From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Monday, February 21, 2011

DIY Climate Change:  Ongoing Global Brainstorm

Since it seems that we can't expect too much out of the international or national policymakers for the next couple of years, I've been thinking that the next logical step for and the climate movement is to do it ourselves. That could take the form of an ongoing global brainstorm on local, practical solutions where people who are working on projects can report their successes and failures, trade ideas on what works and what doesn't, and help us all climb the learning curve faster as well as replicate successes quickly and modify them appropriately for different local conditions.

There are a number of people already thinking and working along these lines (appropedia, globalswadeshi, the coalition of the willing, global system for sustainable development...*) but they are dispersed, not networked, and there is no central nexus you can point people to. This is something that needs to be done in order to make do it yourself climate change happen. If done right, it would eliminate a lot of unnecessary duplication around the world and could build a community of practitioners that could be brought to bear on specific areas and problems like an Emergency Rescue Squad or ecological SWAT team.

Last year, when the Haitian earthquake happened, there were crisis camps set up in response all around the world. Pecha-kuchas, short design talks using only 20 slides with only 20 seconds allowed for each slide, devoted to helping Haiti occurred on one night in cities on almost every continent. Resources were brought to bear in an ad hoc way that are currently being institutionalized. It seemed to me that people had begun to learn from the experience of the Asian tsunami, New Orleans and Katrina, and now Haiti how to respond in a way that was more effective. I think the same kind of thing could happen with the long emergency of climate, especially if it were focused on building security and developing a better standard of living.

The other day, I ran into Thomas Goreau who has publish the first of a set of books on innovative technologies for small island developing states. His field of primary interest is the coral reefs and he told me he is going to Panama to work with some islanders there on a solar project. Now I know why I went into that supermarket even though I didn't buy anything. A handbook or encyclopedia of appropriate technologies in printed and electronic form could be distributed and updated by the users as they build their own indigenous projects. The same day, Robert Lange ( ) who has been working in Tanzania with the Maasai developing a more efficient cookstove and building solar LED lighting systems emailed me about getting his new stove design tested. I've been trying to put him in contact with Richard Komp ( ) who's been doing solar as a cottage industry, seeding small solar businesses around the world for the last 20 or so years. The point is that there is so much expertise and so many different people working, mostly in isolation, on the same problems. Lots and lots of things are happening on the local and regional level that never reach the outside world. We need to link all of it together and reveal for ourselves a new infrastructure of development and economics that is hidden because it is disconnected and unrecognized.

I've seen this in the local agriculture field. When we started direct marketing here in MA back in the mid-1970s, there were only 12 or 18 farmers' markets. Now there are over 140 and bids to make some of them year-round. In the 1990s, I tried to get the local ag folks to start mapping the economic system that had grown up around those efforts but they weren't interested. It was only a year or so ago that Boston's Sustainable Business Network started doing that and went on to hold a huge event by the Children's Museum, a local food festival that was more successful than they'd dreamed of. It was packed, all day, and everyone had a great time. I think the same dynamic is happening with local responses to climate change and I think one of the next steps will be recognizing that fact. I just hope it doesn't take 30 years.

The 10/10/10 world-wide climate work day was great as was the international art day that happened in November. Both need to keep happening. Add the linking and networking on practical, local solutions and responses and we can start a parade that the politicians will be running to get at the head of, as they always do.

I've sent this idea to Bill McKibben and They are interested in the concept.

DIY Climate Change: Ain't Nobody Else

* Appropedia
Coalition of the Willing
Global System for Sustainable Development

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