Green by Intention

How can we combine social scientists’ emphasis on critical thinking and careful analysis of the problem at hand with the productivity of the design world in order to construct a viable future for our planet? Can we overcome the taboos associated with utopian communities and retrofit our existing culture in response to environmental crises? These are some of the questions that kept Damian White, associate professor of sociology, busy during his recent sabbatical.

Last week White shared the arc of his research at a lunchtime presentation in the Tap Room entitled Design, Sociology, Sustainability. He explained that environmental problems are deeply intertwined with social power, creating a kind of “politics of nature” in which certain groups of people are far better served than others. White’s work builds on the foundations of ecological philosopher Murray Bookchin, architect Colin Ward and design theorist Tony Fry, and is aimed at furthering positive steps in support of Green Urbanism.


“We need to push back against the reduction of sustainable urban design to just the technological or we will end up with the green panopticon,” White noted in a recent paper.

In addition to coordinating a pilot program in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies at RISD, he is currently working on two booksThe Environment, Nature and Social Theory: Hybrid Approaches and The Future by Design: A History and Sociology of Design Utopianism and Design Futurism.

Every month in the Tap Room, RISD faculty talk about the work they produce while on sabbatical. On April 3, at 12 pm, Associate Professor of ID Khipra Nichols and Professor of Illustration Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges will present.

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