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Leah Waldman

New York, NY, United States

Product Design

Member since September 08, 2008

  • Oblivious



    A. While in India a few weeks ago, I was appalled at the lack of awareness people had of their personal environmental impact. When I asked my friends if they recycled, they laughed. I got the sense that people did not see waste disposal and energy consumption as a problem. For such a developed country that is technologically advanced, and has a huge industry that supplies many parts of the world with various goods, it is surprising that people are not aware of how their actions and consumption habits affect the environment. Living in New York, and constantly being bombarded with issues about how we are destroying the planet and how each individual needs to be conscious of their impact on the environment, I have become deeply involved in and personally affected by these issues. I am consumed by these thoughts daily. Knowing that a country with the second largest population in the world is not thinking about how they have an impact on the planet frightens me! I would like to concentrate on this issue for my thesis.

    B. I am shocked that this is even a problem… That individuals in a country that is highly developed and has such a large population, are not aware of their personal environmental impact. I feel that there are a number of possible reasons for this; there is inadequate policy and legislative instruments, there is no funding, the waste disposal system is still under-developed (possibly due to the first problem mentioned), individuals are not educated and are ignorant about how they affect the environment, there seems to be a general feeling that one is exempt from having to deal with environmental issues as people feel that they are not affected in their day-to-day life, and some feel that it is not their problem but someone else’s- this could be an issue due to the caste system. Now because of the possible reasons for the lack of awareness of personal impact on the environment, so many other problems rise. For example, burning garbage, which is highly dangerous due to the presence of toxic chemicals, is preferred over recycling or a more holistic disposal system as it is cheaper and easier. The poor suffer the most, as they are the ones dealing directly with the waste. They often live in unhygienic conditions right alongside garbage dumps. And this is only part of the problem...

    C./D. Although this is more of a conceptual, artistic solution, I thought it was an interesting commentary on consumption and waste. In a city called Chandigarh, in the north of India, there is a rock garden designed by the artist Nek Chand. He has created a whole landscape of people and animals made from concrete that are covered in pottery. The artist collected these materials from demolition sites. This garden addresses the need for the conservation of the environment, but does so in a seemingly subtle and artistic way. But when one realizes what they are looking at, they are taken aback. The garden acts as a tool to make people aware of the amount of waste we create, and the potential there is in that waste for it to possibly have a second life. And because it is accessible to everyone in the various classes of society, and can speak to everyone regardless of their cultural background and language, everyone is able to experience it and understand the issue it is addressing.

    E. There is no small niche or community that is affected by this issue- the whole population of India is affected, as well as the environment, which then affects the rest of the world. I am hoping that my thesis idea will help make people in India aware of their ecological footprint; that in fact, each individual’s actions and consumption habits do affect the environment.

    F. I researched possible organizations that I could get in touch with to research this topic further: -UNDP: The United Nations Development Program -UNEP- The United Nations Environmental Program -India International Recycle and Waste Management Exhibition -International Plastics Task Force -Bureau of International Recycling I also thought of individuals who could give me a better perspective of
    this issue: -Individuals of different social classes in India -Garbage collectors/rag pickers -C. Srinivasan, the president of the Exhora Solid Waste Management
    Program in Tamil Nadu, India

    G. I feel that the next step for me would be to interview various individuals of different social classes and backgrounds in India in order to get an understanding of their feelings about the environment, and what they are currently doing to reduce their ecological footprint.

  • Wattstower_132_

    Hi Leah, Sorry to have taken so long to respond to your very thoughtful and articulate postings. I visited Chandigarh in the 90's, and I went to the rock garden, and I agree that it is an amazing monument to one guy's obsession (I also liked the Punjabi government buildings by Le Corbusier in Chardigarh: did you go there?) There are other places like that around the world. One of my favorites is the Watts Tower in LA, which a man built as a private hobby over a long period, and that is now a public landmark that people come from all over the world to see.

    There is a whole movement in the art world that studies and appreciates these examples of "outsider art", including this nice website from the Tate Modern in UK.

    When I went to India, I had a very different impression than you, but that might be because my knowledge was limited. I thought that recycling was so deeply ingrained in the culture, but was understood differently than in the US. Because many people were poor there, anything that could be reused was collected, fixed and often reused in very interesting and creative ways. Things that in the US would never be reused, like disposable lighters, were taken apart, cleaned, repaired, refilled and sold again. there were vendors that made very nice lanterns and other things out of discarded cans. That always struck me as being a great system, and one that we should emulate here. But you are saying that our approach to recycling is superior to what happens in India, so I need to rethink my position on that.

    In your bibliography, you mention a number of sources, but you don't explain why you believe that these will be useful to you as you develop your hypothesis and build arguments to support your design decisions. I would like you to go back and complete that exercise if you can. I provided an example of how I would like that formatted.

    Thanks, and I look forward to speaking with on Monday Steven

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My Interests

  • Industrial Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Communication Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Audio/Visual Design