SXSW Day Four – WorldChanging

Seeing Alex Steffen from speak was a very nice way to (begin to) wrap up SXSW, reminding me that there’s more to creativity than just cool games. (Though SPORE was really cool).

Creativity – in its broadest sense – is critical to our ability to make positive change in the world. It is really that simple.

I won’t even try to do his presentation justice – just go listen to it.

Three quick favorite brilliant ideas:

  1. The Play Pump / Roundabout
  2. The Life Straw

Check out for more.

Alex’s advice: Green your inner geek. Figure out how to do the thing that you love doing – whatever that is – in a way which is more sustainable – and share that passion with others.

We need new and better ways of doing things, certainly, but we also need better models of how to share those ideas.

My rough notes:

We have inherited a broken future.
– Climate change, IPCC report. Stern Review (UK gov) concluded – climate change unchecked – worst economic disaster since the great

– WWF living planet report – we are in “overshoot” now – each year we reduce the econological footprint of the earth

– There are also way too many children – 4 billion people economically struggling on the planet. Add to that 1 billion struggling just to

– Resource crises grow, cnflict more likely.

The consequences are not only predictable, they have been predicted time and time again. Catastrophic collision with ecological reality.

At, we find and share tools and models for creating a better future.

Beddington Zero Energy Development – uses no energy at all. Why can’t we build cities that work with natural systems.

We have already the technology required to design and build a life which is bright and green – technical challenges in detail remain, but
we can do what needs to be done.

The need for haste is clear.

Netflix as an example – two trips two and from the video store eliminated – the ecological footprint is a small portion of what it used to be.

Cities can be tools for making life green. Compact living in well designed cities.

If the earth were a sandwich. The fact that the earth has never been a sandwich is probably why the erth is so fucked up.

Wastematch – turn things from garbage back into useful things.

Garbage Scout – underpants in brooklyn.

Freecycle, Wastematch.

Flexcar – technology can make the car sharing experience easy in different ways. Cell phone to locate, card swipe for access.

Every car shared results, on average, in 6 private cars being taken off the road.

The average power drill gets used for six to twenty minutes in its entire life. This is an epitome of unsustainable waste. We’ve sold two
hundred million drills.

Tool sharing libraries, rentals, services, etc. It is about changing our perspective and way of imagining the world.

Observed flows can be quite beautiful.

Interface – leased carpet. Recycled carpet.

When we’re done with things, why don’t companies take them back.

Cell phone which disassembles itself when suggest to high heat.

Imagine a nutrition information card on everying you buy – what its ecological impact is.

There’s no reason we can demand a backstory to everything we use.

Let’s not just create better models but also get better at sharing them – make sure they can be replicated elsewhere.

Somewhere between 60 and 200 million landmines.

The lifestraw, rain barrels.

Plumpy nut – sweet, therapeutic nutritional butter.

The playground spinner which pumps water, the water barrell which can be rolled, etc.

When we help people with their most immediate problems we create people who will be able to also help those around them – when we give
people alternatives and enable them they can create solutions we never even imagined.

Jumping to the best available technology, rather than the historical technology. The phone booth with cell phone.

Acumen fund – malaria prevention nets made in Africa for Africans. Mortgages for squatters.

There are really only two choices – keep doing what we’re doing 7 more billion times, or change what we’re doing and imagine a world that is
bright, green, and currently unimaginable.

The more you use the book, the more the image will appear before your eyes.

“You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.” Paul Hawkings.

Audience questions:

What do you do about air travel?

Reduce the things you are able to reduce, and offset the rest – air travel is a double-edged sword – on the one hand it connects us to
other people and exposes us to a different way of understanding the world, on the other hand flying is a terrible thing to do to the

The problems we see are at the root a question of allowing people who profit from the bad decisions made in the past – it isn’t just that we
don’t *want* to build a world which is sustainable but not fair – we couldn’t do so. Equity and sustainability are critical. Example –
China is now the largest producer of greenhouse gasses – there is a need to try to solve the greenhouse gas problem at the same time we
need to help them solve theirs.

Use it up, wear it out.

Buckminster Fuller – you don’t get people to change by criticizing their behavior – you get them to change by showing them a new way of
acting that they want.