Seeding Ideas in the Digital Era

How can digital media and social networks mimic natural systems for positive change?

Obviously this is a conversation and an exploration that stretches way beyond a short blog, but just as a flower casts a thousand seeds, ideas have a magical ability to self-replicate in unimaginable ways. People who are talking about sustainable solutions, or pushing for social justice, or organizing yoga and meditation flash-mobs have more in common than they might recognize… They are all experimenting and cross pollinating ideas for creating a better world. A primary canvas for this dialogue is online social media where innovation, networking, and collaboration is blending together like colors on the painters palette. These blossoming movements of thought transcend traditional definitions.

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If you have spent any time on Facebook then you have probably seen inspiring posts by pages like Sustainable Human, Unify, The Mind Unleashed, Spirit Science, AJ+, Alternative World News, and UPLIFT. As someone who blogs and works in social media, I have loved watching the ways that pages like this influence each other, follow similar trends, and ultimately enhance a shared ideology of creating a new narrative that is more inclusive, less destructive, more community-sourced, and less corporate. Biomimicry shows us that cooperative relationships are actually the predominant patterns within nature.

“It often appears that humans have a dysfunctional relationship with their environment, but healing this relationship begins simply by being present and aware of it.” -Ending the Conquest of Nature

Having been lucky enough to work with, co-direct, cross-pollinate, and ultimately make lasting friendships with many of the people behind these popular platforms has been an infinite source of inspiration in my life. Blogging, design, and social networking are becoming a collaborative art form that has hints of the magic that was present in the birth of jazz music. Diversely talented people making a new kind of music that is changing the narrative from the bottom-up like roots that anchor a tree that is about to bear fruit.

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Founder of the Webby Awards, Tiffany Shlain has been the focus of blogs like Internet Mirrors Human Brain and Global Heart, Global Brain. Her organization, Let it Ripple makes mobile films for  global change. They offered to customize their film, Neurons to Networks with the logo/branding of any organization that wanted to share it with their networks. This kind of win/win allowed a very powerful idea to spread across many networks. UPLIFT modeled this idea in support of the World Water Day Campaign initiated by Unify. By focusing on the idea, clean water, instead of brand ownership the campaign allowed for universal buy-in by some huge networks that share the same values. Perhaps we don’t own the ideas, they own us.

“Opening up to the emergent is a process that is important for creative projects and collaboration. It means that you have to allow for the unknown, that you aren’t working from a set script, and are allowing yourself to be open to whatever emerges.” Why Imagination Matters.

Sustainable Human successfully took a great TED Talk, mixed it with compelling stock footage and music to make the viral sensation, How Wolves Change Rivers, which has been viewed over 18 million times. I riffed on the evolving idea with What Whales Can Teach us About Climate Science, another Sustainable Human initiative. These ideas are self-replicating because the stories that convey them want to be told, they are being shared because they fill people with awe, making us all feel connected within a larger web of life.

Jonah Sachs, Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios brought us The Story of Stuff, and can adequately boast going from a movie to a movement. There are many more successes like this and there are a few things they share in common that make them thrive. Being entertaining, informative and well-produced is part of the equation that is completed when people become engaged with story. The best-produced video is useless if it doesn’t strike a chord that inspires people to talk about it, “like” it, or share it in their networks. In a field of flowers competing to look and smell the prettiest the bee celebrates dancing on all of them to make the sweetest honey.

The social web is where ideas get seeded and shared, creating a new narrative is tilling the soil to grow an abundant garden of solutions. However, the ideas are useless if people don’t act on them in the real world. I have been elated to blog recently about some powerful tools like Reinhabiting the Village, and Nu Mundo that are emerging to help people manifest these ideas into reality within their own community. We have the capacity to dream bigger, hard work really makes a difference and imagination matters.

It is clear that social networks are already mimicking natural systems to create positive change in the world. Let’s take the conversation deeper. How can we use this understanding to increase the cooperation and collaboration to bring about even greater change and influence? I can’t wait to see what this growing community comes up with next!

Sustainable Solutions: Water in the Walls

People who study ecological design and live sustainably off the grid understand the importance of thermal mass for keeping places cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This energy efficient thinking shouldn’t be limited to off-the-grid living as sustainable solutions continue to find their way into urban landscapes as saving energy means saving money. As water issues continue to plague many parts of the planet, the notion of rainwater harvesting becomes more logical. Walls 2.0 has a great idea that combines rainwater harvesting with an energy efficient building technique that allows you to store rainwater in your walls. This idea was born in Tucson, Arizona where water and hot summers are an issue. Randy Young, creator of Walls 2.0, says that this concept will work well in hot or cold climates.

Large bodies of water under ground called aquifers are often compared to a savings account. When cities take more out of the aquifer than is replenished they will go bankrupt. Much of the water in aquifers is leftover from glacial melt. We are seeing the water crisis hit major cities across the south and in the west. Los Angeles as an example has been draining glacial lakes in the northern part of the state and transporting the water through aqueducts that stretch hundreds of miles. Draining aquifers or glacial lakes is a bad idea. Gathering water closer to the source is more economical and sustainable, that’s why rainwater catchment is a no-brainer.

A one-inch rain will collect 600 gallons from a 1,000 square foot roof. Apply this thinking to more than just residential homes, consider warehouses, office buildings and large sports arenas. To use the banking analogy with water again, we are spending all our savings and ignoring dollars that literally fall from the sky. Actually comparing money to water is ridiculous because money means nothing without water since water is life.

So now that we are realize the importance of collecting rainwater, where can we store it? Many tanks require internal coatings that must be reapplied regularly. Plastic water tanks in dry, sunny places only last about ten years. Steel tanks will rust in 30 to 50 years. These containers will become large waste in a landfill before long. That’s why Randy Young and his team have come up with an effective way to store water in the walls so that you can also make use of it’s thermal qualities for passive heating and cooling. These cement walls use Krystol Internal Membrane that is added to the liquid concrete. During the curing process K.I.M. builds crystals in the pores of the concrete making it fully dense and water proof and allowing it to last 3-4 times conventional storage tanks.

walls 2.0Thermal mass is critical in passive solar designs. Concrete, adobe or rammed earth are often used to create this thermal mass, but water has 3 times the thermal mass of traditional building materials. This means concrete walls that are filled with water have significantly better thermal properties. For anyone who has spent time putting traditional insulation in their walls and been itchy from fiberglass splinters will rejoice at this new innovation.

People who think in terms of sustainability are also humanitarians who see the interconnectedness between human communities and the natural environment. These prototypes will be going in at Watershed Management Groups headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. Watershed Management Group (WMG) develops community-based solutions to ensure the long-term prosperity of people and health of the environment. They teach water harvesting workshops, offer certifications, and affect community water and building policies and regulations locally and if your not in Tucson you might want to find an organization like this in your area or start your own.

The notion of biomimicry is a great way to design our world in ways that benefit local ecosystems instead of depleting them. Walls 2.0 is one such example of ingenuity, function and form that make simple solutions which are good for people, planet and economy. Check out this fun and informative video below to consider ways that you might reduce your own ecological footprint. Reducing water and energy consumption is simple if we put our minds to it, but conservation is only one important part of the sustainability equation. How many other great inventions are out there just waiting to be discovered? Keep your eyes out and let me know what you find! I will continue to write solutions-oriented blogs and share what I find as well.

Sustainable Human & The Renewable Energy Revolution

“What happens when an Internet revolution merges with a renewable energy revolution?” -Jeremy Rifkin

Facebook sensation, Sustainable Man, continues to release inspiring and educational content. This video, starring Jeremy Rifkin, is no exception. It centers around the concept of a new Third Industrial Revolution – one based on a distributed, lateral power instead of top-down centralized power structure. Key components to the coming shift are active online communities, independent media, new technologies, and renewable energy. This is fueled by people working in a cooperative rather than competitive way towards common goals that benefit the greater community.


Sustainable Human is putting the concept into practice with a wealth of resources for this emerging online movement of engaged change-makers. Empowered individuals sharing local solutions online are creating a lot of inspiration for a sustainable future and becoming the change that they would like to see in the world. This kind of participatory collaboration is a whole lot more exciting than the content typically broadcast on corporate media outlets. Share it with friends, spark a conversation in your circles. How do you envision our current society shifting into a more sustainable one?