294 - The Green Designer

David Trubridge presented his installation “Icarus: Freedom in Balance” at this year’s Design Week in Milan:

David Trubridge (Standard British accent):
This whole installation is based on the story of Icarus, who was helped to escape from Crete by his father, who made wings for him to fly with, and when he took off, he said, “Don’t fly too high because the sun will melt the wax on the wings. Unfortunately, Icarus got carried away, flew too high and crashed. So the moral of the story is… is: “Take the technology we’ve got, use it and enjoy it, and make the most of it, but don’t get carried away and allow the sun to get too hot.” So we have the wings which Icarus flew with, and we have the sun here creating the heat in the middle. The sun… which we call… this light, we call “Sola,” is made from hooped pine plywood, the inside is painted orange, to make it glow like the sun, there are 60 identical shapes cut out here which fit together, to create the… the globe form of the sun.

Although he was born in Britain, David Trubridge lives and works in New Zealand. He talked about the unusual evolution of the country’s wildlife:

David Trubridge:
New Zealand was the only land mass that had no mammals. There was a small bat that used to live there, which technically is a mammal, but, apart from that, there were absolutely no mammals, there was just birds there. And because there were no predators the birds developed this… this very free lifestyle where they could nest and walk around on the ground and actually didn’t need to fly and a lot of them lost the ability to fly and it was this kind of this wonderful birdland until humans arrived and with them they brought dogs and stoats and cats and all these other horrible things that eat birds and birds’ eggs and so, as a result, New Zealand has had the highest extinction rate of… of creatures in any other… more than any other part of the world, as a result of that. So a lot of those very helpless, flightless birds have all been wiped out by... by introduced predators. So the Maori… to… to the Maori, who were the first inhabitants there, the birds are really, really important, they call them the “Kaitiaki,” “the Guardians,” because they would fly, keep watch over everybody and they were also the link between terrestrial humans and the heavens and the gods, they were somewhere in there between, so they saw them as this kind of intermediary.

As is already evident, David Trubridge is a committed environmentalist:

David Trubridge:
I read recently that they’ve just discovered that… that… that the… the farming of animals, whether it’s for dairy or for… for meat, is actually causing… is a far greater contributor to global warming than had previously been thought. They now reckon that it’s actually 50 per cent of global warming is caused by the farming of animals: more than cars, electricity generation, nuclear power stations, everything put together, it’s farming of animals. Stop eating meat, and you can do more than anything. So… so, in that sense, food plays a crucial role. And, of course, if you’re buying a local food from a market without all the packaging, the plastic wrapping that you need to transport things, distances, then that’s going to make an enormous difference as well.

David Trubridge is also a vegetarian:

David Trubridge:
To produce the volume of meat that we’re getting now requires factory farms. Traditional farming in… in the kind of… in the permaculture way, or… or just traditional small-scale farms, have animals as part of that system, so that they would… they would use the animals to fertilise the fields and they’d use the meat from the animals and the milk from the cows and there’d be a kind of circle going around there which would be sustainable. The problem is now that the… that the cows have been taken out of that environment and put into their own sole environment of vast polluting factories, where… where the waste coming out of those farms is far too much to be used locally, in the way it was traditionally, and they can’t get rid of it. America has cleaned up its air, but its rivers are dirtier than ever because of farming, not because of industry. And all those forests that have been cut down in South America to grow soy beans to feed the cattle because there isn’t enough grass because there are so many of them. The amount of land that’s required to create one steak – and I can’t remember the figures – but it’s vastly, vastly more than the amount of land required to feed… to produce the same amount of food as a vegetarian. And we don’t have the land any more, we don’t have the water. The amount of water that’s being used for all those cattle in America… I mean, we’re running out of water rapidly and we don’t need to use that much water for farming, but the biggest thing about farming is… is oil. Every single aspect of farming is based on oil, from the extraction of the fertiliser, the shipping of the fertiliser, the spreading of the fertiliser, the spreading of the seed, the harrowing of the land, the extraction of the food from the land, whether it’s vegetables… or whatever, the transportation to the supermarkets, the packaging and the maintaining of the supermarkets. Every part of that process is… is using oil. And when oil runs out…

(David Trubridge was talking to Mark Worden)