Well Made

Ep. 129 Unlearning and reeducating with Céline Semaan

September 9, 2020 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

The slow pace of the pandemic has given many of us the opportunity to take a step back and reexamine our impact on people and the planet. This slower pace may seem counterintuitive in the face of urgent crises like climate change and systemic racism, but Céline Semaan and her team at Slow Factory have decided that it's the right pace for real, lasting progress. 

Systemic change, Céline says, comes first with unlearning old systems, then relearning by way of open education. In fact, she plans to help boost the public's sustainability literacy with peer-to-peer initiatives like Study Hall, Open Education, and Landfills as Museums — an initiative to show product designers, firsthand, the impact and potential of waste (pictured above).

In this episode, Céline walks us through the perspective shift she's seen in the past nine months, and how optimism and progress can only come with discomfort. 

“We are in a time where we are collectively unlearning. We are collectively looking at these words, these etymologies and, and dismantling them and changing them.”

Some of our trash is floating in space. Space debris are visible around the Lunar Module Challenger from the Apollo 17 spacecraft. Photo via NASA. Unlearning and reeducating

Some of our trash is floating in space. Space debris are visible around the Lunar Module Challenger from the Apollo 17 spacecraft. Photo via NASA.

Céline introduces her organizations Slow Factory and Study Hall and their common aim to increase sustainability literacy (2:57). She calls out the elephant in the room — racism and white supremacy — and what it means to be an activist in 2020 (4:07).

Céline starts diving into the nuanced, overwhelming task of translating complex issues into accessible language and graphics. Her passion for peer-to-peer learning is driven by her technological background and her belief that you can use technology to infiltrate silos and burst our bubbles of comfort online (10:00).

A big part of the Slow Factory mission is amplifying connections, like how agriculture connects the fashion industry to the food industry (24:34). Coming to these connections is often a practice in unlearning, and in the process, rethinking how we teach each other (30:02). Then, Céline touches on how she thinks about technology and its role in climate change (40:30). Finally, she shares how, even when climate change seems like an insurmountable responsibility, progress relies on optimism (43:48).


Also mentioned in the episode: 

Thumbnail photo of Céline Semaan taken by Heather Hazzan for Eileen Fisher.


You can find this and all future episodes on iTunes, Google Play, and here on the Lumi blog. This episode was edited by Evan Goodchild.

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