What I derived from the lecture today was some clarity between public and environmental health. And that clarity was a complete lack of distinction between the two. We suffer as nature suffers. All human illnesses in one way or another stem from the ailing of nature.
The class discussion on the works and practice of designer, engineer and scientist, Natalie Jeremijenko opened up so many insightful workings of design as activism for altering social behaviour. Her ‘delusional’ drive and pursue of using new technologies for social transformation is an inspiration to me as a designer also pursuing social innovation using the capabilities of the digital age. I realised it takes ‘problem-understanding’ than an objective ‘problem-solving’ to get to the real core of contemporary problems. Jeremijenko operates across the disciplines of design, engineering and science and effectively marries environmental and public health. In her TED Talk, ‘The art of eco-mindshift,’ and in her recent works at Environmental Health Clinic, she redefines what constitutes as health by redefining the problem through environmental health prescriptions. It makes complete sense to view public health through the lens of a shared, environmental health spectrum, rather than the internal, individual and predetermined. By framing health in an external way, she is able to create a model to understand and change it through a collective action effect.
Her use of language and humour makes the discussion less legalistic and more relatable, creating an accessible transfer of knowledge, insight and hence action. Her dialogue shifts from human to human, and from human to nonhuman by finding poetic and well-researched ways of marrying poetry and engineering. By reimaging our relationship to natural system through her fish-feeding/messaging digital media project, she is able to remediate interspecies interactions through nutritionally appropriate feeding augmentation. While this ensures the continuing desires of humans wanting to feed fish, it also mediates a cooperative and healthy behavior from humans towards animals. This project involves taking opportunities of new technology to rescript actions for collective, aggregated actions for environmental change.
The brief discussion on climate stabilization through the example of New Delhi’s air pollution issue posed some interesting questions. As the air pollution metric in New Delhi records the highest, that toxic environment as in a way become part of its urban existence. But should this be a normalized aspect of the city? Its habitants are seeking to accustom themselves to these changing environment as humans are seen as highly adaptable and resilient creatures. But should they be adapting? Or should the connection between public health and environmental health we explored. As a designer, I believe I have a role in creating social and political change. I can do so in a humorous, chameleonesque way as Jeremijenko, in an overtly active manner, or in a subtle, poetic yet effective ways to reframe human suffering as an opportunity to respond to environmental ‘prescriptions.’
Jeremijenko, N. 2010, ‘The art of the eco-mindshift’ <https://www.ted.com/talks/natalie_jeremijenko_the_art_of_the_eco_mindshift> accessed April 11, 2018
Jeremijenko, N. 2013’ Cross(X)Species Adventure Club’ (Curating Cities Project)< http://eco-publicart.org/xspecies-adventure-club/ > accessed April 10, 2018