do kids believe in Earth Magic?

WASSUP is the magic word with a lost meaning. In the Earth Magic program of Northern Education for Sustainability, 7 and 8 year old children discover the lost meaning is “Water, Air, Soil, Sun, Animals and Plants.”

They spend a day in the field to uncover this meaning and then a term of school time investigating how human activity is affecting the environment. The program, like many others, focuses on pupil’s own behavior change in daily life to help protect the environment. At the end they are certified “Earth Magicians” and, hopefully, beginning a lifelong mission to keep earth magic working smoothly.

Earth Magicians, via the Northumberland Gazette

I like many aspects of this program, especially its experiential and hands on approach. But I think it could really benefit from the “wow” that art and design could lend to the topic. Yes it is important to know which of our personal behaviors we can change to improve environmental sustainability.

But we also know that everyone doing a little adds up to a little (see this short argument by David JC MacKay). Even worse, our existing social and city structures mean that for many households, common sense sustainable behaviors are not practical choices.

We need to be introducing bigger ideas about redesigning how we live, including at the spectacular, gee whiz scale. These disruptive design ideas will do a lot more to help children carry an interest in sustainability into the future.

Here are some examples:

how can we reuse the “big things” like washing machines that we live with:

superuse-cafe superuse-cafe2
Espresso Bar *K by Superuse Studios


What if we could grow gardens on buses?GARDENBUSSAL_640
rooftop bus experiment in Spain


Where else could we use wind up power?WindUp-Chair-PegaDesign-4
Pega Design and Engineering’s chair with windup battery charger via Inhabitat


What if power cords lit up to remind us of how much energy we’re using?lightup cord
Static, from the Swedish Interactive Institute

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