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Kalika Sharma

The Pattern-finding Problem-solver

Everyday Activism

Being an activist for sustainable matters doesn’t need to involve participating in a protest outside the parliament dressed up as a genetically modified tomato. This morning, I turned off the tap while I was brushing my teeth, and that tiny action – seen by no one else – is heroic to me. It was a choice of a sustainable activist. All ourdecisions through the day are choices we make. And I’d like to propose that we can all be “everyday activists” in whatever cause we believe is true, which will be good for the world.

So I’d like to propose that being an activist is merely a shift in our mindsets that translates into small actions which make a big difference over time. Many of us are everyday activists and we might not even know it. If you put the switch off and unplug your mobile phone charger when you’re not charging your phone,you’re saving energy. A study quoted in a video by a few guys from IIT showed that only 5% of energy from the charger is used to charge your phone and the other 95% of used energy is wasted. This and other tips on what changes in lifestyle an individual can make can be found in this interesting video: Knowledge about sustainability can change our behaviors.

What role does everyday activism play in the professions of UX practitioners and designers? UX and design folk have an even greater responsibility in sustainability towards society in terms of the products or services that they design. For example, numerous designs (including the automobile) have cause harmful emissions that have polluted the world and have caused climate change. However, a sustainable design would not harm the planet and living beings. Therein lies the big question of how designers can balance their responsibility to nature as compared to their responsibility to the business they are in. Here’s a quote that summarizes the issue well.

“Modern design must interact not only with nature but with the massive human revisions of nature: the city, technology, and other established designs that jostle for pride and place. Social design as well as material designs: governments, corporations, religions, self-contained value-systems permeated by institutional self-interest. And more potent perhaps than any of these is a mass market that has little concern for nature or truth in its obsessive pursuit of profit.” - Grudin, R. (2010). Design and truth. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Designers have knowingly or unknowingly already done planetary damage with one type of mindset, which no longer will work. The need of the hour is for each designer to make their little or big contributions as sustainable activists, everyday.

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