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Club of Amsterdam Journal, November 2009, Issue 122

November 2009, Issue 122

Welcome to the Club of Amsterdam Journal.

What is 'waste'? Waste is the result of production and consumption of material goods. Only a short while ago, waste was simply thrown away or burned. In most economic theories, the absorption capacity of 'the environment' is deemed to be infinite. With 6.5 billion people on the planet earth, we are confronted by the fact that this assumption is blatantly incorrect. As a result, we have no other choice than to rethink 'waste' and treat it as a new type of resource. However, can everything be re-used? Is it possble to just treat waste as a resource? What do we need to do, to do so effectively? If it were simple, wouldn't we have done so longe before? During this event, some examples of effective and promising approaches to waste-management are presented.

Join our next event - share your thoughts
November 19
the future of Waste

Felix Bopp, editor-in-chief


‘Designers don’t be shy!’

Next Event

Bed of the Future

Club of Amsterdam blog

News about the Future

Institute for Water Education

Recommended Book

New Kabul City

Futurist Portrait: Nick Bostrom


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.‘Designers don’t be shy!’

By Diana den Held
Strategic advisor for Michael Braungart (Cradle to Cradle)

Diana is a speaker at
the future of Waste

Michael Braungart: designers are way too modest when it comes to cradle to cradle

Together with Bill McDonough, Michael Braungart wrote the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Increasingly more organisations are realising that they can benefit from Cradle to Cradle (C2C) ecologically as well as financially. But what is the role of C2C in the current economic crisis? And what can designers do to help? Diana den Held sits down with Michael Braungart for a candid interview.

“In a crisis, besides hoping for change, there is always much fear and uncertainty. People quickly fall back on some medieval behaviour. And then, they aren’t creative, funny or innovative. They just keep doing what they were doing before the crisis.

Only when you see that going down the same road is not to your advantage do you go looking for solutions, and only then can you overcome your fear. I’m not trying to say that this will inevitably lead to innovation, but it has happened before,” explains Michael Braungart.

With the implementation of Cradle to Cradle, have you already seen changes due to the crisis?

“We have mostly noticed a positive movement. Many companies and organisations now see how important it is to make clients loyal by collaborating with them and addressing their needs. At Desso, a Dutch carpet manufacturer that has made the switch to Cradle to Cradle, we can see that they’ve increased their profits in a declining market.”

And that can’t just be consumers being environmentally conscious all of a sudden in such times…

“No, but they are more aware of quality. As a consumer you are more careful with spending and actually nobody wants a carpet that stinks and is toxic for you and your environment. So much is going wrong now that people want to make the right choices. As a manufacturer you can bring about change.”

Are you saying that the financial crisis can bring out the best in us?

“Possibly. There is a good reason to be afraid of what is happening now. But if you realise that fear paralyses you and delays the possibilities of change, then you know you have to take action.

It is on this point that architects, designers and developers should see the crisis as an opportunity. Of course, sometimes you can’t move as fast as you’d like, but you can pick up the pace by collaborating. Creativity and collaboration take over the main role from capital. Even in the traditionally conservative chemical industry Cradle to Cradle is now high up on the agenda.”

What role can designers play in this turnaround?

“Although designers are often seen as having an enormous ego, I think they are much too shy when it comes to the environment and raw materials. They arrange a collection of toxic materials a little differently and call that design. It’s time to show some ambition. At the moment, we need designers who can make good things, who can get other people organised and change processes, people who want to be a part of it, and not just ‘make things a little nicer’.”

Young designers often make their first designs by hand, as a prototype. But then, their idea is successful and mass production is just around the corner. They could easily fall into the ‘old’ processes of the big production companies. What do you recommend?

“Making that first design is always a great phase. But then, you have a relationship with your design and get a deeper connection, which is vital. Only then can you have a romantic affair with a first product design and move on to a serious relationship. Here as well there is a question of ambition. Do you want to continue to act like a teenager where you pick something up and drop it quickly or do you want to grow up? I think designers are happier when they don’t just take part in a small part of the process.”


Does the design world need a different attitude?

“Today there is major pressure on designers – much is expected from them. They want to be artists. They want to be creative. They have to be entrepreneurs, managers and be able to deal with clients. And then there is also their ego – enough factors to make anybody doubt themselves.

This is why I think we need a change in studies. We need different types of designers. For example, communication design is already a separate discipline, but more qualifications are needed, such as ‘material flow’ designers who can form a team with the artists, design managers, etc. A more diverse group is needed. Competing, as a designer, on way too many different levels basically generates mediocrity.

