The spark for a green web movement: extreme weather

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Ever since GigaOM launched a focus on greentech about four years ago, I’ve been waiting for some kind of social network or web movement to emerge that can effectively galvanize people around either green policies, the use of green technology or more sustainable lifestyles. So, now I’m wondering if the spark that could help deliver that green web movement is extreme weather.

Think about it: The catalyst to spur a social movement needs to fundamentally affect people on a core level. Who hasn’t been touched directly by the unusually hot or cold weather in 2010 and 2011 or been affected both directly and indirectly by the weather disasters that have struck the planet in the past 18 months, from hurricanes to floods to blizzards? Even if people don’t have first-hand experience with these disasters, the influx of photos, videos and news stories (available 24/7 on the web) of people dying or losing their property in extreme weather events is, to put it callously, a persuasive factor.

Now yes, the jury isn’t completely out that the extreme weather of 2010 — which is looking to be the most extreme on record — is completely the fault of human-induced climate change and that the weather trend won’t go up and down over various years. But it’s generally thought by scientists that such extreme weather couldn’t likely be happening without the influence of human-caused climate change.

So assuming the connection between human-induced climate change and extreme weather becomes even more concretely linked scientifically, it then becomes the job of digital online media — and social sharing — to show the connection (and, yes, journalists have a role here, too). The environmental group 350.org, which was founded in 2008 by activist Bill McKibben, 350.org has been pushing this exact movement forward, using social media, viral videos (see video below), and user-generated content to show the link.

Stephen Thomson, of Plomomedia.com, edited and narrated the video above, and the content is a reading of a sarcastic op-ed that McKibben wrote for the Washington Post . Yet, the video isn’t exactly viral (yet) in the same way as a funny cat video, or Y U No Guy; it’s got around 100,000 views on YouTube. The numbers need to grow into the millions at least to start making a dent. If you have any thoughts on what can deliver this tipping point, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I know that web social movements often grow out of something inspiring, like how Obama used the web to energize his constituents and score the White House. Inventor Saul Griffith wants the future to sound awesome so it will inspire the next-generation of energy-focused scientists and inventors. But fear, guilt, and shame are powerful emotions, too, particularly when the fundamental issue is one of a possible planetary disaster.

Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video.

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