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A New Era for Design: Schumacher College launches the first ever Masters in Ecological Design Thinking

After a year of development with partners at Plymouth University and colleagues at the Carnegie Mellon School of Design in the US, we are delighted to announce that our groundbreaking new MA in Ecological Design Thinking is now open for applications.

Like Schumacher’s Masters programmes in Holistic Science, Economics for Transition and Sustainable Horticulture and Food Systems this course gets to the heart of our current problems and sets out to remedy the situation in the short term, and transform it in the long term. A significant part of the flooding-related destruction currently facing the UK, for example, would have been significantly reduced if we had taken the long view and made ecologically sound design and planning decisions. And this is only the tip of the iceberg for a range of problems around the world that we can expect if we do not change the mindset that currently determines the way that we think about, and implement design.

Design is one of humanities’ greatest innovations but it needs to be directed at the important problems embracing all living systems: nurturing the conditions in which all can live well on a finite planet, not focussed on trivia for a privileged few. There is no doubt that, as part of a material world, we have to be ‘materialists’ of sorts but we have let this get completely out of control. As passive ‘consumers’ we have become increasingly disconnected from one another, and the ecosystem we are part of. It has long been understood that gross consumption generally leads to more waste production and pollution. A focus on growth tends to increase the problems of poverty and social inequality and does not necessarily lead to more happiness or enhance those factors which add to the quality of our lives and to the flourishing living support system of the planet. It is time to do something about it, and ecological design thinking could catalyse that process.

I have been exploring the theory and practice of ecological design for the past 20 years and over the last 10 years, with brilliant PhD students in Dundee, we have began to create a substantial foundation for the promotion of ecological design thinking. I am delighted to have the opportunity of working with staff and students at Schumacher College, and a wide range of innovative thinkers and practitioners to meet this challenge. There much to be done, so why not join me in a exciting collaborative learning experience which can be applied to the practical problems surrounding us as we find ways to be healthy and happy in a caring, sharing society at peace with others and with the natural world which supports us.

This new course, the MA in Ecological Design Thinking, will focus on developing people who can encourage and facilitate others in groups and collectives to address problems through a new ecological and social lens. Students taking the new MA do not need to be designers, indeed the wider the disciplinary base of the participants the better. Most of the work will be carried out in groups exploring problems of a wide range of types, large and small, current and future oriented, ranging from food production to urban transformation and even the finance system. Students will learn collaboratively through seminars, workshops, and conversations, outdoors, in studios with local partners and around the coffee table. This will be a truly immersive learning process. The final arbiter is that everyone gets the best learning experience possible, and that includes me. So how about it? Why not get in touch straight away and talk things over with us. If you can arrange to visit us at Schumacher College, so much the better.

Seaton Baxter.