PhD research week 9

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As I have been closed up writing my registration project proposal, this week is highlighted by two interesting talks, and some documentaries I have come across.

TALK: RCA Sustain with Kuapa Koko and Divine chocolate

Fairtrade Forthnight happened throughout this week in London, which allowed for varied members of Fairtrade Brands to be present in London.  On this occasion RCA Sustain arranged a talk with two lovely farmers, Mary and Esther, from the cooperative Kuapa Koko in Ghanda, which supply cocoa for Divine Chocolate. This cooperative is build up of 65,000 farmers which have an equal share and a voice in running the business.  Divine Chocolate is the only farmer owned brand of chocolate in the world. The process of artisan cocoa making is much slower than industrial process, which makes us think, that eating chocolate should be about 'quality not quantity'. However, the supply chain of Divine Chocolate is not as simple as we would like it to be, leading to think if there may be room for improvement.  The cocoa is produced in Ghana, then shipped to Holland where it is roasted, then to Germany where the chocolate bars are manufactured, and finally to the UK where it is sold (only). I was lucky to have the opportunity to chat further with one of the farmers, especially about the points which relate to my research - I asked what she believed to be the best way to connect the consumers of their chocolates, with the producers, and she answered that for them it is most important to talk about it and the story of how it is made. It is only through talking about it that consumers will understand, and choose their brand over others.

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TALK: Superflux at LCC Green Week

Another talk this week was Superflux, a collaborative design practice working at "the intersection of emerging technologies and everyday life to design for a world in flux." This was a presentation of complex projects involving technology, design thinking, creativity, and other sciences including bioengineering and genetics.  The overall feeling was overwhelming (mildly uncomfortable).  Some projects seemed to have a utilitarian edge, especially given the contemporary context the world is going through, such as "Project LiloRann" ('Green Desert'), a tool-kit for combating desertification in North India.  However, other projects presented were more experimental, and possibly more controversial.  For instance in the project Green Acres, the problem of lack of flower pollination was addressed with creating a new species of bee, genetically created in laboratory, called a Beamer Bee (for its glow in the dark properties). Superflux questions "What is Real Nature?" and presents a case for how species have evolved (the banana we know now, is the not the original banana species) and asks if we are able to create a new type of "Nature". However, this leaves some questions, such as, how far can this genetic engineering and bio-tech be useful for solving today's wicked problems? And especially, how far can this experimenting be taken without compromising what we understand (and know) Nature to be?

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The Fruit Hunters - Documentary

Exotic fruit obsessives, adventurers, detectives and even movie star Bill Pullman are the subjects of the dizzying new film from acclaimed director Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze, China Heavyweight). A cinematic odyssey through nature and commerce that spans prehistory to the present, The Fruit Hunters will change not only the way we look at what we eat but how we view our relationship to the natural world.

[vimeo 3036651 w=500&h=280]

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Earthlings - Documentary

A hard to watch documentary on man's relationship with animals.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8zC2fEJXNc w=500]