07 June 2007

Cool Earth Meltdown

I was going to write about Cool Earth before, but the site went down. This is both good and bad news. Bad, because it suggests a lack of planning on the part of the people behind the site, and good because it was caused by the unexpectedly large influx of people wanting to visit and participate.

That's a particularly good sign because the whole idea is about letting ordinary people make a difference to global warming by helping to keep carbon sequestered in the rainforests. Agreed, this is not as good as actually taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but given all the collateral benefits of preserving rainforests, it would be churlish to complain.

Moreover, Cool Earth seems to be recognise that preserving the rainforests is not about surrounding it with barbed wire to keep the baddies out: the local people - the goodies - must not only be taken into account, but actively involved so that they feel it is in their interests to protect rather than exploit by cutting down. Sustainability of this kind is hard to do well, but better than the current alternative.

The other key thing about Cool Earth is that it allows people who chip in to monitor their "bit" of the rainforest using Google Earth (and what a godsend that is in this context). This is absolutely crucial - not so much in terms of checking whether somebody's about to cut it down, since by then it's probably too late, but in allowing donors to feel connected. Without that feedback loop, you don't generate engagement, and the whole thing will just fizzle out.

I've no idea whether Cool Earth will make a difference or turn out to be a total flop. But it's an idea worth supporting (I'm certainly going to sign up for a few trees) - for everyone's sake.

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