Notes from the Field: Design Me a Planet, Austria

"Design Me a Planet" ("Dessine-moi une planète") is the name of project founded by Michel Saloff-Coste and which is still in construction. The name comes from the sentence "Dessine-moi un mouton !" ("Draw me a sheep!") taken from The Little Prince from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The idea is to create a think-and-do-tank on the theme of creating a vision for the future, and not only incrementing from today, as it is done in sustainable development. There seems to be no think tank interested in building a vision on the planetary scale, and the do tanks such as ecovillages or transition towns only allow to survive locally longer against e.g. global warming but do not prevent it as humanity as a whole do business as usual despite all the warnings of scientific experts.

A first event in the framework of this project took place in Steyrermühl, Austria, from July 10th to 17th 2011. There were presentations in the campus of Steyrermühl (Ausbildungszentrum der Österreichischen Papierindustrie) from Michel Saloff-Coste, Alain Gauthier, Alexandre Rojey, Olivier Réaud, Bruno Marion through Skype, and the young Thomas Legauffre from France, from Ervin Laszlo, from Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk from Dallas, from Cheryl De Ciantis through Skype, and from local people such as Peter Boehm, Andréa Schlehuber, Elke Fein and Sigo Gatterer. We visited innovative places like the paper industry involved in sustainable development, which cleaned the rivers, Ars Electronica which is at the same time a museum and a laboratory on digital innovations, and Otelo that is a place promoting innovative small scale projects involving for instance permaculture, robotics, an autonomous (physically speaking) Internet-like local network, education for children. The potential of Austria is very surprising and it is almost an ecocountry where you can eat locally. At the end of the week, Benoît Hurel managed to organize an openspace technology to think about the future of the project. Joshua Raymond Frenk was very happy to find that the participants were not intellectual snobs but motivated people interested in the future of the planet.

One of the incentives for the founder is to prevent young people, often with high IQ and EQ, from committing suicide, as shown in a study put forward by Jennifer Gidley (who could not attend the week). Despite all their good intentions, projects like the Club of Budapest still radiate a sense of hopelessness derived from scientific forecasts. We paradoxically try to promote a new paradigm using the tools of the current paradigm, be they scientific or spiritual. It is not clear to what extent integral leadership and collaborative tools can promote a new paradigm: are they part of the new paradigm, are they just tools that can highlight material of any paradigm or any purpose? Using collaborative tools like Benoît Hurel did is possible but not easy and straightforward among so-called integral leaders. As long as hopelessness and innovation with old tools remain at the core of the projects, projects are very fine but are doomed to remain networking platforms. To conclude "Design Me a Planet" is a project that deserves attention, with a lot of potential and many skills around, but that needs to clarify its vision if it wants to take off.
About the Author

Michel Nguyen The is an alumni from the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and holds a PhD in computer science from the École Polytechnique. He currently works in financial mathematics. He is a member of several associations having a transdisciplinary essence (Afscet, Groupe Béna, Nouvelle Acropole).