather than the human domesticated wheat. Human began to settle in certain places and population began to surge, but this brought new problems such like lack of food, lack of healthy food and outbreak of plague, etc.

        So lacking healthy food actually is an issue that has been existed since the human come to the world. We will fall into a trap of thinking in short horizons if we define the problem as a modern issue. Therefore, if we took it as a long-term problem, we can look back and find some helpful clues from the history. Additionally, although the denotations are the same, the connotation changes with time going on.

        I also want to mention that, If we say designing is driven by the intent to solve problems, we will always find what we finally need to deal with is the problem of cognitive ability or how to perceive/understand the world. Maybe this is the reason why designing has a more and more closed relationship with sociology, ethics, anthropology, and philosophy.

        • I agree with Minrui. Our topic(food) should not be considered in short horizons of time because the way we dealing with food has been changed as technological trends changed. Through Industrial Revolution, technology expanded the value of food to market value in a capitalistic economy. I see the major change in food market since that time period, which exposed the fact that food market will be driven by profit. I would like to try mapping the history of food to 1) understand the big picture of food problem 2) see which method is more effective in order to find not just the leverage points but the actionable points compare to MLP exercise.

    • As part of his group, it was a intriguing point of view that gentrification can be seen within a various different contexts in our prior history, meaning indigenous people being kicked out by newly emerging groups of powerful people.

      Although the word gentrification derives from gentry, specifically refers middle-class people, I think we can find this notion of gentrification applies to our surrounding environment, which is sometimes outside of human’s perspective. In broader landscape, we see a natural pattern that tells us “Only the strong survive” and “You should hold yourself”.

      In my opinion, what we should and can do is that by studying the past that contains the idea of gentrification, equipping the weak with the ability and capability of anticipating extreme situation in the future that might affect them.

    • Scott, I understand where your point is coming from, but I do believe that we should be careful to compare colonization to gentrification. It’s true that gentrification does follow a sort of colonizing mentality (displacing other social groups because of a sense of entitlement) but the politics around it are different. I wouldn’t go that far as to say gentrification is the new colonization, because gentrification is a product of lingering epistemological colonizing frameworks. But to make that argument, one should be very explicit about race relationships,, but your argument seems to be color blind (and I noticed that in the presentation as well). Talking about gentrification only in terms of the rise of tech industry that brings in more affluent people seems shortsighted. The politics of gentrification are at its core racial politics. Why are the new tech hubs being built around historic African-American neighborhoods–East Liberty, Hazelwood–and not in Squirrel Hill or Shadyside?

    • I really agree with Gray, Scott and Adrian points of view. I completely agree with the history of gentrification and I love the examples given by Scott. If we trace back to the historical pieces of evidence of colonization in the world we can see that gentrification was an issue then and still is be Pittsburgh or some other city. The MLP exercise helped us understand the technological trends that affected our maps and helped us understand that technology was just a part of the niche. There are many other factors affecting the MLP map of gentrification as well. The problem of gentrification arises over a longer period of time and it’s invisible while planning for shorter periods of time.

  3. Our group was dealing with gentrification. We found many design interventions that can be done at the niche level, but was not able to come up with any ones at the regime and landscape level. While understanding that if these interventions are powerful enough, they could effect the entire system from bottom up, I still have doubts on them because of the larger change in the environment. I guess if the force from the tech world is too great, maybe figuring out what’s the priority for interventions would be more helpful and effective than trying to find interventions that aim to fight over that force.

    • Piggy backing on Willow’s point, our group also looked at gentrification; we filled the niche level quickly and struggled at the regime and landcape levels. I think this speaks a lot to the scope of things that can be done, and makes me wonder about small-scale changes versus larger-scale changes when it comes to sticky topics such as this one. I think looking at it as a more three dimensional model of these three levels in order to look at implementing changes could be worth exploring.

