WorldChanging 2.0

Alex Stef­fen is, hands down, the smartest envi­ron­men­tal­ist around today. He’s got that rare con­stel­la­tion of vision, sci­en­tific smarts, com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, and (rarest of all) a sense of per­spec­tive that keeps a keen aware­ness of the chal­lenge our plan­et is fac­ing in check with a bright imag­i­na­tion

Alex Stef­fen: We need to rebuild our entire soci­ety in next 3 decades. The debate on sus­tain­abil­i­ty is over. There are two kinds of peo­ple: Peo­ple who under­stand that we’re run­ning up again­st the lim­its of the plan­et and can’t con­tin­ue as we are, and peo­ple who are wrong.

Why can’t we build cities that work with nat­u­ral sys­tems. We treat water that falls from the sky as pol­lu­tion and chan­nel it to sew­ers. Why don’t we fly wind­mills like kites? Why don’t we deploy spher­i­cal solar pan­els?

In order to move quick­ly, we need to think in new ways.

Worldchanging 2.0

Date: Tuesday, March 13

Time: 03:30PM04:30PM

Location: 18ABCD

edi­tor of one of the Internet’s most pop­u­lar green des­ti­na­tions
dis­cuss­es sev­er­al com­mon-sense geek solu­tions for a more sus­tain­able


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Take Net­flix. To rent movies we used to dri­ve to a store which is heat­ed and lit, take it home, watch it, return it. If you order it with Net­flix, the post­man is com­ing to my house any­way, and the eco­log­i­cal foot­print of the movie when I order it by Net­flix is much low­er than when I go in a car to rent it. We can still have the things we want at a much low­er eco­log­i­cal cost. We can get rid of the extra­ne­ous stuff: com­pact liv­ing in well-designed cities. Dema­te­ri­al­izes trans­porta­tion and infra­struc­ture. Access by prox­im­i­ty.

Grid sys­tem on the left: blue is how far you can walk in one mile. Imag­ine which encour­ages more dri­ving.

Ze Frank: if the Earth were a sand­wich. Nev­er before have two piece of bread been simul­ta­ne­ous­ly put on the ground direct­ly oppo­site each oth­er thus mak­ing an Earth sand­wich. The fact that the earth has nev­er before been made into a sand­wich is prob­a­bly why it is so fucked up.

Know­ing where things are in a com­pact city makes things more effi­cient. Google maps of garbage, Freecy­cle, car shar­ing. 1 car shared can take 6–20 cars off the road.

Peo­ple who share cars are bet­ter dri­vers. They get more done with each trip. They plan bet­ter.

The aver­age pow­er­drill gets used between 6–20 min­utes in its life­time. Some peo­ple do need drills on a dai­ly basis. Most of us keep them around for years wait­ing for some­thing to need to drill. This is the epit­o­me of of inef­fi­cient waste. What we need is the hole, not the drill. There are cheap con­ve­nient tool shar­ing and tool lend­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.

When you mea­sure things, you change the way you use them. Just mov­ing the ener­gy meter wn
inside sim­ply makes you use less. Observed flows can be made beau­ti­ful: light cord that glows the more elec­tric­i­ty goes through it.

The lit­tle air­plane pil­low on the air­plane? We don’t have an attach­ment to it. Why should car­pets or dish­wa­ter or drills not be the same? 

Cell phones. If you are a man­u­fac­ture who has to recy­cle, you build dif­fer­ent. Cell phone that dis­as­sem­bles itself when heat­ed on return.

Imag­ine if prod­ucts came with envi­ron­men­tal impact ingre­di­ent pan­el: how much car­bon was used in mak­ing this pro­duct? We all want afflu­ence, but we want guilt-free afflu­ence. We want things around us that tell bet­ter sto­ries.

Redesign­ing a civ­i­liza­tion which uses no raw mate­ri­als, pow­ers itself with clean ener­gy, recy­cles all waste and ger­nates no tox­ins is not only pos­si­ble, it might be fun. It might be a life we love bet­ter. There’s a lot of mon­ey to be made there. Peo­ple who want to charge ahead on that fron­tier. Do we then need to leave behind the devel­op­ing world?

