Sunday, July 02, 2006

Thinking Hard about Personal Factor Four

Wow, what a lazy weekend! Got to have one of those every now and then, I guess... But, time to get back to work!

Since Vinay Gupta first posted his essay on the "Personal Factor Four" concept, and especially since I republished it here on Thursday, I've read through it a number of times. It's a thought-provoking piece that, as Vinay mentions, really goes back to some of the prime motivations for creating the Internet: the rapid spread of both ideas and actions that serve to implement those ideas.

At one level, I think this is already happening, and the rise of green blogs is a testament to it: more people clearly feel the need to engage with sustainability online. When I started sustainablog, it was fairly quiet and lonely out here in the green blogosphere -- I know Enviropundit was around, but can't think offhand of other blogs that I frequent now that existed then. We've come a long ways, and there's certainly a lot of organizing going on that wasn't then..

Still, I know where Vinay's coming from -- we've got a network, we do reach out, but it's all still rather messy and disorganized at this point. Imagine how well we could spread an idea, or a set of ideas, were we to come together and do it in a more orderly fashion. We've certainly got models for this: any of the campaigns regularly organized by the mainstream environmental groups, for instance, or the Stop Global Warming virtual march. Perhaps it's time for a Green Bloggers Action Network, or something along those lines...

Of course, what we don't want to do is stifle the creativity of individual bloggers, as that's a big part of what keeps all of this fresh and exciting. Somehow we've got to combine traditional word-of-mouth marketing with an open source model -- here's the goal, but we want lots of input on how to get the word out and achieve it.

I wonder if something like a Blog Carnival model might work, but with some modification -- for instance, we follow the concept of a weekly collection of posts from around the blogosphere, but set a theme or idea for each week: this week's collection will be about switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, next week will focus on shopping at farmers' markets or joining CSAs, and the following week focuses on personal transportation choices... So, after a while, we have collection of ideas from different places on how to most effectively make the kinds of changes that lead an individual (hopefully, lots of individuals) to greener homes, more efficient transportation and healthier, more sustainable food choices.

I think the key to this is thinking small, at least on the individual, weekly level. Of course, this could all then go into something big: a wiki, for instance -- perhaps we could establish a section of the Bright Green Living wiki for storing the ideas from each weekly event. Along the way, we'd also need to think about opportunities for presenting these ideas to people in a position to push for more systematic change, whether its politicians, business leaders, prominent activists, environmental organizations...

I'm just considering one model here -- I'm sure there are others, and lots of tools we can use (MySpace comes to mind). The keys are organization, broad participation and timely activism.

I'm really just thinking out loud here, so hopefully you'll feel free to do the same. Ultimately, we've got a lot of voices we can harness, but don't want to harness them in such a way that the individual voices get lost.

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