    • Being in the same group as Willow, I would like to add to her comment about how all of our interventions ended being in at the niche level. To get to that point, we had done a search on current interventions within the city of Pittsburgh and also looked at interventions that were working well in other cities. All that we found fit inside the niche level, so when we went head to design our own, all of them fell into the niche level as well. We tried really hard to come up with possible ones for the regime and landscape levels but failed. What we ended up doing was trying to fit our intervention into places where the current ones seem to fall short. We hope that by filling in the holes, these smaller, niche level interventions then can leverage each other and make larger-scale changes that could then push into the regime level.

  4. I agree with what the students above have said in terms of the impact of technology and how people are very predisposed to viewing problems within their own experiences. On top of what everyone has said I, instead, wanted to note some observations during the MLP presentations. While the Gentrification MLP group presented, I realized that they had a lot of overlaps with my group (i.e. Affordable Housing). Although all the topics are wicked problems, I felt like the topic of Gentrification was very big and touches upon a lot of the other wicked problems. I wonder if for next year, the Gentrification topic can be broken down more or given to every group so they can see how their wicked problem is possibly linked to Gentrification. Possibly a good exercise is to have the groups come together to draw links between their problems.

  5. So when our group (access to education) was working on the MLP mapping, we hit some defining pitstops. Our original exercise seemed like we were just redoing our wicked map scenarios with no relations to the regimes and niches. But once we started seeing a correlation between how a niche might have supported a regime or vice versa, we realized that mapping it in a time line format helped us figure out our map much better. And we then saw a lot of the technical trends factoring in to what the environment around education currently is. The technology that changed from the pre-industrial to the post-industrial era defined many regimes that we currently see such as Access to online education and home schooling being more technologically enabled.

  6. Working on this assignment for our case study, we found that mapping the practices, leverage points and existing interventions helped to ground us while making the MLP. It will be interesting to see how long term technicalogical trends actually affects the companies that come to Pittsburgh and in turn, the housing issues. We spoke a lot about the tech industry and developers and how might the city start to become more involved with policies surrounding this industry. It might take a lot to look more holistically and longitutnal. The short term effects of an economic boom might overshadow the long term effects of altering neighborhoods and removing affordable housing options.

    • I worked with MacKenzie on this project; we explored the area of Affordable Housing. As she mentions, much of the future of this wicked problem will be affected by the incoming tech industry. This has the potential to affect the cost of houses and might contribute to more high-rise, condo-style living.

      However, after our presentation on Monday, Michelina introduced me to an alternative building method/ practice called Earthships. These homes are built from old tires filled with rammed earth and powered with solar panels, greywater systems and greenhouse farming. This radically different way of building homes is much more self-contained, sustainable and does not require as much reliance on external power grids or water treatment plants. These structures are all built from scratch, which would not work in Pittsburgh without knocking down many old structures, but the technological change presented by these decentralized housing units is exciting.

      At the lower end of the “places to intervene in a system” scale, there is opportunity for changing zoning laws to allow for greywater systems, or incentives for adding solar panels to existing building. The highest lever of intervention in a system is a paradigm shift, and although difficult to achieve, I see a potential opportunity here. What if we could change what people define as a home? A home is something made from trash? A home is something that provides food as well as shelter? If the answer to these questions becomes “YES!” then we could see huge technological shifts.

      http://www.earthship.com
      http://www.recodenow.org/ (a friend of mine started this non-profit to advocate for more sustainable development policies in Oregon).

  7. Manya Krishnaswamy March 12, 2017 at 6:13 am Reply

    In my opinion, the current short-term thinking that takes place is primarily concerned with identifying and addressing visible consequences of complex, wicked problems. Thinking in the short-term severely limits the complexity of the challenge that people are able to take on.

    For example, with the issue of crime, current trends in solutions tend to focus on things like providing ex-convicts with job counselling, incentivising companies to hire ex-convicts with tax breaks, and providing post-prison support, like halfway homes. These solutions are aimed at addressing concrete, well-defined problems or in some cases symptoms of these problems. They do not address the broader issues around the “hard on crime” approach of the justice system that favours punishment over education and healing. Or, the mindsets amongst the general public against employment of ex-convicts.

