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Eco-Couple Go Prime Time

Susan Palmer, Eugene Register-Guard (Oregon)
Rob Bolman and Melanie Rios are willing to risk a little public humiliation to get out a message about sustainable living.

OK, make that a lot of public humiliation. The Eugene couple – he’s a builder specializing in green construction, she’s a musician who teaches workshops on climate change – will be featured next week on “Wife Swap,” a reality TV show that airs Mondays on ABC. The program creates drama when two women from families of diametrically opposed values trade places for almost two weeks.

Bolman and Rios seem unlikely candidates for the current wave of programs that feature ordinary people in unusual circumstances. The two rarely turn on their television. Until they began considering doing the show, they’d never actually seen an episode.

They live at Maitreya EcoVillage, a complex in west Eugene that includes a triplex and a two-story house, as well as cob-and-hay-bale structures, all designed and built by Bolman. The 30 people who live there grow much of their own food and try to live as sustainably as possible, riding bikes, letting their clothes air dry and otherwise lowering carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

Even for green-friendly Eugene, the couple might seem extreme. Rather than use toilet paper, they’ve installed a bidet in their bathroom. And when their compost pile gets a little dry in the summer, they moisten it with their own urine.

The couple learned about the TV program through an e-mail from a friend, who said producers were looking for people living in an eco-village, Rios said.

It occurred to them that TV could be a great way to get out a message to millions of people around the country about using less and recycling more.

“It was an opportunity to sing to a different choir,” Rios said.
(4 August 2007)

Blame the media for climate woes: analysis

Mike De Souza, CanWest News Service
Mainstream U.S. media are to blame for stalled international efforts to reach an agreement to fight climate change, according to a new analysis released by a media watchdog group.

The report, in the latest edition of a magazine published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said there are multiple examples of major American media organizations watering down recent warnings from peer-reviewed scientific literature about the consequences of global warming and the human-produced pollution that is causing it.

The watchdog group based its analysis on a comparison of American and British headlines and articles about the release of a series of international reports that assessed the latest peer-reviewed on climate change.

“Where U.K. media generally presented climate change as an urgent crisis that requires immediate action, in the U.S. it’s still widely portrayed as an unresolved debate,” says the article, written by Neil deMause in the July-August edition of Extra!.
(5 August 2007)
In my experience, the climate coverage seems to be much more sophisticated in the UK press than in the US… at least in the newspapers I read online. -BA

Getting past the echoes

Jon LebkowskyOR, WorldChanging
Facebook’s success and evolution says a lot about the maturation of the web-based social network scene and the changing ecology of online data and services. Everybody I’ve encountered on the various prominent social network systems (Ryze, Friendster, Tribe, Orkut, Yahoo 360 et al.) has turned up by now on Facebook. Though many lost interest in those other services pretty quickly, that’s not happening with Facebook, which got the message that “friend of a friend” just isn’t enough to sustain interest.

…Besides easy image uploads, Ryze and other early social networks accommodated easy group-forming, messaging, and offline meetings, but that was never quite enough to keep people engaged. People tended to drift away. Flickr was an exception, a sustained success because it placed the social network concept in service of an engaging activity, in this case photo sharing. Flickr was a good example of what Yuri Zengstrom calls “object-centered sociality.”

Zengstrom says that “the term ‘social networking’ makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people.”

Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. For instance, if the object is a job, it will connect me to one set of people whereas a date will link me to a radically different group. This is common sense but unfortunately it’s not included in the image of the network diagram that most people imagine when they hear the term ‘social network.’ The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They’re not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.

(6 August 2007)

Meeting best friends for the first time

Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
…My message was very simple, and is in two parts:

First, a note of wonder at the very unusual thing that took place all over the convention over and over again: old friends meeting for the first time. Being on DailyKos creates strong links with others, perceived as such by all, despite the absence of actual physical meetings. For me, coming from far away, this was the opportunity to meet for the first time (or for the second time, for those that I met at last year’s YearlyKos) people that I’ve exchanged with on a wide variety of topics on an almost daily basis – and, like befit old friends, the encounters were a great joy – absolutely natural and spontaneous and never awkward. There may have been the occasional surprise at the physical look, or age, or even gender, of a fellow kossack, but never at the personality behind. The people you see on your dKos screens are real, and instantly recognisable – and they are old friends in a very real sense. The bonds created within the community are amazingly strong and numerous, and they are creating a community that is likely to stick together and to last for a very long time;

The second part of my message was to note the impression that we were making history right now. Kos and Hunter remarked that this was really the first year that the bloggers were taken seriously, and having an impact on the political discourse, but to me, there was more than that. I sense the emergence of the “Kos generation” – a whole spectrum of people that are emerging from obscurity through advocacy, book writing, local activism, community building and many other activities made possible, or inspired, by their presence on dailyKos. Many have note the wealth of talents that the community hosts – what is more remarkable is that all these talents are all over the spectrum, and that they are just becoming noticed. I expect that many will bloom and become leaders in their fields – and for many of them, it all started on dailyKos. Let me predict that the country and the whole world will hear soon about many of those that were present in Chicago this week-end, and that we will all be able to say (even those absent from this YearlyKos) – we were there when it started, and we were a part of it.

As I have noted on many instances before, I am constantly amazed and humbled to be part of such an extraordinary group of people, and to have been welcomed so enthusiastically and in such a friendly way by all of you, on the site or at the convention. You all know the wonderful line by Clinton, that “there is nothing wrong in America that cannot be cured by what’s right in America”; YearlyKos was an amazing concentration of what’s right in America, and I wanted to extend my thanks to all once again to let me be a small part of that.
(5 August 2007)
Jerome is one of the “peak oil guys” posting at Daily Kos.

He also accurately describes the sensation I feel when meeting people like Megan Quinn, JZ Barton, Julian Darley, Dan Bednarz, David Holmgren and Jan Lundberg in person, after having read their writings for years. One has the feeling of being part of something big. One senses that people who are finding their voice in the peak oil movement will become increasingly influential over time. -BA