This Earth Day, Let’s Talk About Crowdsourcing the Future

Nearly half of the Manhattan High Line's plants are native to the United States. Located in the city's West Side, the public park once was once a freight rail line.   Joshua Bousel ©WCS

By Eric W. Sanderson

For too long the environmental movement has emphasized what we are against: killing whales, polluting the air, cutting down the rainforest. This Earth Day let’s declare what we stand for. Let’s come together to crowdsource the future.

In 2015, we have smart phones and social-media tools to help us communicate in ways that transcend space and time. For years, social marketers have used these to their advantage to sell us the diverse products of the global economy.

Nearly half of the Manhattan High Line’s plants are native to the United States. Located in the city’s West Side, the public park once was once a freight rail line. Joshua Bousel ©WCS

With over 2.8 billion people on the Internet, it’s time for the environmental community to get everyone on board to collaboratively imagine the future. Two applications from New York City give us a glimpse of what’s possible: the Brooklyn-based HabitatMap and the Manhattan-focused Visionmaker.

HabitatMap.org allows users to flag, measure, and discuss aspects of their local environment on web-based maps. People identify aspects of the environment that enhance quality of life and human health, like local farmers markets or public parks, and then can share their maps with others.

Visionmaker.nyc, created by WCS (the Wildlife Conservation Society), gives users tools to develop and share alternate futures. One can choose a neighborhood in Manhattan, then “paint” ecosystems to create new configurations of buildings, streets, and natural ecosystems.

People can re-shape any neighborhood in Manhattan using Visionmaker.nyc. Photo ©WCS

One can also choose the lifestyle of the people living in their futurescape – are they more like average Americans or more like average New Yorkers? Finally a user can choose a climate scenario to plan for (the current climate or a future one) and include projections about future —> Read More

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