when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

They are the 90%!

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With economic, political, social, and you-name-it turmoil swirling around the globe, it’s inspiring to see concrete solutions to massive global problems.

The fixes on display at the United Nations’ exhibition Design with the Other 90%: CITIES are modest, but their implications are huge: a bicycle-powered cell phone charger; barge-like floating schools for flood-plagued Bangladesh; sturdy, locally sourced materials that slum dwellers use to build shelters, etc. These are relatively inexpensive things that palpably change the lives of the 90 percent of the world’s population for whom commodities aren’t designed.

This is the second in an ongoing series of exhibitions. The first one was called Design for the Other 90%. The with in this one is real: The products on display are the result of collaborations between local folks in poor urban communities and international designers. These are people who are taking care of business.

Twenty-plus years ago, my friend Apichart dragged me away from the comforts of Shanti Lodge, his Bangkok guesthouse, for a cruise deep into the klongs (canals) and oil-slick tributaries of the Chao Phraya River. Our longtail boat didn’t tear ass like James Bond’s in The Man With the Golden Gun; it chugged slowly enough for me to see the ramshackle stilt houses and trash bobbing up and down at the shoreline. Which was Apichart’s point: Bangkok is more—and less—than backpacker haven Khao San Road, salacious Patpong, and cheap paad Thai. It is also pollution and poverty. But also progress: Design highlights the Bang Bua Canal Community Upgrade, a project initiated by residents that has rehabbed homes and untrashed the water along an eight-mile stretch of the canal, which is home to 12 informal communities with 3,400 residents.

Bike-powered cell phone charger

Model of Medellín's Metrocable and Northeast Integral Urban Project

Useful ideas and potential inspiration, perhaps, for Occupiers around the country speaking and demonstrating on behalf of the 99% here in the US.

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES is at the United Nations Visitors Center through January 9, 2012. Head over if you’re hankering for a shot of hope.

Visitor photographs Fredrik Reuterswärd's sculpture Non-Violence

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Written by bxpnyc

2011/11/13 at 18:42

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