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Minneapolis and Design for the Other 90%

Mary Tyler Moore Sculpture Minneapolis, MNAfter hearing about Minneapolis all these years, I found myself there for wedding of our friends. It was the US celebration of their late November 2007 Cambodian wedding. The bride is a native of Cambodia and the groom's mother's family is from the Minneapolis area. Being a child of the 70s, I also grew up with copious amounts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show so it was touching to my female identity to see this statue in downtown in honor of that. Downtown Minneapolis also had interesting art deco echoes similar to Chicago's spectacular buildings and lots of glass.

Minneapolis Building Reflection
Minneapolis Art Deco Building

Moving on from these architectural feats, our travels took us to the Walker Art Museum where they had an exhibit called Design for the Other 90%, in the Sculpture Garden outdoors. It's about simple, life-quality transforming innovations helping people around the world in countries where food, potable water, shelter, medicine, and education are areas of great need due to poverty. While the availability of good education here in California is an arguable point, these are all basics that we enjoy here in the US and in many countries where wealth and resources are abundant. Let us not take these blessings for granted.

A few highlights:

The Internet Village Motoman: Launched for American Assistance for Cambodia for remote, solar-powered schools, telemedicine clinics and local government offices. The Motoman has also been made available in Costa Rica, India, Paraguay, and Rwanda. It relies on satellite uplink and search which is done locally. Search responses and email are downloaded via wireless transmission to the moving vehicle.

Internet Village Motoman Minneapolis, MN

The Solar Dish Kitchen: Designed for Mexico and is used there and in India. The dish's shape and surface concentrate the sun's energy on the cooking pot.
Solar Dish Kitchen Minneapolis, MN

Sugarcane Charcoal Briquettes: Prevents deforestation associated with the production of wood charcoal and is leading the curve of exploring the use of things like corn cobs and other food waste to be turned into fuel. The briquette making machine shown below.

The Q-drum: A wheel-shaped cylinder that rolls and allows for transport of just over 19 gallons of clean water from one place to another, a huge innovation for many African countries.
Design for the Other 90% runs through September 7th so if you're in the Minneapolis area, it's worth the trip because it makes you think about what we have and creative ways of sharing it.

So what "simple innovations" will wealthier nations see in the coming years? Energy seems a key issue in powering all our gadgets, gizmos and lifestyle accessories- we need to find alternative ways to make it and sustain the supply of it. Personally, I wouldn't mind if a few exited the consumer landscape, especially if that would help us get back to the land and, as Crosby Stills and Nash sang, "back to the garden."

P.S. If you're interested in energy as the pivotal issue in how developed nations will fare as they address things like climate change and making our lifestyles sustainable, there is some interesting writing about peak oil that happens over at at The Archdruid Report.

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