Friday, April 8, 2011

Experts' Opinions on Sustainability - Social Media


What role does social media play in the environmental movement?

Jeffrey Davis - Eco Snobbery Sucks
A huge one. It seems like we're bombarded with information at an ever-increasing rate these days, but I think we're also able to filter that information better than ever as well. For example, I watch, listen to, or subscribe to ANY mainstream media outlets. I choose the news and information I want to be exposed to by what feeds I subscribe to, what twitter accounts I follow, what podcasts I download, and even whose posts I allow to show up on my facebook home feed.
Social media helps us connect with causes that matter to us, and more importantly, other like-minded people who share similar passions. Through those connections I think we can learn and achieve more than we could separately, lone ranger style.

Edward Hall - LghtSrc
An essential role.  We need new social media though.  Diaspora, the open source Facebook, could provide the platform help people totally get the word out and organize without private interest influence.  Programs like,,, they all provide so much value in curbing global warming, empowering people, organizing movements... That's why I've moved on from working on research at Columbia University in sustainable behavior to trying to implement that research entirely in online communities.
When nearly every person on the planet can access something that makes it incredibly powerful.  It's time we recognized that power and ALL started building things for the better of humanity.  We have to make sure that our online communities are being build through insight and experience we gather in real life though.  We have to grow from there and hopefully use the internet to help people get off it, to use MeetUp's saying.

(When you read the following, please note I advocate for a learning revolution through digital media in China, not a political one; I want the Chinese people to use their digital information infrastructure responsibly for the purpose of overall Human Sustainability; while I do not endorse violence as a form of opposition, I do believe there are human rights issues need be addressed in the Chinese criminal defense process related to Sustainability; I simply ask for the Chinese People, a fair and reasonable defense infrastructure to reduce corruption and improve cost efficiency for government programs; got my fingers crossed.)
The role of social media in the environmental movement, or any movement a all - Egypt, Iran, China, etc. - is about starting a conversation, building a community learning/knowledge platform, and generating activities from the grassroots up to really challenge the status quo and make a difference.
I consider the “Discussion Boards” that started the violence of the Cultural Revolution in China, and subsequently sent thousands to death and re-education camps (my father included), a form of Social Media. But today, in the US and most of the world, we have a lost sense of social media intricately combined with the powers of the Internet and various computing devices. In much of the US, social media is trendy, high-tech, and sometimes about nothing with significant substance: what did Kim Kardashian have for lunch today?
Social Media, to me, in the truest form, is about bringing people together on a topic and uniting the consensus to overturn the established norms put in place for the benefits of the few, the rich, the careless. Social Media is about using our high-tech devices to generate a collective and existential question we must ask ourselves: where do we see ourselves in the future as a species, a steward of Earth.
There are company sponsored social media/marketing campaigns structured around products or single sided political messages. I call these “Peer Review for Profit” social media, (and these are entirely different from “Social Media” that challenges authorities, overthrows governments, and advocates for those who are voiceless). This type of “Social Media” is part of the established norms for the benefits of the few, the rich, and the careless. This is the kind of social media that influences the masses who stands for nothing, who will fall for anything.
On the other side is the type of Social Media that makes social media sexy and dangerous. This is the kind of social media that exist not for the sake of politics or product sales. This is the Social Media in ListServs of human rights lawyers for China; this is the Social Media in private forums for scientists to discuss their views on Sustainability; this is the Social Media on Twitter that raised over $70,000 for cancer research in one day. This is the kind of Social Media that gives our conversations substance, helps us learn and grow, and get us away from our daily routines to do something good for our society.
I learned from a good friend, Susan Bird, that a conversation can change the world. Many marketing professionals and the so-called social media and marketing companies often miss this very point. Social marketing and viral marketing is effective not because technology has made it so, but because technology made that conversation available. But a conversation is not enough to start a movement. Conversation means nothing if there is no substance and no meaning. The Internet is littered with unnecessary conversations these days. The unfortunate thing is we have wasted so much time paying attention to this useless information. Let’s face the reality: gossips and rants will never solve the challenges we face in world hunger or global warming. I am guilty of frivolous rants and I am working on changing that.  What we need is a Method in the Madness. Our job and responsibility is to stop this deterioration and help generate positive learning via Social Media and technology.
So to me, Social Media is not about technology, not about trends, not about meaningless things that does nothing for the Human Experience. To me, Social Media is about a Conversation, about Learning, about making a difference – for our environment and for our fellow human beings; for Earth.

