I’ve worked with Worldchanging.com since August 2004, when Alex Steffen interviewed me for a piece on the site. He and I met face to face a few weeks later, when we both spoke at the 2004 Pop!Tech conference. Shortly afterwards, I agreed to join Worldchanging both as a contributor and as chairman of the nonprofit organization responsible for the site.
It’s been quite a ride. Worldchanging has not only established itself as one of the key sites everyone needs to read for solutions and hope to global problems we face – the Worldchanging team has produced an amazing book, covering much of the same ground as the site, but introducing huge amounts of original content from topics as diverse as green living, innovation in the developing world, global trade, life in squatter cities, biomimicry, and several dozen other interesting topics.
The ambitions of the book are vast – Alex talks about it as “a Whole Earth Catalog for the 21st Century”. Like that book, it’s less a cover-to-cover read and more something to flip through, looking for ideas on problems you thought were intractible, or didn’t even know existed. I’m proud to have about a dozen articles in the book, largely on issues of global trade and finance and on ICT for development. And I’m thrilled that enough people are excited by the book that it’s currently #101 in sales on Amazon.com. (Proceeds for the book go to support the ongoing work on the website… no, I don’t get royalties on this one.)
When Alex proposed a book based on content on the website, I had no idea what an endeavour a project like this can end up being. For several months, all the contributors and editors of the website found themselves doing double duty, writing original content for the book and for the site. For the next two months, Alex and his team will be on the road on a multi-city book tour, designed both to get people to read the book, but also to find Worldchanging contributors who’ll help build regional versions of the site. There’s no doubt that the process of writing the book has changed Worldchanging, and that Worldchanging, going forward, will be changed by people brought to the site by the book.
Jamais Cascio, co-founder of the Worldchanging project, has an obituary on his blog for the old Worldchanging logo, a lovely bright green sun coming out of eclipse. The old logo is a casualty of the redesign of the Worldchanging site, which takes many of the excellent design ideas from the book and has relaunched, looking far less like the blog of old and more like the weighty tome we’ve unleashed on the world.
I miss the old logo, and I miss a site that looked like it was put together by a couple of crazy guys who wanted to share their favorite ideas for saving the planet. But I’m thrilled that the book and the new site mean that millions of people will have the chance to encounter the fresh thinking and the focus on solutions that have made Worldchanging what it is for the past three years.
(The book makes a great Christmas present. Or you can use it to hold open a very heavy door in an environmentally sensitive fashion.)