xClinic and The DOCTORS WITHOUT DISCIPLINARY BORDERS partnered up to co-create a project that targets human and environmental health through Natural System Engineering.: Dr x. Departing from the hypothesis that the concept of mutualism in biology — “symbiosis that is beneficial to both organisms involved” by definition in natural systems — has been exceptionally understudied, xClinic and the Doctors Without Disciplinary Borders designed an equation of mutualistic systems that leverage Benefit Benefit Analysis and BSquared analysis. These two systems of analysis monetize desired and possible human and nonhuman benefits — including nutrients, protection, energy exchanges –as currencies, rather than cost benefits.
Their first pilot project was in the Rail Corridor in Singapore, where they attempted to reframe the practice of Design in landscapes. Design, and especially Landscape design, as a practise, has often focused on the decorative use of vegetation in parks and urban environments rather than on leveraging the instinctive relationships between human and living non human systems. This category of Design is called: Biophilic design. xClinic’s equation incorporates natural systems and engineers public utilities in a way that re-imagines our relationship to our natural systems; framing these natural elements as active stakeholders rather than “resources,” allows us to leverage the existing knowledge without our smart natural systems and regenerates forest ecology and resilience. By applying their equation to any urban design proposal, we can assess its degree of “urban sensitivity.”
As far as the information online, the equation seems to be pretty conceptual, like many of the Environmental Health Clinic’s projects, and only stands as a speculative tool. As much as speculative design has the power to start a provocative conversation around a topic, it is crucial today more than ever to put a stake in the ground that moves beyond speculation toward implementation, to see how such tools can live in the world today.
The xClinic has an array of projects that in one way or another foster and explore new types of human and nonhuman relations: The Butterfly bridge (that allows butterflies to fly over the obstacle of urban settings), The Moth Cinema (that attracts moths to find habitat and, in the process, allows them to act as pollinators), the Cross Species Table (where nonhumans can share nutritional resources) etc…Dr x’s methods are extendable and could be applied to many more dimensions. Internally, the equation could be used to evaluate the exchanges between human and non humans. Externally, this tool could be perhaps used by governmental agencies and have a wider impact. For instance, if the RPA – Regional Plan Association – adopts this tool and uses it whenever they plan a new project, they could drastically improve the New York’s metropolitan region’s health, environmental sustainability and quality of life from both human and nonhuman standpoints.
In addition to this, as a designer myself — one currently exploring this topic for my thesis topic — I found it very difficult to find substantial information about DR x to really see how the equation could be applied in the real world. Had information about it been more accessible, it could’ve been used by so many people in the field. Turning this tool into an open source tool that could be adapted and re-invented, will make it very a powerful communicative utility for translating nonhuman perspectives and most importantly shedding light on an emerging topic that has yet to be explored.