Climate Change Solutions Need the Design Educator, Now.

Eric Benson
7 min readApr 14, 2022

Reflections on the First Season of the Climify Podcast

The Climify Podcast

What can I do?

As a designer and design educator, I find myself lost a lot looking for the best ways to use what the climate experts tell us in my design work and teaching. I don’t want to live in a future where we have to struggle more just to get by. I don’t want folks to lose their homes, jobs, and futures to rising sea levels or catastrophic storms and fires. I want more of us to have that same empathy for one another. If designers, if people, just knew what was happening and what they could do to help, we’d likely feel a common cause to fight for; us.

Call that naive. Yes, you’d be correct in doing so. But it isn’t wrong. I want to create things with the skills and talents I have that help and inspire people. I want to teach other designers to do the same; for our common good. But when I read the findings of the latest IPCC Report stating “…all five of the new emission scenarios bring the planet to at least 1.5°C of warming over pre-industrial levels between now and 2040.” And that 1.5°C means perilous floods, life-threatening droughts, deadly heatwaves, catastrophic coastal flooding, food shortages, forest fires, and worst of all loss of life, I find myself defeated, not knowing how to apply what is in that report into direct action in my studio and classroom.

“Despair is paralysis. It robs us of agency. It blinds us to our own power and the power of the earth… Restoration is a powerful antidote to despair. Restoration offers concrete means by which humans can once again enter into a positive, creative relationship with the more-than-human world, meeting responsibilities that are simultaneously material and spiritual.”

– Robin Wall Kimmerer

It feels hopeless, but I have grown to understand that despair is indeed paralysis. Instead, having hope increases positive feelings that can inspire imagining a better future. That inspiration leads to action. Action will lead to our survival.

Then, where is that hope you may ask? There is good news out there. Renewable energy is booming, for one.

Eric Benson

Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-founder of Re-nourish & Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.