Sometimes a string of events come together just at the right time and make all of the difference. Such an occasion occurred when the Year 13 Product Design students were fortunate enough to spend some time in the company of Nicola Peel, a leading environmentalist and authority on sustainable initiatives. We initially asked Nicola to attend the session to share with us her knowledge and experience of green design and environmental legislation, an element of the subject syllabus. However the discussions Nicola initiated enabled a far more thought provoking, relevant and exciting take on the whole subject of environmental responsibility than we had bargained for! Her stories and first hand examples of projects throughout the world and the concept of ‘radical self responsibility’ in an everyday context, challenged the group of potential product designers to really think about the world we live in and design for.
Josh Addyman was particularly fortunate to be able to tap into Nicola’s experience of working with the villagers of South America. Josh is working on a context inspired by a recent BBC programme that documented British fireman, Neil Fairhall, in his quest to assist indigenous tribes to tackle fire outbreaks in the rainforest and grasslands of Brazil. Josh intends to design and produce a mechanical device to assist the residents of under resourced villages to tackle the fires in a less physically exhausting way than using fire beaters. Nicola was able to advise Josh on issues relating to the availability of local recourses in the area and to assist with material and technology choice. Also the interesting and ethically essential concept of joint ownership of the manufacture and maintenance of the product with the local people was explained. We were all inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm that Nicola brought to our lesson, her visit has certainly obligated an attitude change for us!
Photograph: Nicola Peel & Philip Perkins, Head of Humanities