There can’t be just one hero that everyone worships. Then you get a person who tries to overcompensate for all their shortcomings. Focus on your strengths, discover your shortcomings and find people who can help you with them.”

Many young designers feel that they lack knowledge to work with Cradle to Cradle. You often hear questions, such as “I know that the right materials are there, but where can I find them? How should I work with biologically degradable ‘plastic’?”, etc. What do you recommend to them?

“When people ask these kinds of questions, express the desire to holistically make good design, they already have 50% of what they need. I can’t emphasise often enough that they don’t have to do everything themselves. History shows that real innovation always came from teams, not from individuals. You sometimes saw an individual in the foreground, but there always was a team standing behind them. This mechanism also holds true now: on your own at a certain point you’re only working on changing existing things.

For designers already more into the design stage, much more C2C material knowledge can be found in the database at Material Connexion in a.o. Milan. But again, don’t take types of materials as a starting point in your concept phase, as it hinders your thinking. What is not available now will be there in a few years, especially if you ask as a designer.”

Is that the top tip for designers who want to design in a more Cradle to Cradle way?

“Yes. Start by being more arrogant and ask questions about the stuff you’re working with. Just say, “I don’t want to use that material” and get a movement going. For example, if you look at brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani, what comes out of the plant and goes into the shops is just hazardous waste.

Almost every famous design brand is due for some serious innovation. Designers have influence there. Ask for materials that you can wear on your body that are suitable for people. Design products for a house or workplace where the indoor air is actually healthy. As a designer, you are a user of materials developed by others. Put them to work.”

But how do designers obtain alternative materials?

“Why would you let your designs be influenced by the availability of a certain type of material? It is a form of expression of design, not the key. State your wishes and requirements with your design. Point out the shortcomings – it doesn’t need to be 100% perfect. By wanting to have it perfect the first time around you’re just blocking and delaying yourself. As long as you mention when and where you want to introduce changes you can have a look at it together with others. Take intermediate steps, but don’t compromise your vision.”

OK. Designers can influence the development of the right materials. But what can they do themselves now concretely also considering the crisis?

“As a designer you don’t just shape things, you can also influence the material flow. That doesn’t mean that everything has to go back into the biosphere per se. You can also use materials that aren’t degradable as long as they can go back into the technosphere. This means making your design so that it can be taken apart.

For example, building a television set without copper is impossible nowadays, but building a television set that’s easy to get the copper out of can be done. Copper is rarer than oil, which you really don’t want to lose in a garbage dump. You want to be able to get it back to the plant and get it out of the device as easily as possible. To do so you need a good design. It isn’t that difficult to calculate how you can profit from that.”

.Next Event

the future of Waste

Thursday, November 19
, 2009
Registration: 18:30-19:00, Conference: 19:00-21:15

Location: WTC, Metropolitan Boardroom of Amsterdam In Business, D tower 12th floor, Strawinskylaan 1, 1077 XW Amsterdam


more information

and exhibition

.Bed of the Future

Somnus-Neu is an evolution of the idea of “technology convergence” and high design, bringing together into one space, comfort, design, connectivity, audio, video, lighting and experience.

We know that 30% of our lives are spent in bed, yet for thousands of years the bed itself has remained virtually unchanged while all around us advances of every kind have been made, we can now safely say that through innovation and design the bed has arrived for the times in which we live.

A soft hue emanates from the underside of Somnus-Neu your bedroom lit from the “night-light” zone, one of three distinct lighting zones built in, all of which are highly efficient and fully programmable LED lights. With 16 million possible color combinations, everyone can create their own unique shade, as mood lighting, underside lighting or reading light. Research has shown that color and light add are valuable components to the way we feel. Now there’s no excuse not to feel good.

Everyone these days knows that music and sound can enhance and create our environment. Your music, Your media, Your environment. The heart of Somnus-Neu audio is a Class D digital amplifier, which is highly energy efficient and produces less waste through heat than a typical Class A/B amplifier. Speakers fixed in 5 different points within the space create a listening experience controlled entirely by you. From soft waves rolling in as you embrace sleep, to hard hitting rock’n'roll, plug in your MP3 player, store your own music or stream it in from the outside.

We’re connected through an ever growing internet community, the world at our fingertips, we at Yoo-Pod Ltd love being connected, we figured you might too. So we provided two touch-screens, one for you and one for your partner, recessed into the sides of Somnus-Neu. Simply raise the screens from their hidden position, bring the arm around to place it in your perfect position and connect to the world.

