What if global designed products could radically change how we work, produce and consume? Several examples across continents show the way. We are producing and consuming goods could be improved by relying on globally. Shared digital resources, such as design, knowledge and software.
Imagine a prosthetic hand designed by geographically dispersed communities of scientists. Designers and enthusiasts in a collaborative manner via the web. All knowledge and software related to the hand is shared globally as a digital commons.
People from all over the world who are connected online and have access to local manufacturing machines from 3D printing and CNC machines to low-tech crafts and tools can. Ideally with the help of an expert, manufacture a customized hand. This the case of the Open Bionics project, which produces designs for robotic and bionic devices.
There are no patent costs to pay for. Less transportation of materials is needed, since a considerable part of the manufacturing takes place locally; maintenance is easier, products are designed to last as long as possible, and costs are thus much lower.
Take another example. Small-scale farmers in France need agricultural machines to support their work. Big companies rarely produce machines specifically for small-scale farmers. And if they do, the maintenance costs are high and the farmers have to adjust their farming techniques to the logic of the machines. Technology, after all, is not neutral.
So the farmers decide to design the agricultural machines themselves. They produce machines to accommodate their needs and not to sell them for a price on the market. They share their designs with the world as a global digital commons. Small scale farmers from the US share similar needs with their French counterparts. They do the same. After a while, the two communities start to talk to each other and create synergies.
That’s the story of the non-profit network Farm Hack (US) and the co-operative L’Atelier Paysan (France) which both produce open-source designs for agricultural machines.
With our colleagues, we have been exploring the contours of an emerging mode of production that builds on the confluence of the digital commons of knowledge, software, and design with local manufacturing technologies.
We call this model design global, manufacture local and argue that it could lead to sustainable and inclusive forms of production and consumption. It follows the logic that what is light (knowledge, design) becomes global while what is heavy manufacturing is local, and ideally shared.
When knowledge is shared, materials tend to travel less and people collaborate driven by diverse motives. The profit motive is not totally absent, but it is peripheral.
Decentralize open resources for designs can be use for a wide variety of things, medicines, furniture, prosthetic devices, farm tools, machinery and so on. For example, the Wiki house project produces designs for houses; the RepRap community creates designs for 3D printers. Such projects do not necessarily need a physical basis as their members are disperse all over the world.
But how are these projects fund? From receiving state funding a research grant and individual donations crowdfunding to alliances with established firms and institutions, commons-oriented projects are experimenting with various business models to stay sustainable.
These globally connected local, open design communities do not tend to practice planned obsolescence. They can adapt such artefacts to local contexts and can benefit from mutual learning.
In such a scenario, Ecuadorian mountain people can for example connect with Nepalese mountain farmers to learn from each other and stop any collaboration that would make them exclusively dependent on proprietary knowledge controlled by multinational corporations.
This idea comes partly from discourse on cosmopolitanism which asserts that each of us has equal moral standing, even as nations treat people differently. The dominant economic system treats physical resources as if they were infinite and then locks up intellectual resources as if they were finite. But the reality is quite the contrary. We live in a world where physical resources limit, while non-material resources are digitally reproducible and therefore can share at a very low cost.
Moving electrons around the world has a smaller ecological footprint than moving coal, iron, plastic and other materials. At a local level, the challenge is to develop economic systems that can draw from local supply chains.
Imagine a water crisis in a city so severe that within a year the whole city may be out of water. A cosmo local strategy would mean that globally distributed networks would be active in solving the issue. In one part of the world, a water filtration system is prototype the system. Itself is base on a freely available digital design that can be 3D print.
This is not fiction. There is actually a network based in Cape Town, called STOP RESET GO. Which wants to run a cosmo local design event where people would intensively collaborate on solving such a problem.
The Cape Town STOP RESET GO teams draw upon this and begin to experiment with it with their lived challenges. To make the system work they need to make modifications. And they document this and make the next version of the design open. Now other locales around the world take this new design and apply it to their own challenges.
A limitation of this new model is its two main pillars. Such as information and communication as well as local manufacturing technologies. These issues may pertain to resource extraction, exploitative labor, energy use or material flows.
A thorough evaluation of such products and practices would need to take place from a political ecology perspective. For example, what is the ecological footprint of a product that has been globally design and locally manufactur? Or to what degree do the users of such a product feel in control. Of the technology and knowledge necessary for its use and manipulation?
Now our goal is to provide some answers to the questions above and, thus, better understand. The transition dynamics of such an emerging mode of production.
While most people will agree in principle that more environmental protection is better for the world, they usually hold different views on how to get there.
In Switzerland such divisions can be seen not only in public opinion polls, but also when the population votes on environmental policy issues as part of its system of direct democracy.
Under the Swiss system, proposals for constitutional amendments signed by 100,000 citizens are subject to a national vote.
Two recent votes on green initiatives are particularly interesting, notably because no other country in the world has thus far held a national vote on an environmental policy.
In November 2016, Swiss citizens voted quite narrowly (55% to 45%) against closing down the country’s nuclear power plants. This means that the country’s five nuclear power plants can continue operating as long as the nuclear safety authority considers them safe. No new nuclear power plants will be built.
Domestic electricity production in Switzerland is exclusively based on hydropower (60%) and nuclear energy (40%).
One key reason for the No vote was concern that giving up nuclear power would quickly result in more imports of fossil fuels or nuclear energy produced in other countries to fill the gap. The costs of abandoning nuclear energy would be considerable for the power supplier Axpo, which estimated a loss of US$4.1 billion while the loss of competitor Alpiq Holding AG would be US$2.5 billion.
Swiss energy policy mandates that the 40% nuclear share in national electricity production should eventually replace with renewables, rather than with imports or domestic production of dirty electricity. But how to achieve this remains contested. The November 2016 vote thus means that the Swiss have kicked the can down the road for a later decision.
In another national vote on September 25, Switzerland voted on an initiative to reduce the country’s global ecological footprint. Switzerland is currently, according to the global footprint index, highly unsustainable. This index measures how human consumption impacts on the environment in terms of using up the capacity of the environment to sustain life on Earth.
As with many other rich and open economies, international trade allows Switzerland to offload 78% of its total environmental impact from consumption on other countries. The reason is that many goods consumed in Switzerland are import from other countries, which means that pollution and waste associated with producing those goods materialize elsewhere.
This also means that measuring environmental impact in traditional production-related terms makes the environmental record of countries such as Switzerland look far better than they actually are.
Indeed, according to the Environmental Performance Index. Switzerland is rank among the best (16th out of 180). But it scores among the worst on the Environmental Footprint Index.
The September 25 initiative requested that the government enact policies that, by 2050, reduce the country’s per capita ecological footprint to one Earth. This means that if everyone on Earth left the same footprint, the overall global footprint would not exceed the Earth’s environmental capacity.
At present, if everyone on Earth left the ecological footprint of one Swiss person, we would need three Earths. So the initiative asked for a reduction of Switzerland’s global environmental impact by two-thirds within the next 34 years. Out of the 43% of citizens who voted, 36.4% voted Yes, and 63.6% voted No.
A recent survey revealed that younger, better educated, and left-leaning. Citizens were more likely to vote Yes to the vote on ecological footprints. Gender and income level did not play a significant role. Of all these factors, political ideology had the strongest impact.
Meanwhile, those who voted against the initiative viewed it as potentially harmful to the economy. With the threat of making consumer products more expensive. They also perceived it as too ambitious and hard to implement, and thought. That Switzerland was already doing enough for environmental protection.
Does rejection of the two initiatives mean that green economy policies are doom to fail? Not necessarily. For one, both initiatives were highly ambitious and would have imposed considerable. Albeit hard to quantify, costs on the Swiss economy.
Very few other countries are considering or have decided to abandon nuclear energy. And no other rich country has ever come close to adopting a one Earth environmental policy.
The fact that the nuclear initiative was only very narrowly reject. And the ecological footprint initiative won more a third of the vote is remarkable. The same survey that revealed voter intentions on the ecological footprints also showed. That the basic aims of the initiative were share by the majority of citizens. And that around two-thirds supported greater environmental protection efforts.
This means that the government has considerable room of maneuver. Left to push for more ambitious environmental policies, though perhaps in more incremental form. Rather than under a constitutional one Earth mandate and rapid closure of nuclear power plants.
Before the election of Donald Trump ripped up the global rulebook on trade. The European Union entered into an old school-style deal with many African countries.
After nearly a decade of negotiations, the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. Signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the 28 members states of the EU. When the process of ratification is complete, Mozambique is slated to become the sixth member of the agreement.
The EPA is designed to be asymmetrical in the African countries favor. The European Commission has insisted that the EU has never accepted. Such a degree of asymmetry in a trade deal before.
But some European and African delegates continue to question the fairness of the deal, not least because the African countries already benefit from duty-free access to the European single market through the Everything but Arms initiative of the Commission.
