Friday, February 15, 2013

Building a Global Socio-Eco Movement?

Paige Olmsted and Kai Chan

When it comes to the environment, we tend to be surrounded by bad news.  Species loss, extreme events tied to climate change, food crises or anticipated water shortages. Most people care, but it’s hard to imagine what you can REALLY do about it.  Change to more efficient light bulbs? Recycle?  Carry your own shopping bags? These are great steps to take, but arguably they barely scratch the surface of these monumental global problems.  It’s too big and too complicated. 

What if there was an easy, enjoyable and effective way for normal people to help support meaningful change?

This is exactly what was proposed today as Kai spoke as part of a symposium we organized at the AAAS meeting in Boston, along with distinguished panelists Jane Lubchenco, Jonathan Foley, David Wilcove, Steven Katona, and Simon Levin.  

The idea? For now it’s called C3... or "C3 dot 3", which stands for Community of Conscientious Consumption, Production...(and everything else). [Ed.: We now call it CoSphere for a Community of Small-Planet Heroes (ecologically regenerating economies)--see our new site.]

Think of it as a community that will make it simple to take responsibility for your social-ecological impacts--the impacts that you have on the environment that have knock-on effects on the lives and well-being of countless people, often on the other side of the world.

Think of it as a structure for connecting your once-yearly payment to a series of mitigation and adaptation actions in the places that are affected indirectly by your actions.

Think of it as a mechanism for you to put leverage on businesses, producers, and governments, and for each of them to coordinate their management of social and environmental risks using the best available science.

Finally, think of it as a social-ecological movement towards sustainability, one in construction with several needs that you can start to fill right now. Too often environmental initiatives are about what you can’t do.  This is about what you can. First, and simplest, we need pledges from future community members who want to take social-ecological responsibility. Sign up by emailing 'subscribe' to

Who can be involved?  Everybody. The idea is still evolving and implementation plans still underway, so it’s a perfect time to get involved and put your two cents in.
  • Join as a consumer. (Pledge to) take responsibility for your social-ecological impacts
  • Be a messenger. Spread the word, via social media using buttons below, word of mouth, etc.
  • Be an enabler. Get your organization/company to join.
  • Be a co-constructor: Help build structures …
    • For synthesizing our understanding of environmental impacts (environmental scientists, etc.)
    • For tracking 'footprints' of goods & services (technologists, engineers, applied scientists, etc.)
    • For relating the social importance of on-ground social-ecological impacts (social scientists, etc.
See Kai's slide show (with the associated notes) from yesterday to better understand the concept, and this slide show from earlier (which has more detail). If you can help on the knowledge-structures needed, or you can provide key contacts, or if you've got ideas for design, email with 'co-constructor' in the subject line to

Join us! 

Or tell us what you don't like. Or start something else entirely. Co-sphere may or may not be a viable initiative, but we hope it can provide intellectual fodder in the form of a concrete example—a straw man if you will—to inspire a mental exercise in pinpointing how academic research, professional experience, and associated understanding can inform the design of a bold integrative sustainability movement.


  1. I just listened to Kai Chan lecture at OSU. The gist of CoSphere is exactly what is needed to build a green economy using the power of consumerism, reconstructed. I hope you can grow it and let it evolve into a new social norm that works for everybody.

  2. The presentation links are broken. Would love to see what Kai shared. Possible to fix?