    As a result, short-term thinking may allow people to tackle niche challenges or even perhaps regime-related challenges. However, it is unlikely to be able to address issues around the landscape. For this, long-term, systems-level view of the issue must be taken into consideration.

  8. Similar to what the others mentioned above, when our group was trying to find the design opportunities while creating the MLP map about the water quality in Pittsburgh, we found out that technology trends do make a visible impact on the regime level, where the practices happen. For example, the Green First City-wide Plan intends to use innovative, cost-effective, and green infrastructure approaches to managing stormwater. Without the development of technology, the improvement of infrastructure would never happen.

    Just like before the automobile cars were invented, the only transportation people could ever ask for was a stronger and faster horse. Following and understanding how to apply the latest technology is the only way to see transitions instead of narrowing our minds within the box.

  9. I think that short-term habitual thinking definitely has an impact. For example, you could view the City of Pittsburgh’s decision to treat with drinking water with chemicals to decrease lead levels as short-term thinking. Not knowing the full effect of the chemicals used proved disastrous and did not solve the problem of lead in the pipes.

    The Green-First City-Wide Plan is a good example of long term thinking, I believe. By focusing on green infrastructure and landscape, the amount of runoff will be decreased at the root cause. In this case, no matter how the storm drain system is design/repaired from now on, there will be less of burden on the system.

    Technological trends are hard to predict in the long-term, so they definitely can impede our ability to design for flexible and long-lasting solutions. If you cannot perceive what is possible, there is no way to account for it in your thinking.

    • Like Leah and Olivia, I believe that short-term thinking is closely tied to the issue of lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water. The issue can be traced back to a very specific occurrence where the water utility hired an outside agency, Veolia, to help it run more efficiently. Veolia was incentivized to cut-costs through bonuses, which led them to make quick, inadequately-tested changes to the water treatment plan.

      We have some interesting technological trends happening at the niche level of our MLP map. Through our research, we discovered a few companies that are aggregating and mapping data for civic organizations, including data on water quality. This inspired us to think about how place-based information can help empower communities. I think this approach will ultimately inform our final design intervention.

      • Being in the same group as Leah, Monique, and Olivia, I agree that a culture of short termism has had big impact on the water quality issues in Pittsburgh. Moves at the regime and landscape level have focused on immediate issues and solving with bandaids, instead of solving the deeper issues. However, I do think there is cause for hope, particularly as technology becomes more advanced. Consumers are expected more and more from their service providers, and this includes a water utility. We are all now conditioned to expect to access (often real-time) information about the quality and content of our services- think cell phone data alerts, netflix outages, flight notifications – and consumers will start demanding the same from their water utility. This is already happening for electric utilities and water is likely the next wave of the trend. With any luck, customers will have access to more information about the quality of their water and then will demand more than just bandaid fixes.

  10. Delanie Ricketts March 14, 2017 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Our group’s focus is on public transportation. The first long-term technological trend that comes to mind is self-driving cars. One of our ideas is to have Port Authority sponsored cars that people can rent by the minute and leave wherever they want (basically Car2Go for government). However, it is interesting to consider what this scheme might look like if the cars are self-driving.

    If self-driving cars become the norm, perhaps people’s attitudes about ownership and comfort in large vehicles will diminish. This is a key landscape level factor we identified as a barrier to increasing access to public transportation. If people no longer desire owning or driving a car, this will increase demand for public transportation and, as a result, pump more resources into the system to invest in improving it. We’ve already seen this trend occur in big cities. However, we have not seen a viable application of schemes like Car2Go and ZipCar succeed in suburban or rural places where destinations are more spread out and the convenience of owning your own car outweighs the benefits of renting.

    It is difficult to think in long horizons of time, in which phenomena such as self-driving cars become commonplace, because such developments are difficult to foresee. Perhaps self-driving cars become the norm, but perhaps they don’t. This is not to say that thinking in long horizons of time is futile, but that when thinking in long timescales, it is important to be able to consider many possibilities as once, rather than relying on a single determining factor. To me, this is where the MLP proves its value. It helps develop a mental model for the future that is as complex as the current state of the system. Considering complex future states is difficult, but not to do so reduces your ability to ideate holistic solutions.

