In my favorite TV show, Connections, produced in the ’70s by the BBC, Host James Burke traces modern innovations back through time, showing how one person’s invention builds upon another over millennia in a delightfully asynchronous collaboration that gave us our modern industrialized world. Unfortunately, industrial innovation has now caused environmental problems so deep that our very existence may depend on fixing, quickly. If climate scientists’ predictions are accurate, we do not have several millennia more to invent and market “ecological solutions.” We need to accelerate invention, learn faster as a species, and integrate more symbiotically with the rest of our environment. We need to design faster, accelerate public buy-in, and work out the economics. For that, I say, “Let the public help!”
For three years, I have been harnessing the passion of ordinary citizens around the globe in a mass collaboration to solve environmental problems ourselves as so-called consumers. As an online community, we designed and engineered Windowfarms, vertical hydroponic gardens that let you grow some of your own food in small urban windows, shaving the carbon footprint of your fresh food. Our community’s success lies in building upon one another’s work in a process we call R&D-I-Y, or research-and-develop-it-yourself. We have learned cultural practices, economic models, and ways of sharing that reach beyond through the boundaries of formal applied sciences and welcome a public eager to fight the good fight.
We’re getting broke, broken, and forked for the Planet.