If given the opportunity to participate in a carbon-neutral system, will people be selfless or selfish?
Usman Haque is an interactive designer who explores how ubiquitous technology and mobile connectivity are changing the ways that we relate to our environments and each other. Haque’s projects involve the creation of dynamic systems that encourage people to rethink their role and impact within the larger ecosystem.
His most recent work called Natural Fuse, builds a person-to-person community around environmental consciousness through a network of plants that act as both electrical outlets and a shared resource for generating CO2 offsets.
Commissioned by the Architectural League of New York, the project is explained below:
Natural Fuses allow only a limited amount of energy to be expended; that amount is limited by the amount of CO2 that can be absorbed by the plants that are growing in the system – natural “circuit breakers”. By networking them together, the plants are able to share their capacity and take advantage of carbon-sinking-surplus in the system since not all Natural Fuses will be in use at any one time.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Natural Fuses, is the underlying psycho-sociological aspect – controls that enable users to regulate the amount of power used. Each individual unit contains a switch with three settings – Off, Selfless and Selfish – that affect the entire system.
In Selfless mode, energy output is limited based on the overall system’s capacity at any given time, meaning that users might not receive all the power they require. While in Selfish mode, users can access and even over-utilize the network, risking the health of a random plant contained within. The threat of direct consequences resulting from our actions is an interesting way to visualize feedback and has the potential to influence our future behaviors as we look to reduce our individual carbon footprints.