    • I’m in Delanie’s group focusing on access to public transportation, and I was also thinking about the impact of autonomous cars on attitudes towards public transportation. It’s interesting that autonomous vehicles are similar to public transport in that one is being driven from one place to another, except that public transportation is a shared service whereas autonomous cars offer the privacy and comfort of a privately-owned vehicle. Here again, though, we encounter issues of income disparity. Those who can afford the newest technology may be chauffeured by self-driving cars, but the majority who cannot afford them must still rely on inconvenient and unreliable buses.

      I agree with Delanie that long-term technological trends are difficult to foresee, so leverage points may indeed change over time. Pittsburgh as a city has changed drastically over the past 10 years. Along with gentrification, development, and an influx of people, the regime and landscape levels are shifting rather quickly. With an increased population and limited road space, more efficient public transportation could be a really important factor in improving the quality of life for residents. With a simultaneous increase in income levels and gentrification, though, working to change attitudes towards public transportation by making the entire system more appealing will become crucial.

  11. In the same group, I think the discussion question is interesting because actually our MLP map largely relys on short term technological trends whith in short hozisons of time. As Delanie memtioned, although we considered self-driving car in our MLP map, we didn’t come up with long-term implications of the technology that might bring about a changed in any of MLP levels. The change in the notion of car onwership in Delane’s point is a potential long-term implication, I think. To build on that, I guess a huge scale of unemployment would be another potential long-term ramification that the self-driving technology might result. It it will happen, people would move out side of city, seeking for affordable houses, and less cars would be on the streets, which eventually would lead a hollow city core. While I have imagined the long-term future, I realized that it is very hard to get out of the habitual thinking again.

  12. Interestingly, technological advancements directly affect the lack of affordable housing, at least in Pittsburgh. We have all seen how Bakery Square has undergone transformation due to Google, and has led to high-priced housing around it. This also means that people are being driven out of their homes in the nearby East Liberty neighborhood. With more and more technology companies eyeing Pittsburgh as the next hub for development in technology, increase in housing prices is bound to happen as real estate managements take advantage of the high salaries the employees at such companies get. This really is a Catch22 situation between being happy that the city is advancing and the rising housing costs.

  13. While dealing with the issue of lack of access to transportation, it was easy to point out the shortcomings of the system based on our observations and experiences but challenging to move beyond and think about the transitions it might go through due to development in various sectors. Transportation services form the backbone of the society and are closely linked to most of the topics covered in the class by other groups. When we started discussing about the possible transitions that public transportation might go through due to changes in Pittsburgh, like the creation of innovation hubs, we realized that a lot of infrastructure changes will have to made. Also, with technological developments like self-driving cars, how might public transportation look like? Would people even prefer to take the public transportation at all? We have questions, but, it is tough to anticipate answers and connect them to trajectories of other aspects of the future. Development happens fast these days, but, it is not possible to change the infrastructure as often due to reasons of cost, time and efforts which lands us, the designers, in a particularly tricky situation where you want o be ready for the future, but, it is hard to know what it looks like.

  14. In our group, we looked at access to high quality education, and we discussed technological advances at length, and we also saw them as the leverage points for change. We actually hope that technological advances can make schools more accessible instead of less accessible, but it is still important to think about the ramifications of things like the rise of big data and exactly how technology will affect learning. We realized that you have to be careful about how you implement any changes, understanding that too much of any one thing creates a monoculture that can ultimately become detrimental is important when thinking about possible changes.

    From my point of view, a better understanding of history itself will allow us to move forward with a clear vision of a more sustainable future. I think design has suffered from a lack of integration from other disciplines, and I don’t think that integration has happened yet. Transition design forces the issues of back-casting, historical frameworks, thinking holistically, and futuring, but it does so myopically, The myopia I have seen in design, from incorrect assumptions about socio-economic lifestyles to homogenization of entire cultural groups makes me think that design as a discipline must also stop thinking in short terms solutions. Just because we are thinking in long horizons of time doesn’t mean that we’ve actually thought any more broadly about the issues at hand.