The mod­els we have already cre­at­ed are being imple­ment­ed else­where. If we come up with bet­ter mod­els, the tools that oth­er peo­ple share with us will be bet­ter tools.

Land mine detect­ing flow­er. Bloom changes from white to red in the pres­ence of the kind of nitro­gens that the decay­ing explo­sives emit. Using a genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered flow­er to over­come the land­mi­nes.

Fog catch­ers suck water out of the air.

Rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing.

Lifes­traw emer­gen­cy water puri­fier.

Plumpy’nut. Kids who have suf­fered mal­nu­tri­tion lose inter­est in eat­ing, but shouldn’t eat just any­thing. Peanut But­ter scored high as a uni­ver­sal Yum­my, so they cre­at­ed a ther­a­peu­tic food pro­duct.

Mer­ry-go-round that pumps water, har­ness­ing the pow­er of kids at play. 

Why not make a water bar­rel that you can stick a rope through and roll home?

Acu­men Fund: Malar­ia pre­ven­tion nets, being cre­at­ed in Africa for Africa.

Mort­gages for squat­ters.

to sum up, the choic­es are:

Keep going, repli­cate flawed pat­tern.

OR, we forge a path to an as yet unimag­in­able Bright, Green Future.

Smart peo­ple with cre­ative minds are the ones who need to make this hap­pen.

You are Bril­liant, and the Earth is hir­ing. –Paul Hawk­in

Earth doesn´t need a bunch of mar­tyrs, it needs a bunch of bet­ter ideas.

Air trav­el is a tough one, there’s no real green option. Cheap air­fare is one of our civilization’s great­est achieve­ments, but fly­ing is a ter­ri­ble thing to do. Reduce the things you can reduce, off­set what you can’t. Bik­ing: we need to mod­el bet­ter alter­na­tives. Sim­ply by bik­ing across LA you may be set­ting an exam­ple to oth­ers.

Those of us that con­sid­eer our­selves envi­ron­men­tal­ists have made some mis­takes along the way: we have hit peo­ple over the head with the end of the world and then left them with noth­ing to do. A few solu­tions jammed in between the cred­its of Incon­ve­nient Truth after 90 min­ues of doom is not good enough.

We can’t ask peo­ple to recy­cle on the pre­sump­tion that it’s an addic­tive sub­stance and will lead to hard­er drugs: giv­ing peo­ple mean­ing­less things to do is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

Those of us who think about the future have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to cre­ate com­pelling vision of where we might be head­ing.

Sen­ti­ment with­out Action is the ruin of the soul –Edward Abee 

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3 thoughts on “WorldChanging 2.0”

  1. I have fig­ured out some sig­nif­i­cant things through your web­site post. One oth­er sub­ject I would like to express is that there are plen­ty of games on the mar­ket designed espe­cial­ly for tod­dler age small chil­dren. They con­sist of pat­tern iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, col­ors, fam­i­ly pets, and designs. The­se nor­mal­ly focus on famil­iar­iza­tion instead of mem­o­riza­tion. This will keep chil­dren engaged with­out hav­ing the expe­ri­ence like they are study­ing. Thanks

  2. You seem to want an hon­est opin­ion so Ill give it to you. Very of all you could have used a search engine or searched to find out if such a book exist­ed. Sec­ond­ly I believe if a sin­gle does it would be gath­er­ing dust some­where-its a large yawn of a top­ic-nobody cares and no-one would be inter­est­ed. Sor­ry. Im not attempt­ing to become mean-just bru­tal­ly hon­est. Instead of feel­ing sor­ry for your­self-rec­og­nize that you are just lone­ly and a worka­holic and do some vol­un­teer work and make some new friends. Senior homes are always look­ing for peo­ple to talk or read to the res­i­dents-it sounds like you have some sto­ries you could inform them.

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