Are you a vegetarian or do you enjoy a steak every week? Do you feel good about your everyday nutritional decisions? Or do you have doubts that the avocado is locally sourced if you buy them in Eppendorf?
Our diet is a huge field for different beliefs, thoughts, facts, and biases. And it’s safe to say, that there is so much data and advice available that it becomes nearly impossible to decide. In their final speculative designs, Gabriel and Ony try to circuit judgment and focus on the sketch of a possible future. They show us the consequences of our daily decisions in tangible pictures, fueled by the latest scientific publications and news.
Will this help us to make more conscious decisions, or will it overwhelm us? You decide.

If you don’t know what speculative design is about, we have you covered with a short intro. And don’t miss the other scenarios named “Die.Up” or “Turn on the Darkness”.

Framing

The following scenarios orbit around two relatively easy questions: What do you want to eat tomorrow? And if you would know the consequences of your choices, will it reduce your appetite?

When asked what one is doing to achieve his or her vision of a sustainable future, according to a global survey, over 50% state that they consider sustainability in consumer decisions and nutrition. This is also reflected in the growth of the organic food segment. It’s even anticipated to grow much more.

Sustainable Nutrition is on the rise

But have we internalized the idea of sustainable nutrition? Or are we just willing to switch from tinned pineapples to frozen, organic carrots?

The global food system is complex. And the map below doesn’t even show sustainability measures. So how can we make conscious decisions?

visit shiftn.com for more details

We don’t have the final answers but with the help of multiple “what ifs” we want you to self-reflect on how far you are willing to go to reach a sustainable diet.
What if we only get our food from a food factory? Are you ok with that?
What if we ditch kitchens and restaurants altogether and only eat at fixed times in public canteens with strangers surrounding us? Would you be willing to do that?
What if (even more radical) you get a stomach implant to prevent overconsumption of food and nutrify you? Too much? But maybe that could solve world hunger. Are you then ok with that possible future?

Go to sources

By the way, the most horrible answer to the above question, “what do you want to eat tomorrow?”, in terms of our sustainability goals as a European is: Surf’n’Turf with Guacamole, a Coke, and soy-yogurt with peaches as desert. You are welcome!

The scenarios

The canteen

As we get richer, our diets tend to diversify and per capita meat consumption rises; economic development, unfortunately, exerts an increasing impact on land resources.

Hannah Ritchie

The last century showed that humankind and our nutrition intake is a tricky field. We must eat to stay healthy, but we get sick if we overeat. And we tend to eat what’s available and tasty and not necessarily what’s good for us. While the western world (mainly) is confronted with an abundance of fresh, vital nutrition many of us go for the processed industrial alternatives. Out of convenience or monetary reasons. On the other side, people are starving in many areas—not due to acute crisis but because their arable land is limited.

A sanctuary for nourishment

So, let’s think about public canteens or nicer: Food temples. Imagine every village and town is equipped with food temples. Sanctuaries where food is valued, the supply chain is efficiently managed worldwide, everything is organic, each dish is perfectly served, and the waste will be composted. And all of this at scale. Would you join the food temple movement towards sustainability?

Why aren’t we eating together when we can and should to save the planet?

On the plus side:

  • You might have better food options than at home
  • You will save money and time with community eating
  • You don’t have to worry about the nutrition score as dietitians set up your menu
  • You meet with each dish new people and have conversations
  • World’s recourses would be distributed evenly and food waste (as we know it) will be obsolete

On the negative side: You name it…

The food factory

If you want a lower-carbon diet, eating less meat is nearly always better than eating the most sustainable meat.

Hannah Ritchie

Most’s people image of organic food production summed up in one picture is this:

And not this:

In comparison, a happy boy running through a field of strawberries surrounded by nature is more romantic than lettuces lined in artificial soil under electric light. But organic agriculture is no fairytale, and we must become more efficient to feed the world. Let us explain why:

Organic agriculture as we know it, will not feed the world—neither will the meat industry. So, are local, organic food skyscrapers the solution?

On the plus side:

  • Local sourcing minimizes transportation and eases supply chains.
  • A biosphere is a protected and resistant environment for delicate foods.
  • Food supply becomes independent from the weather conditions.
  • A huge variety can be grown in a relatively limited space.
  • Local hubs can align to regional preferences.
  • The usage of a sacred resource like water can be monitored and adjusted in real-time.

On the negative side:

  • A biosphere needs a lot of energy.
  • If contaminated, it’s tricky to reset.
  • An agriculture skyscraper is not aligned with our romantic urge for escapism (Landlust).

You will name even more …

The implant

The main prop in this last scenario is a newspaper article. A fictional story about a young lady named Elli undergoing a medical intervention to limit her food consumption for the greater good. What does it trigger when you read it?

See and download full article

Our colleagues were baffled. It felt real, reasonable, and viable—not necessarily preferable. But looking at technological advances, this future is possible. The industrial world is in a continuous fight against obesity and malnutrition. Why not answer the world’s consumption issues with a medical solution?

Fight obesity and malnutrition

An implant managing your intake could be the solution for obesity and malnutrition. A way to limit food waste in the western world and overproduction worldwide. If there are fewer people who eat industrial sugar, meat, and convenience foods—just because they are bored and not because they are hungry—the industry will change. And the planet will benefit from that.

So, the question is: Are we willing to undergo a medical procedure to solve a lot of problems and become sustainable in our diet? Or do we stay in our comfort zone fueled by exploitative stakeholders and cravings?


We leave you with this thought and like to add some of our learnings:
The interesting part of this project was to realize, how fixed our view of sustainability already became and that it is more important to ask ourselves, how far we are willing to go in terms of certain movements. Maybe they don’t seem like the most attractive solutions but as designers, we need to make them attractive then! Especially if they turn out to be the most beneficial solution. But time is not on our side. And sometimes it’s also surprising to realize, that the things we want, don’t evoke a future we imagined! Only if we can transport clear visions of what we want and realize their turning points, we can design those occasions and motivate others to join the sustainable movement.

So, thanks a lot to the Indeed Innovation team for having us as speculative designers in residence for some months. It was a blast!

And thank you, dear reader, that you joined us on a journey to a possible and sometimes not-preferable future.

Sources:

10 worst popular foods
The sustainable nutrition initiative
Cost of a nutritionally adequate diet
Agricultural land by global diets
Food choice vs. Eating local
Less vs. alternative meat
Gastric Bypass
Global survey on sustainability
Agriculture at a crossroad
Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably…

Ony Yan

Speculative Design

Ony and Gabriel joined Indeed Innovation as a tandem for some speculative design projects in 2021.

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