Meris Michaels - Towards Better Health
Calls to action:  anti-nuclear groups holding daily demonstrations following the disaster in Japan, forcing countries to rethink the nuclear issue.

Jessica Reeder - Love and Trash
One of the biggest roadblocks for the environmental movement has always been disinformation [false information that is intended to mislead], which often comes from hearsay and punditry. People on both sides of the issues tend to be misinformed, because there are so many differing views on every topic. Particularly while much of the research on climate change, health, nutrition, agriculture etc. is still very much in progress, people don't always know which news sources to trust. Facts seem to shift, and it's hard to know what the "right" answer is -- or if one exists.
Social media allows experts and brands to develop a trusted voice that people feel they can rely on. By offering consistency and good information, by being reasonable and trustworthy, environmental activists are better able to dispel rumors and spread knowledge on important issues.
Unfortunately, this works the other way as well. It's crucial that we remain authentic in our messaging, that we don't fall into extreme viewpoints or logical bogs. Too many news sources rely on sensationalistic headlines and exclusionary moral judgments to pull in more readers; this can easily degrade into publishing bad information for the sake of traffic.

Social media accelerates our collective shift to a far more transparent world. Traditional media outlets can be laden with associations that prevent true, unbiased, and unfiltered reporting and opinion, but social media provides access to information from a wide variety of sources and and gives engaged citizens a voice. It does not only facilitate transparency; it also increases the demand for it.
Heightened transparency is ushering in a new paradigm in which citizens are increasingly aware when a business interest is in some way at odds with the public interest. The "environmental movement" and the notion of sustainability benefit from this type of information sharing because it creates an increased understanding of the true interconnectedness of our world. It encourages all parties to rethink our our notion of value, and to pursue value in ways that do not diminish value elsewhere or in the future.

Shane Shirley-Smith - Environmental Booty
You hear it everywhere these days, social networking through the use of social media is a must for every business.  Why should it be any different when it comes to sharing the green message?  What is the environmental movement anyway?  Isn’t it just a bunch of individuals who, when they are able to come together and connect, can use their collective power to create change?  Social media has made the connection part of the change equation as easy as turning on the computer.  From blogging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every niche community site in between, people have seemingly unlimited opportunities to connect with others who are as passionate about sustainability as they are. 
I think the question which should be asked is not to what role social media has in the environmental movement, but what role do you have in using social media to create the change you want to see.   Do you want to start a blog to share all you are learning on your walk to green living?  Why not hop on YouTube and check out the latest vids from your favorite non-profits?  Do you want to use Twitter to get up to the minute information on issues like alternative energy use and ways to live greener?  How about jumping on Facebook and joining local environmental groups or laying down links you find in your daily web searching?   Corporate executive gatekeepers have been replaced with Twitter @mentions and if you want your message to reach the highest on the corporate ladder, social media is your friend.  Social media has made it easy for greenies to make important connections and form partnerships which, just a few years ago, were difficult to create. 


  1. What does social media and sustainability have in common?

    Both social media and sustainability have now become influential topics all around the world. But what do the have in common? Regardless of the sector they operate in, most companies and individuals are entirely aware of the importance of their online presence and the infinite resources of social media. LinkedIn itself has revealed to be one fastest growing platforms for sharing green business ideas as well as building portfolios of contacts. Nevertheless, very little has been investigated about how the sustainability sector can utilise the power of social media in the most green and tangible way.

    If you are interested in this subject and want to know more about it, I suggest you to attend the Sustainability & Social Media Communications Masterclass of 2011 on the 19th of April. Interesting live presentations will be accompanied with an organic breakfast prepared by the award-winning restaurant Acorn House in London. Visit the link below for more information and see you there!

  2. Speaking about the power of the social media, several days ago, I sent two articles re. Prof. Belpomme's research concerning the health effects of electro-magnetic (EM)radiation to a Canadian who posted them on his Website which includes articles on EMF from all over the world( The articles "went viral" this past weekend, but I've seen nothing in the US so far.

    Timing is very important. The posting followed just after IARC/WHO's declaration that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic" and the Council of Europe's resolution on the potential danger of EM fields which recommends a wired connection for Internet systems (not Wi-Fi) in schools in all 47 European Member States, including Switzerland.