Getting it: Ekopedia

It’s very striking when we meet people that really get what Appropedia is doing – why knowledge sharing matters, and why we practice radical openness and collaboration. Examples are when I heard Akvo‘s Mark Charmer talk passionately about the importance of breaking down the barriers between our silos of information; another was in 2007, on my first call with Andrew Lamb, head of Engineers Without Borders UK, hearing his lament over the many, many development organizations, each with knowledge that is not actively shared.

The most recent example is Jean-Luc Henry, founder of Ekopedia, a mostly French language sustainability wiki. Like others, he didn’t need to be converted – Ekopedia has been sharing sustainability knowledge since 2002 (well before Appropedia, which began in 2006), and branching out into multiple languages.

In the last few weeks we’ve begun talking seriously about our shared vision, and how we can work together. As a first step, we’re moving all French language content on Appropedia to Ekopedia, and all English language content on Ekopedia to Appropedia. Less duplication, more synergy – and an expression of our trust and shared vision.

With our own translation projects, starting with Clarion University’s program and expanding from there, and with like-minded people working on translation for related projects (such as OLPC), there is the potential for massively ramping up the work of effective multi-lingual knowledge sharing. If we can get funding to develop new translation tools, it could be better still.

We’ll keep you informed. If you want to join the team, please get in touch!

Welcome to the Appropedia blog

This is the blog to accompany Appropedia, the wiki for solutions in the challenge of building rich, sustainable lives.

Follow our blog to understand how things work, and how we’re dealing with the challenges of a growing wiki expanding into new areas. Your contributions are very welcome – you can start contributing, let us know your questions (commenting here is one way). You can also keep watching here as we talk about how things work in this wiki world, and figure out where you fit in. (But we’d still love it if you dropped us a line.)

This was posted when we were still playing with the Drupal blog, before we switched to WordPress. So we’ll need to make another welcome, soon. – Chriswaterguy 23 Sep 2008

GreenCamps

A bunch of different folk are doing BarCamps* on a Green theme. This GreenCamps page lists the ones I could find, though I haven’t had time to organize the page.

Coming soon: OSNCamp, aka The Open Sustainability Network Conference, October 18-19 in San Francisco, at which the Open Sustainability Network will be launched.

*A Barcamp is also known as an unconference – a very ad hoc conference. usually they are mostly on tech subjects. Think how the conferences you’ve been to have often been more notable for the conversations that have happened spontaneously, rather than the main talks. A BarCamp has a lot more of the informal stuff, and short talks can be given by anyone, at short notice. You can choose which talks to go to, or just do your own thing.

Original works on a wiki

Received an email from the founder of a fairly prominent UK organization, devoted to real-world action for sustainability. The query was whether Appropedia was a suitable place to work collaboratively on a book, which would later be published.

While we’d love to have this content, there are some reasons it may not be an acceptable solution for them. At the very least, contributors need to know what they are committing to when pasting on a wiki, and using a free license.

Rather than just explain this in an email, I thought it was a good question to answer on the wiki: See Original content FAQ.

Note that I’m starting to wonder if our old policy of using the “Original:” namespace is a good idea after all, as it requires a set of gatekeepers for what content is worthy to be placed in this namespace. And yet… an original document by a respected appropriate technology organization, for example, may deserve to be readily available. Or perhaps a link to a “diff,” showing the text of the original, with all the changes that have been made since the original document was first placed on the wiki – that will confuse the eye of the average non-wikiholic however.

Tricky issues. Feedback welcome!

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.

Original works on a wiki

Received an email from the founder of a fairly prominent UK organization, devoted to real-world action for sustainability. The query was whether Appropedia was a suitable place to work collaboratively on a book, which would later be published.

While we’d love to have this content, there are some reasons it may not be an acceptable solution for them. At the very least, contributors need to know what they are committing to when pasting on a wiki, and using a free license.

Rather than just explain this in an email, I thought it was a good question to answer on the wiki: See Original content FAQ.

Note that I’m starting to wonder if our old policy of using the “Original:” namespace is a good idea after all, as it requires a set of gatekeepers for what content is worthy to be placed in this namespace. And yet… an original document by a respected appropriate technology organization, for example, may deserve to be readily available. Or perhaps a link to a “diff,” showing the text of the original, with all the changes that have been made since the original document was first placed on the wiki – that will confuse the eye of the average non-wikiholic however.

Tricky issues. Feedback welcome!

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.

Overthrow the car!

The Netherlands is a country for people who go by foot, bike, train and tram, not built around car drivers the way Australia and many other countries are. No great revelation there, but I can confirm, it’s makes for a really pleasant city. Of course it’s greener, and more practical as well, when done properly. Zurich seems pretty good that way, too.

One of the ways to have a better quality of life by being greener.

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.

Too much skepticism of the skeptic

Note: Blog posts are the opinions of the individual blogger, and not necessarily of the Appropedia Foundation or the Appropedia community. (We may decide to put a note like this on all blog posts, but it seemed particularly important for a topic like Bjørn Lomborg.)

Reading Bjørn Lomborg’s ideas, I’m learning* that he’s not a climate skeptic, and many of his ideas are sound. Things are getting better for most people in the world (even if it still sucks for many), water wars aren’t as likely as some make out (it’s usually cheaper to build desalination plants – not great, but better than war), most pollutants decrease as societies become prosperous, pesticides in our diet are not a major cause of cancer (compared to coffee and alcohol), and of course, that we should do cost-benefit analyses for solutions to our problems. And as for his image as a climate skeptic, even in The Skeptical Environmentalist he acknowledged the reality of climate change – though he questions the best response.

In this light it looks like an important contribution to the debate – if only the debate hadn’t been conducted at an emotive rather than factual level.

That said, I still have major problems with some of his arguments, and a central plank of his arguments, prioritization, is summed up in these quotes by his critics (from the Wikipedia article):

Lomborg specialises in presenting the reader with false choices – such as the assertion that money not spent on preventing climate change could be spent on bringing clean water to the developing world, thereby saving more lives per dollar of expenditure. Of course, in the real world, these are not the kind of choices we are faced with. Why not take the $60 billion from George Bush’s stupid Son of Star Wars program and use that cash to save lives in Ethiopia? — from a pie thrower.

and:

As Lomborg notes, “We will never have enough money,” and therefore, “Prioritization is absolutely essential.” Why, then, does he weigh the environment only against hospitals and childcare, rather than against, say, industry subsidies and defense spending? — Grist Magazine

I also have never seen much attention to the technological impact of carbon pricing, and it seems like Lomborg is no different. By sending a price signal now, we encourage money and effort to be spent on solutions that could turn the climate change challenge around. E.g. What happens when solar becomes cheaper than coal, and energy storage becomes affordable? A massive transition to a post-carbon economy will begin, that will make most of the models irrelevant. (To be fair he does conclude that there should be investment in renewable energy technologies, but I don’t think he discusses the market-based approach.)

There’s also the fact that many measures to stop global warming, especially efficiency measures, are an economic benefit, not a cost at all.

Of course, I’ve been wrong on Lomborg before, and I may still be.

But how do we reach a more intelligent level of debate? We can’t wait for the mass media – that’s not their field. I’d like to see Lomborg release his work under a free license, so we could remix it, expand and assess arguments, and plug holes, making the comparisons that he himself missed.

*Okay, a friend has been defending Lomorg to me for ages, but I never quite believed him.

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.