Connect students and community members via an online platform and local "Imaginings" to collaboratively design a climate stable society
One of the key ingredients for change is holding a bold and inspiring VISION of what we collectively want. According to Donella Meadows, "Environmentalists have been especially ineffective in creating any shared vision of the world they are working toward -- a sustainable world in which people live within nature in a way that meets human needs while not degrading natural systems. Hardly anyone can imagine that world, especially not as a world they’d actively like to live in." (1)
Youth have a natural ability to creatively and playfully imagine. This is an ability we must encourage at this critical junction because, before creating a climate stable society, we must imagine a climate stable society. We must also make the vision an appealing one!
Youth and communities everywhere have an incredible crisis-opportunity to design and create the world of their dreams.
This proposal aims to harness the power of youthful imagination to inspire excitement and action. The proposal consists of two primary aspects:
1) A WikiDream platform where students and community members can collaboratively blueprint the emerging sustainable society. Users may publish "Dreams" of the new society. A "Dream" is one aspect of the new society. After publishing a "Dream," users consent to link to other related "Dreams" forming a connected vision. Users can then search the collaborative vision using tags, key words, and links. A "map view" will enable users to see the webs of ideas and note which are leverage points in the system.
2) Local "Imaginings" will be conferences designed by artists, teachers, and professors to facilitate the imaginative process and community engagement. These would be facilitated by the US Department of Arts and Culture. (2) "Imaginings" will be open to students as well as the larger community. Rainforest Action Network is also developing an online envisioning process and would be a helpful collaborator. (3)
What actions do you propose?
Addressing climate change will require an all out effort at all scales in all localities, but it will be local communities that take the lead. The WikiDream platform and "Imaginings" can be applied at any scale and will be piloted at the local scale in the city of Eugene, OR.
The City of Eugene passed a Climate Recovery Ordinance in 2014, which is the first time in US history that a city has adopted legally binding legislation incorporating a viable scientific prescription for Climate Recovery (4). This was done through the dedicated work of Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit organization working to pass legally binding responses to climate change at local, state, and federal scales. Their work is one example of how youth can be empowered to address climate change.
Now, as a city, We the People of Eugene have to figure out how to meet the benchmarks outlined in the Climate Recovery Ordinance. Matt McRae, head of the Eugene Sustainability Commission, believes that most of the low hanging fruit have been picked, and that it's time for systemic change.
The Eugene Sustainability Commission’s survey of Eugene residents shows that more than 80% of Eugenians believe “that climate change requires us to entirely rethink our behavior,” 75% of Eugenians want stronger regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and the vast majority of Eugenians believe that over-consumption threatens our environment and that our lives would be better if we consumed less. (5)
We are in a great position to fundamentally change our behavior and infrastructure, but, in order to do so, we need: 1) a clear collective vision, and 2) to recognize that there already is overwhelming public support for change! We just need to organize. The WikiDream platform and "Imaginings" can assist in that.
First, we will create the online platform and test run it in Environmental Studies classes at the University of Oregon and in local High Schools. This will be a great teaching tool for studying sustainability and taking the time to imagine what we, both individually and collectively, really want.
The platform will be simple. Any user can create a "Dream." A "Dream" will consist of a tweet-length title, tags/labels, either a 3-minute video or 3 pictures, 2000 characters of body, links to related "Dreams," likes/dislikes, and comments. The elegance of this model is that an author of one "Dream" may request to link with another related "Dream." If both parties consent, the "Dreams" become linked.
In the map view, users will be able to see the linked ideas in web form, and certain networks of ideas will emerge. A network of related ideas might be called, "Sustainable Local Agriculture," or "Local Renewable Energy and Microgrids," or "Local Policy." Designing a functional and aesthetic way of navigating these ideas will be critical. Tags and labels will be helpful. Perhaps a moderator can request that certain networks of ideas be formally labeled as an organ - an organ of the city's functional body - and further "Dreams" may be added under that specific label.
After testing WikiDream with students, we will collaborate with local community organizations, like 350.org, Our Children's Trust, Citizen's Climate Lobby, The Pachamama Alliance, Transition Town Eugene, community rights groups, faith-based groups, and the City of Eugene to crowd source more "Dreams" of a sustainable future and grow the collective vision. As the Sustainability Commission's Survey suggests, there are a lot of people in Eugene ready to take the leap into a climate stable society. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of community organizations working towards this end. As with many places, the struggle is in figuring out how to work together. By providing the WikiDream tool and by hosting "Imaginings" with these related groups, we will build momentum and public support as well as define, in ever-increasing detail, our vision for a sustainable Eugene that meets the goals of the Climate Recovery Ordinance. Having a more defined collective goal will help the various groups and people work together.