The real VIP movie going experience is right here. A giant movie screen lives hidden in the top end of Somnus-Neu, lower it into position to take advantage of the “best seat in the house” – Yours. We incorporated a High Def video projector and brought the theater right to you. Hit the button, lower the screen, encapsulate the space with the automatic privacy curtains and experience the real thing.

Every detail in Somnus-Neu is considered, the upholstery the hand-crafted wooden bed head, the 100% recycled composites that create the form and shape, nothing has been overlooked. We understand also that people are individuals and as such have allowed for certain customization within the design. Different wood selections and upholstery are possible.

.Club of Amsterdam blog

Club of Amsterdam blog

October 6: ... Just as Beauty lies in the Eyes of the Beholder … is Wisdom found in the Mind of the Receiver
September 21:
Future Connectivity: Healthcare Revolution for Community Development

August 5: Music 3.0 and the rocky pre-media past
April 5: Visions for a Sustainable Future
February 10:
How China, A Rising World Power Deals with the Current Crisis and Challenges Facing the World

.News about the Future


Scent Design Online

Scent Design is the first fully functional online custom fragrance blending store. Scent Design provides you with the unique experience of creating your own personal fragrance oil by choosing which premium scented oils to mix. Choose from 50 base fragrances to make a truly one of a kind personal fragrance.



Mind-Controlled Wheelchair

The BSI-TOYOTA Collaboration Center has succeeded in developing a system which utilizes one of the fastest technologies in the world, controlling a wheelchair using brain waves in as little as 125 milliseconds (one millisecond, or ms, is equal to 1/1000 seconds).

Recently technological developments in the area of brain machine interface (BMI) have received much attention. Such systems allow elderly or handicapped people to interact with the world through signals from their brains, without having to give voice commands.

BTCC's new system fuses RIKEN's blind signal separation and space-time-frequency filtering technology to allow brain-wave analysis in as little as 125 ms, as compared to several seconds required by conventional methods. Brain-wave analysis results are displayed on a panel so quickly that drivers do not sense any delay. The system has the capacity to adjust itself to the characteristics of each individual driver, and thereby is able to improve the efficiency with which it senses the driver's commands. Thus the driver is able to get the system to learn his/her commands (forward/right/left) quickly and efficiently. The new system has succeeded in having drivers correctly give commands to their wheelchairs. An accuracy rate of 95% was achieved, one of the highest in the world.


.Institute for Water Education

The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education is an international institute for water education that was established in 2003. UNESCO-IHE continues the work that was started in 1957 when IHE first offered a postgraduate diploma course in hydraulic engineering to practicing professionals from developing countries.

Some projects:

SWITCH: Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow’s Cities’ Health

The SWITCH Integrated Project aims at the development, application and demonstration of a range of tested scientific, technological and socio-economic solutions and approaches that contribute to the achievement of sustainable and effective urban water management (UWM) schemes in ‘The City of the future’ (30-50 years from now).

The approach is to develop efficient and interactive urban water systems and services (city level) in the context of the city’s geographical and ecological setting (river basin level), which are robust, flexible and adjustable to a range of global change pressures (global level).

Cities around the world are facing a range of dynamic global and regional pressures, including rapid urbanisation and urban sprawl due to population growth, industrialisation, and climate variability and change.

They are facing difficulty in efficiently and transparently managing ever scarcer water resources, delivering water and sanitation services, and disposing of wastewater, while minimizing negative impacts on the downstream environment and on the urban populations’ quality of life including environmental, health, social and economic aspects.

The ecological ‘footprints’ of cities are ever growing through over-exploitation of available resources (land, water, energy, food, building materials, energy, finance) for their populations whilst producing massive streams of waste (solid, gaseous, liquid) in return, contaminating soil, air and water.

In order to face these challenges, SWITCH is facilitating a paradigm shift in urban water management by converting from ad-hoc actions into a

coherent and consolidated approach. The overal goal of the SWITCH project is to catalyse change towards more sustainable urban water management in the “City of the Future”.

Approach and Activities
The project is implemented by different combinations of the consortium partners, along the lines of various complementary and interactive themes.

  • Action research address problems through innovation based upon involvement of users.
  • Learning alliances to link up stakeholders to interact productively and to create win-win solutions along the water chain;
  • Multiple-way learning European cities learn from each other and from developing countries, and vice versa.
  • Multiple-level or integrated approach to consider the urban water system, and its components, (city level) in relation to its impacts on, and dependency on, the natural environment in the river basin (river basin level), and in relation to Global Change pressures (global level).
  • Linking upwith key experts on urban water from Europe and developing countries, and pooling scientific, technological and financial resources from partners and in the demonstration cities through an integrated, multi-disciplinary research effort.

EXACT: Small-scale Water Treatment Facilities for Domestic Use and Artificial Recharge with Surface Water

The project carries out pilot studies in the fields of water treatment and artificial recharge which, after a successful implementation during pilot phase, will be applied on a wider scale in the region.

Besides the pilot studies a capacity building programme is carried out to increase the knowledge of the partner institutes on water-related issues. Within the EXACT project special attention is given to dissemination of knowledge and experiences to a broader public.

So far the EXACT project has, amongst others, successfully implemented:

  • Identification and setting-up of 3 pilot study sites for small-scale treatment facilities for domestic use;
  • Identification and setting-up of 2 pilot study sites for artificial recharge of surface water;
  • Joint research activities on water treatment and artificial recharge of surface water;
  • Training course on Groundwater modeling;

The project forms part of the water-related activities that are carried out in the frame of the Middle East Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources, which was established in 1995 as part of the Middle East Peace Process.

The activities are coordinated by the Executive Action Team (EXACT), which includes the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Core parties as well as several donor countries.

The Netherlands participates since 2002 with the project with the activities described above. In 2006 the donor approved the extension of the project until April 2010.

Approach and Activities
The EXACT project is based on applied research and demonstration activities carried out at pilot sites in the region. The following pilot sites were selected by the consortium:

For water treatment facilities:

  • A water well for domestic use in Baq’a, Jordan, contaminated with high iron concentration;
  • The Al Qilt spring, supplying water to the Aqbat Jabr Refugee Camp near Jericho, West Bank, Israel, and biological contaminated;
  • Well Holon 8, located in the industrial area near Tel Aviv, Israel, and contaminated with heavy metals
For artificial recharge of surface water:
  • Wadi Madoneh, a small catchment some 20 km east of Amman, Jordan;
  • Wadi Far’a, a basin on the West Bank, east of Nablus, Palestine.
    The problems tackled in the fields of water treatment and artificial recharge, are of interest to all stakeholders in the region. Therefore, dissemination of the research results forms an important aspect of the project and several scientific workshops will be organized for professionals involved in the research as well as stakeholders from outside the consortium.

Other project activities include amongst others the supervision of local MSc research, the organization of a short course on groundwater modeling and training of technicians.

Within the EXACT project the partners have established a long-term working relation in which they collaborate and govern the project. Regular project meetings and workshops foster the partnership and staff members of the institutes work closely together on the implementation of the various project activities.

.Recommended Book



Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage
by Heather Rogers

*Starred Review* America leads the world in garbage, and that is nothing to be proud of. A clear-thinking and peppery writer, Rogers presents a galvanizing expose of how we became the planet's trash monsters. Americans were ingeniously thrifty until industrialization ushered in consumer culture and the age of disposable goods and built-in obsolescence. But once the public was exhorted to buy stuff whether they needed it or not--and Rogers provides many eye-opening examples of corporate strategies and propaganda--new forms of garbage began to pile up and break down into toxic substances. Rogers details everything that is wrong with today's wasteful packaging, bogus recycling, and flawed landfills and incinerators. Here, too, is the inside story of the plastic revolution and the irresponsibly wasteful beverage market, the Mafia's involvement in commercial waste, and the illegal overseas shipping of garbage, especially toxic e-waste--trashed computers and cell phones. Rogers exhibits black-belt precision in her assault on American corporations that succeed in "greenwashing" the public while remaining "hell-bent on ever-expanding production no matter what the ecological toll." Set this beside Elizabeth Royte's Garbage Land (2005), and contemplate Rogers' dictum: garbage "never really goes away." - Donna Seaman

.New Kabul City

Existing Kabul

Dehsabz City with its commercial agricultural Barikab area, planned for three million inhabitants, completion within 30 years on a 500 sqkm area, located on the north of existing Kabul and made for current and future generations. The perspective of the project is deeply integrated into the existing topography, cultural identity, agricultural life and national priorities of Afghanistan. This provides an excellent opportunity to involve the entire country in a profound social and economic change. It will thus present a confident Afghani face to the world.