    • As Monica said, our group looked at high-quality education in Pittsburgh and since we have prepared our map as a timeline, our technological advancements were our leverage points for change in different scales. Today, we also believed that technology driven advancements can help people to access high-quality education with the help of personal mobile devices, online discussion systems, or more immersive learning platforms such as VR-AR. Not only in our group but also in other groups work, I have seen that long-term technological trends were heavily influencing the subject matter, almost guiding it in certain subjects.

      Short-term thinking is again related with how technological advancements affect the society. The creator of these advancements usually does not think about the consequences of their niches on existing system (or in other words regime). Therefore most of these niches fail before disrupting the regime and status quo. If the creators/innovators/planners of these advancements think and design their ideas with-in different scales of time and levels-of-system in mind, their impact will be more likely to sustain in the domains of wicked problems.

  15. After reading some of these comments, the points Gray/Scott/Adrian make about gentrification resonated with me as interesting to explore. Thinking about neighborhoods–how we define neighborhoods with borders, what amenities attract us to different places, what housing options are available-are all questions whose answers could change if the services we value are delivered differently. Transitions to universal internet access, remote work opportunities, virtual school, grocery delivery, etc. are technology-based changes that may lead to difference patterns of community development. But Adrian’s point about ways that individuals can be pushed to make different choices that might change the trajectory of gentrification really resonated with me. I own an income property in Lawrenceville that will soon be for rent. My brother and I know that we could list it for a price point that would yield more personal income for us but be unaffordable to local residents (and to be fair, since we bought the house we are part of the gentrification problem in the neighborhood already). I am an 8 year resident of the neighborhood and neither of us wants to perpetuate the higher rent problem, so agreed to list it for a much lower rate. This is a very personal example, and a personal philosophy, but we both want to do our part to maintain an affordable housing option in the neighborhood. It’s an example that I feel really connected to, and maybe its through the personal that it becomes easier to think on a longer timeline.

  16. Michelina Campanella March 20, 2017 at 11:49 pm Reply

    Our group has been investigating lack of access to healthy food in Pittsburgh, and through our assignments we have focused on the industrial food production model, which is predominately the source of most of the food we eat in Pittsburgh, and throughout our country. The reliance on fossil fuels in this model pervades almost every facet of production, from the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery, shipping vessels, plastics, processing facilities and so on.

    Through our research, we discovered that that the use of chemical fertilizers (specifically nitrogen) was an accidental result of a technological innovation – the atomic bomb. Because research money and infrastructure were already in place to produce nitrogen after WW2, they were easily repurposed to produce fertilizers. I point out this example to show that long-term technological trends can morph over time, and it is usually the infrastructure and interests of investors (or funding) that shapes the direction they take. When looking at our map, it is clear that we need to look at ways to produce food without relying on oil, but the ubiquity of the infrastructure that supports oil and the money behind it seems unshakable. Redirecting the flow of money into research and innovation into new technologies is perhaps the biggest and most important challenge we face in fighting against the oil regime and supporting an alternative way of growing food.

    The shortsightedness of industry is definitely a culprit of this predicament, and it’s no doubt that the quarter-to-quarter profit/growth obsession has the individuals operating these leviathans anxiously fixated on the near-future and blinded to the risks that lie ahead. Breaking personal habits of thought is difficult enough as it is, and even harder when they are institutionally imposed upon you, let alone when you are rewarded for them. I can’t say that the ownness to change should be on the individual alone, or that it should come from the top down within the system.

    Like most solutions we talk about in the class, solutions should come from multiple levels of scale. When I think of ways that this could happen, I am brought back to Cheryl Dahle’s lecture, where she talked about frankly asking the players at the table “what is in it for you?” Without knowing what personally motivates people involved at these ‘different levels of scale’ it would be impossible to know how to motivate them change their thinking.

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