Hosting "Imaginings" with the US Department of Arts and Culture will facilitate our creative thinking; help various organizations, including the city government, work together and form alliances; create a culture of "yes we can;" and inspire the community to take action. The power of art to facilitate the process of imagining a different society is unlimited. Let's use it! Also, much of what's stopping the transition to a sustainable society is a perceived lack of political will. These "Imaginings" will help us realize our collective power and the majority's good will. It will help us build community and form deeper relationships with our neighbors and, even, our local ecology.
Other cities and towns will be able to learn from us how to use these tools in their own localities.
The products of WikiDream and "Imaginings" are powerful collective visions, a sense of togetherness, and inspiration to take action. The natural next step will be taking action together to turn the visions into reality. This will take work and dedication, which will come from a sense of community empowerment. This is the beauty of the project, that we will empower local communities to get together, imagine the world they want, and create it through their local government, their local economy, and their local culture. If every community were empowered to do this, we would not only balance the climate, we would create a global Eden. That is the goal.
Who will take these actions?
High School and University Students (Any and all are welcome)
Professors at the University of Oregon (Jason Schreiner: Faculty Consultant at the University of Oregon and Associate Director of the PROUT institute, Tim Hicks: Director of the University of Oregon's Conflict and Dispute Resolution Graduate Program.)
High School Teachers in the area (Ben Mew: Climate CoLab proposal author, soon-to-be public school teacher, Citizen Artist with the US Department of Arts and Culture, and Pachamama Alliance Facilitator)
Community Organizers (Deb McGee and Patty Hine: local 350.org organizers, Julia Olson: Executive Director of Our Children's Trust, Adam Horowitz: Chief Instigator at the US Department of Arts and Culture, Jan Spencer: Permaculturalist and Organizer of the 2015 Northwest Permaculture Convergence)
Local Artists (Mary DeMocker: Community Artist-Activist)
Government Officials (Matt McRae: Head of the Eugene Sustainability Commission, Alan Zelenka: City Councilor who drafted the Climate Recovery Ordinance)
Community Members (Any and all are welcome)
Where will these actions be taken?
These actions will be taken first in Eugene, OR, but the WikiDream platform and "Imaginings" can be used by other cities, towns, and organizations, at any scale, to facilitate their own transitions to sustainability. This is a powerful way forward: communities and organizations taking responsibility for themselves and creating change locally, where they are. I believe this is the only way we will progress at a swift enough pace. Each and every community must choose to become climate stable and resilient in order to globally address climate change. Our big governmental and economic institutions will follow our lead, we will not follow theirs.
It may also be important to note that Universities and Colleges house much of the knowledge that can be used to restore the climate. By integrating WikiDream through higher educational networks, we can both spread the best ideas and organize the knowledge to implement them. The project can also be seen as improving Town-Gown relationships.
How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?
I can't predict the amount of emissions reductions resulting from the project, but the way forward, from what I have studied, will be individual communities empowering themselves to take action where they are. This project will facilitate the process of community empowerment in Eugene and elsewhere as other universities, schools, and communities use the WikiDream platform and "Imaginings" models. We must do everything we can to create the sense that we are all in this together, and that there is political will to change. You won't find it in the mainstream media, you will find it at your neighbor's front door, community potlucks, local "Imaginings," and City Council meetings.
This project aims to create community through collaborative envisioning, celebration, and action. It will be with our communities that we pull through the climate crisis.
What are other key benefits?
The vision for our society need not end at "climate stable." It can include social justice and any other aspects of our society. In fact, I believe that social injustice and environmental degradation are both symptoms of an unhealthy cultural story: that we are separate from the world and each other. The new (old?) story, that we are all connected, will, when fully embodied, heal the wounds we are now perceiving. It will be the foundational paradigm for a lasting global peace.
What are the proposal’s costs?
1) Cost of creating a website
2) Cost of organizing various individuals and institutions
3) Cost of hosting "Imaginings"
Summer 2015: We win the $10,000 prize and communicate with Eugenian activists and with the USDAC to begin/continue the project.
Fall-Spring 2015-2016: Host gatherings of local activists and form a dedicated team. Spend money on designing the WikiDream platform. Plan on implementing WikiDream in classrooms for the 2016-2017 school year.
Summer 2016: Spend money hosting an Imagining with the USDAC to gather support and raise awareness of the project.
Fall-Winter 2016: Implement WikiDream in schools and at the University of Oregon. Tweak the platform. Gather feedback.
December 2016: Ben Mew graduates from his Master's in the Art of Teaching Program.
Winter-Spring 2017: Gather support for another "Imagining." Work with the USDAC. Increase local community WikiDream users.
Summer 2017: Host our second Imagining. Form a People's Policy Institute to imagine, draft, and pass local legislation to facilitate the creation of the collaborative vision. Implement the project in other universities and colleges.
We'll see how it spreads from there.
(1) Meadows, Donella. "Envisioning a Sustainable World." written for the Third Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics, October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica.