First World Problems


The Internet is a becoming a great place for people to whine about their first world problems ( The wi-fi at this airport lounge is so slow! My HDTV has a dead pixel! The Supermarket is out of my favourite French cheese! etc ). Turns out others are listening…

Some Context
During the last week, Australia was ranked by an Adelaide University study, as being in the top 10 countries for doing environmental harm (using indicators including species and forest loss, water pollution and carbon emissions). At the same time, the Australian Government announced it was postponing progress on it’s climate change agenda, despite being part of the world’s wealthiest 20% who are responsible for 80% of the world’s energy consumption. Does this sound like the sort of country you’d like to offer a helping hand? ( Particularly if living in one of the developing countries likely to be first effected by rising sea levels? )

The Rest Saving The West
DesignForTheFirstWorld has pro­claimed 2010 Inter­na­tional Year of the First World in Need, and has defined four main areas to address: Food Pro­duc­tion and Eat­ing Dis­or­ders, Aging Pop­u­la­tion and Low Birth rate, Immi­gra­tion and Inte­gra­tion to Soci­ety, Sus­tain­abil­ity and Over consumption.

“What does it mean to be a devel­op­ing coun­try? .. let’s stop to con­sider for a minute whether devel­oped coun­tries are some­thing we want to turn into. Are peo­ple in devel­oped coun­tries hap­pier or health­ier? Do they live a bet­ter life? Do they have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of nature and live in a bet­ter equi­lib­rium with the envi­ron­ment? Do they live in peace?”

“Our fellows in the first world often come to visit and give us their well intentioned but often very problematic “solutions”. We thought, why don’t we pay back? Dx1W is a competition for designers, artists, scientists, makers and thinkers in developing countries to provide solutions for First World problems. We’re call­ing artists, design­ers, tin­ker­ers, mak­ers, and thinkers with an idea to par­tic­i­pate. Two con­di­tions only: you were born in and live right now in a Devel­op­ing Coun­try and you are 13 years of age or older.”

The Ghana ThinkTank
The Ghana ThinkTank is solving the First World’s problems, one by one. Founded in 2006, the Ghana ThinkTank is a worldwide network of think tanks creating strategies to resolve local problems in the “developed” world. The network began with think tanks from Ghana, Cuba and El Salvador, and has since expanded to include Serbia, Mexico and Ethiopia. In their most recent project, they sent problems collected in Wales to think tanks in Ghana, Mexico, Serbia, Iran, and a group of incarcerated girls in the U.S. Prison system. These think tanks analyze the problems and propose solutions, which they put into action back in the community where the problems originated — whether those solutions seem impractical or brilliant.

By applying a typical process of community development against the grain, traditional power-roles are inverted, places are exchanged, and stereotypes clash with reality as disconnected cultures work together in detached but physical ways.
This project is an attempt to transpose parts of one culture into another, exploring the friction caused by solutions that are generated in one context and applied elsewhere, and revealing the hidden assumptions that govern cross-cultural interactions.

Garbage Dreams
Garbage Dreams is a 2009 film set in Cairo (and no, it’s not an Egyptian Slumdog Millionaire ), documenting the Zabbaleen tribe that lives off of collecting and recycling trash from Cairo. Remarkably, using primitive techniques, they manage to recycle 80% of the trash ( compared to 32% in the U.S. ). The tribe’s livelihood is under threat however, by foreign companies ( oops! Just trying to help.. ) taking over some of the recycling ( yet who recycle much less ). It’s confronting viewing, with campaign related links at

Other Forward Thinkers : – building a smarter planet – aiming to provide thought provoking content and a place to discuss it… a starting point for conversation about world issues. See also

Autobot Roulette:

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  1. subpixel says:

    I live in the ‘first world’ and can’t understand some people’s ‘first world problems’; they must be incredibly strange then to someone from a ‘less well-off’ place.

    I dare say a large number could be ‘solved’ (well, they’d probably transform into other problems) just by cutting out a stack of trash TV and gossip media. I mean, seriously, how does the media-magnified life of a celebrity actually affect people other than distracting their attention?

    Great article.

  2. Future says:

    Talking about it isn’t as good as getting to work

  3. Future says:

    No not your point about TV
    the article

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