Kabul is Rising Once More

Perched on the roof of the world, at the junction of ancient trade routes and the boundaries of empires, Kabul endures. Amid the remains of conflict children still fly their kites in the winter sky, Chapandaz risk all for glory on the buzkashi field, and vendors sell everything from shoes to hot bolani in the markets that spring up daily on every corner. Streets throng with activity and products from every corner of Afghanistan and the surrounding regions of Central Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Far East fill the market stalls. Carpets, gems, pottery, intricately carved wood, pashmina, raisins and all manner of manufactured goods are for sale in shops that not very long ago lay empty and derelict. As if in defiance of its history, the existing Capital is rising once more as a place of influence and opportunity and for all.

Need for a New City

Originally capable of accommodating less than half a million inhabitants, Kabul Metropolitan Area now supports a population of over four million in a rapidly expanding economy. Together with improving economic opportunities, this sharp increase in population density brings with it the associated problems of inadequate infrastructure, increasing pollution, and growing unemployment. Afghans are determined to shake off the burdens of the past and embrace a promising future; one in which Afghan enterprises based in Kabul compete on the world stage; but they need a place to do it. While existing Kabul City served the needs of the past, it does not provide for the needs of a sustainable future.

A Beacon of Hope on the Roof of the World

At this stage, Dehsabz is an exciting new city conceptual master plan, designed to become the engine of Afghanistan’s future. Integrating the latest sustainable technologies with traditional building methods and craft work, Dehsabz will be the world’s first eco-neutral capital city. Powered by water, wind and solar energy, Dehsabz will eventually become the heart of the new Afghan economy. As part of Dehsabz project, Barikab, an area located immediately north,will become a commercial agricultural zone that will create grow food and create employment for the future inhabitants of the Kabul and introduce new agricultural technology to local farmers. While Dehsabz represents the future, existing Kabul City will always be the heart of Afghan history, and this heritage will be lovingly preserved and restored. Side by side they will emerge as a world class Islamic capital city, capable of supporting Afghan and regional aspirations for the future, while preserving the heritage of existing Kabul for generations to come. A fusion of the best of the old world and the new, Kabul will stand as a symbol of Afghan determination and a testament to international cooperation. A beacon of hope on the roof of the world.

Bird Eye view of the Concept Design of the New City (Dehsabz)

View of the "Central Park" and surroundings

A walk-through view of the Commercial Boulevard of the New City

New Kabul City Animation

.Futurist Portrait: Nick Bostrom

Nick Bostrom is a Swedish philosopher at the University of Oxford known for his work on existential risk and the Anthropic principle. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics (2000). He is currently the director of The Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University.

In addition to his writing for academic and popular press, Bostrom makes frequent media appearances in which he talks about transhumanism-related topics such as cloning, artificial intelligence, superintelligence, mind uploading, cryonics, nanotechnology, and the simulation argument.

In 1998, Bostrom co-founded (with David Pearce) the World Transhumanist Association (which has since changed its name to Humanity+). In 2004, he co-founded (with James Hughes) the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Bostrom currently serves as the Chair of both organizations. In 2005 he was appointed Director of the newly created Oxford Future of Humanity Institute. Bostrom is the 2009 recipient of the Eugene R. Gannon Award for the Continued Pursuit of Human Advancement.

Nick Bostrom: "Suppose we get many little things right and make some progress. What use, if we are marching in the wrong direction? Or wasting our resources on projects of small utility while pivotal tasks are left undone? What if we are profoundly mistaken about what matters most?

There are big potential gains from getting better at thinking about the right kinds of macro-questions, because at stake is our whole scheme of priorities.

Some of these questions are about moral judgment and values. Others have to do with rationality and reasoning under uncertainty. Still others pertain to specific concerns and possibilities, such as existential risks, the simulation hypothesis, human enhancement, transhumanism, and the singularity hypothesis.

My working assumption: These high-leverage questions deserve to be studied with at least the same level of seriousness, scholarship, and creativity that is routinely applied to all sorts of insignificant micro-questions.

This assumption might be wrong. Perhaps we are so irredeemably inept at thinking about the big picture that it is good that we usually don’t. Perhaps attempting to wake up will only result in bad dreams. But how will we know unless we try?


Our Season Program 2009 / 2010:

November 19

  the future of Waste
Location: WTC, Metropolitan Boardroom of Amsterdam In Business, D tower 12th floor, Strawinskylaan 1, 1077 XW Amsterdam

February 11

  the future of Biosensing
Location: De Waag, Amsterdam

March 25

  the future of Sports
Location: Amsterdam

April 29

  the future of Music
Location: Amsterdam

June 3

  the future of CERN
Location: Amsterdam

July 1

  the future of Bollywood
Location: Amsterdam


Your comments, ideas, articles are welcome!
Please write to Felix Bopp, Editor-in-Chief:

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