"Carbon Zero: A short tour of your city’s future"
Help Alex Steffen create a short guide to carbon-neutral cities
The climate crisis demands that we start rebuilding our cities to become carbon neutral. But what does carbon neutrality mean? What does it look like? How do we measure it? My first goal here is to explain carbon neutrality in a short, amusing book that can be read in an afternoon; my second goal is to try an experiment in community-funded solutions-based journalism.
It’s time to demystify bold climate action, fast. By being the first to show support, you’ll help make this book a reality by Earth Day this April. (You’ll also get cool stuff.)
Guest blogger Alex Steffen wants you to help him create a book on climate solutions for cities (click here to help kick-start this effort). Steffen co-founded and lead the nonprofit Worldchanging from 2003-2010; he also edited the two Worldchanging books.
With captivating design from Open (the creative geniuses behind Good magazine’s design, Planet Green’s logo, and the new Google for Nonprofits campaign) and text drawn from my popular “climate neutral cities” talks, Carbon Zero: A Short Tour of Your City’s Future will take the reader on an adventure into his or her city’s future.
I’ll start by explaining the typical sources of greenhouse gas emissions in a North American city, using actual numbers from Seattle to illustrate the proportions and the controversies inherent in assigning responsibility for complex actions (should emissions from products made in China but purchased in the U.S., for instance, count as American or Chinese?).
I’ll then move step by step through the various greenhouse gas sources, exploring solutions which can slash those emissions while providing more prosperity, better quality of life, or both. Drawing on real-world examples of successful projects and places, I’ll show how these changes feel on the ground, painting a concrete picture of life in the near future. Using a few key charts and clear illustrations (Open are masterful information designers), we’ll help readers visualize complex realities quickly.
The goal is not to dictate how any city ought to evolve; the goal is to show that a panoply of good climate solutions already exist, and more are in development, making for a variety of pathways into a climate-friendly future. It’s a guide to thinking about an important set of issues, not a single-answer prescription.
Bucky Fuller once said that people never leave a sinking ship until they see the lights of another ship approaching. One of the reasons it is so hard to act on climate change is that most of us are afraid of what we’ll lose, but uncertain at best about what we’ll gain.
Yet, I’m convinced that the gains far outweigh the losses here. I think the gains are so great, we’d want to proceed with many of the boldest climate plans even if climate wasn’t the biggest threat facing humanity. In fact bold action on climate may be what separates the world’s most successful cities from ones that fail; in short, we’re going to love our carbon-neutral, zero-waste, leafy green, car-free, unrecognizably ecological, economically booming urban futures… or envy someone else’s.
Earth Day is typically full of messages about do-it-yourself, small acts and ways to “go green.” But this year, with a sense of malaise in the progressive community, a climate-hostile Congress and the oil, coal and chemical companies lobbying, spinning and greenwashing as never before, we need something more than a few simple steps.
But we can’t build what we can’t imagine, and we usually have a hard time imagining what we don’t understand. Carbon neutrality is complex, but it’s not rocket science: there’s no reason why everybody can’t understand its basics. But most people have never heard carbon neutrality explained, much less explained clearly in a book they actually have time to read.
This is a chance for us to not only create a resource for those people, but to push forward the larger debate as well, shining a light on the kind of change it will take to build a planet with a future.
WHAT’S THE MONEY FOR?
Your early support will pay for my time to write it, a copy editor’s time to check it and Open’s time to design the book and the poster.
WHAT WILL THE BOOK BE LIKE?
The book will be short (no more than 100 pages – something you can read in one rainy afternoon), nicely illustrated and designed to be accessible and compelling. It’ll be available in PDF and possibly for Kindle; if there’s enough demand, we’ll pursue a print edition as well.
My intention is also to make the whole thing available in a slightly shorter Creative Commons licensed version, so that it can be freely shared by community groups, in classrooms and with civic leaders.