The EU will grant all signatories of the deal 100% free access to its common market, except South Africa, which will have custom duties on 1.3% of its exports.
The granting of free access to the vast EU market is lauded as a coup for the continued economic progress of the developing nations involved. While there is no reason to believe the motivations of the European Union are anything but sincere, whether it will have the intended effect is still unclear.
The rationale of the agreement has been showcased by the EU as a tool to spur economic growth. The argument goes that removing duty on intermediate goods such as automotive parts and electronics that are used in the manufacturing of more specialized consumer goods can now be imported on the cheap.
The EU claims that the agreement will protect African production activities from liberalization, allowing domestic industries the time to mature. The textile industry has garnered particular interest where South African labor unions have been very vocal against further trade liberalization.
Countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya both showing promise of becoming established textile-producing hubs are also grappling with various hurdles from European customers who are perceived as more demanding with respect to lead times, order sizes, and quality.
An influx of cheaper, higher quality products such as textiles from the EU are likely to reduce trade between African nations, prevent manufacturers from making more diverse products, and limit industrialization. Even South Africa’s inter-regional textile exports, despite boasting a more established and sophisticated industry, represent a mere 12% to 14% of total exports.
Giving European imports the duty-free treatment will leave African producers struggling: local businesses will be unable to sell their wares at competitive prices, while the agreement will limit the whole continent’s efforts to move up the industrial value chain, and produce a greater quantity of final consumption goods.
As a result, Africa will remain, contrary to the envisaged ambitions of the EPA, a perpetual supplier of raw materials with a poorly diversified economy https://22.214.171.124/situs-slot/.
Signatory countries are also at risk of destabilize their fragile economies by losing the ability to collect duties on imported goods.
Botswana, according to the latest World Bank figures, relies on such tariffs to fill 47% of its state coffers, Namibia for 22%, while Lesotho, a landlocked country within a country (South Africa) earns nearly 70% of its total tax revenue at its borders.
The Wilson Center, a US think tank, supports the criticism flung at the EPA, claiming the agreement is inherently flawed because of EU envoys divide and conquer tactics when negotiating with African countries.
As part of this approach, EU negotiators trigger the fear of losing preferential access to the EU market in their counterparts. Which forces the African states to the table under the assumption that they are left with no choice but to participate in EPA talks.
This strategy can seen in the behavior of the European Commission towards other African nations. Recently, the Commission announced that Kenya, on the cusp of being declare a middle-income country. Would lose tariff-free access to the EU market if the country did not ratify the East Africa EPA. Tanzania faces a similar predicament if its status as a developing nation is review.
Instead of pursuing unhelpful trade deals, Europe should work to help address the African continent’s deepest structural problems.
The fishing industry in Mozambique serves as a poignant example. The country, disproportionately reliant on its fisheries for both foreign reserve income and feeding its citizenry. Is losing up to US$65 million from its economy every year because of illegal fishing.
Through a series of deals in 2013, Mozambique undertook major investments to upgrade. Its previously inadequate maritime surveillance powers and safeguard the country’s coastlines.
The government bought patrol vessels, and improved monitoring, training and technology capabilities. But it is now facing criticism over how the deal was secretly finance and further questioning. Over why it is failing to put the new fleet to good use.
An EPA offers little hope of alleviating the plight of fisheries, especially in light of research that shows. That fisheries agreements conducted between the EU and island nations. In the Pacific during the 1990s generated seven times more value for European states than for the island nations.
But a joint initiative on fishing would instead have the potential to increase export. Revenue and serve as a catalyst for job generation. A concerted effort between the EU and host nations on the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Alone could add 300,000 jobs and generate US$3.3 billion in revenue. It could also boost income from selling foreign rights by a factor of eight.
The EU’s incessant pursuit of EPAs are uncreative and may prove inadequate in promoting African economic self-reliance.
The most likely scenario for the agreement signed with the SADC is that the African countries involved. Will become a dumping site for European goods of superior quality to domestic products. Local consumers will no doubt favor these relatively cheaper goods over locally produced goods. This will have a direct affect on local trade and manufacturing prowess.
Instead of chasing new EPAs, the EU should concentrate on providing the skills and structures to assist host nations. Becoming development partners rather than dictators of unfavorable terms.
The EPA is a fruitless attempt to reach a seemingly beneficial agreement. Which risks become yet another unpopular global trade policy. The EU would do well to consider helping countries such as Botswana, Mozambique and Lesotho with the problems. They actually have, rather than striking deals that bound to fail.