For WorldChanging book group: enter your reading homework for these three questions here (remember to enter useful comments on your topic page, as well).

3/1 3/8 3/15 3/22 4/5
Foreword & Intros (p.11-26), Intro & selections from “Stuff” More selections from “Stuff,” Intro & selections from “Shelter” and post responses for “Stuff” & “Shelter” Intro & selections from “Cities” & “Community” Intro & selections from “Business” & “Politics” Intro & selections from “Planet” and post responses for “Cities,” “Community,” “Business,” “Politics” & “Planet”



  1. Explain how one idea in the reading relates to other topics already covered in class or something you learned elsewhere (another class or life experience).
  2. List what you think are the three to five most important points made in the reading.
  3. Write a question to provoke discussion among others who read the same passage.

39 Responses to “WorldChanging

  1. taluzie Says:

    1) Just last week there was a fight in my seven roommate house over the electricity bill. While reading selections from both the “stuff” and “shelter” section I realized that many of the ideas in the book would have been useful to mention in the argument, and may well have prevented it altogether if we had already been following the ideas about reducing energy consumption. For instance, many of my roommates don’t think vampire power is really that big of a deal and don’t want to have to bother unplugging things when they aren’t in use. If I had been able to say at the time that in the US an average of 20% of the monthly power bill in a household goes to vampire power they may have been far more inclined to listen.

    2a)I find the ideas of biomimicry and biomorphism to be incredibly intriguing. Instead of always trying to improve the planet by forcing changes upon it I love the idea of using what is already there to bring us back to a better reality. Many of us, especially the type of people who take this class, would agree that we need to pay more attention to the world around us and the demands of the environment. We often, however, view this need as a way to use our ideas to further influence our environment instead of simply allowing the natural world around us to influence our ideas. We can learn a lot from the things that have so far survived the expansion of the human race and we need to remember that more often.

    2b) People in many areas of the world are both dehydrated and suffering from malnutrition. We can no longer use excuses like it is too difficult and/or expensive to help them. LifeStraw and Plumpy’nut are incredible advances on the road to improving human life worldwide that make it far more simple and inexpensive to take action.

    2c) Being “green” has recently become something of a fashion trend in American society. As a result many more people are buying products and foods that have labels like “environmentally friendly” or “organic”. While this would be a good thing, too many of these people are willing to put time into researching the products they buy and are often too trusting of companies who may not be entirely truthful. It is important to look behind just the label to find out if these products are actually better for the environment and whether they are really the best of its kind available for the earth. It is also important to remember that “environmentally friendly” is a deceptive term on its own. Just because a product is less environmentally damaging as another similar product does not mean it is benefiting the world, but rather just harming it slightly less. We really need to set our goals higher and try to live so we help the world rather than just destroying it slightly slower.

    2d) Something I found incredibly interesting in the “Stuff” section was the piece about Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov and his fellow scientists. He created an incredible seed bank and ended up facing death in prison for his desire to preserve agricultural biodiversity. Those people who protected his seed bank after his imprisonment are another example incredible passion and dedication to save our planet. While stuck in the storehouses in an effort to protect the bank these scientists found themselves on the brink of starvation in the middle of a large source of food. Rather than destroy the seed bank and kill off many rare plants some of them starved to death for the preservation of these plant species. I do not suggest that people should be dying for their cause or they are not dedicated enough, only that we need to realize that just because we are doing something doesn’t always mean we are doing enough and we should be willing to make sacrifices for our passions if we want to actually make something happen.

    3) How would you suggest that we go about informing others about the misinformation spread by corporations who greenwash their products to increase profits? And what do you think it would take to get people to buy more truly green products?

  2. kingarthur44 Says:

    Responses to Shelter and Stuff.

    1) The section that incorporates plant life and natural lighting in the building of a house. Since i was a little kid i have always planned to build my own house. And as I have grown my ideas of what my house is going to look like have also changed. And this section got me thinking more and more about how i can sufficiently live, literally off my house. In my mind this section and this technique should be incorporated in most buildings, and most importantly in our ever growing cities. I hope that in the near future there are more construction companies that specialize in this type of construction.

    2) Some of the main points of the book that i would put emphasis on would be these sections:

    A) The idea and concept behind the Urban farms. There would be a higher ammount of food grown all over the world, in cities supermarkets would carry a smaller portion of produce, IF the trend caught on. Also the supermarkets could get a lot of the produce from local sellers. Allowing the larger farms to produce food for areas and regions (countries) that are having food shortages. There are just so many possibilities that would arise from this type of building.

    B)The BedZED section made me very jealous. I currently live in an apartment complex that looks nothing like that place. Developments like the one described in the book could allow for urban areas to be more symbiotic with the surrounding landscape.

    C) The section on 113 Titled Viruses Making Batteries, using this type of thought to produce materials, is a very out of the box way to think of it. Instead of thinking of how to make the product with a set of given materials, you think of a way to allow other organisms to create the desired product for you. THis allows humans to only interact with the organisms giving them resources and the waste of the process is the desired product of the precess. This is awesome, and in my mind a very needed technology to cope with the rising demand of resources.

    3) With the information from the book about Stuff and Shelter, what can you do as an individual to reduce your footprint, and become more symbiotic with your environment.

  3. grassroots4500 Says:

    1. The section on community touched upon eduction. This an a thing near and dear to me as I really think there is no way to change the world in the way that I want to change it unless everyone has access to a good education. It really had some good ideas and good to places to begin.
    2. My favorite section was about Finland’s School system. It sounded sound good. They also spend the most in the world on education, which I just thought was fantastic. They really have there own model for education with emphasis on education for everyone being the same as opposed to giving one group of students a superior education over others. They have the highest rate of literacy as well. Oddly though they don’t start till age 7 and spend less time in school and more time with family.
    Another thing I thought was great was these vans that go around Africa with internet, computers, and printers and they print out E books and give the to people.
    The third topic the chapter brought up that really stuck me was how as the world changes, as does the languages used all over the world. Currently english is the language of the big business world but that is shifting soon mandarin chinese will become the most spoken and english will tie for 2nd with many other languages. But it said most likely people will become more bilingual as well.
    3. Do you speak more than one language or do you plan on learning another one in the future?

  4. grassroots4500 Says:

    1. The major topic I read about was greening urban areas. I really enjoyed it because it brought up some things I hadn’t thought of so much. But it also brought up some points I have thought about. It said we have finally reached a point where the majority of people live in cities so that’s really where we need to start. Although I was a little surprised that cities are greener the rural areas because of the density which creates efficiency. One interesting idea I have heard about in the past that relates to all this is the simple idea of painting more surfaces white in the city. More white surfaces means more reflectivity, which we need with the icecaps melting right now. A simple step like that can really add up and make a huge difference. The sad part about it tho is that its not actually cutting down on emmisions or anything which is what really needs to be done, but its more like buying us time while we come up with ways to cut emissions. One point that really struck me and I have been tossing predicament in my head as well is that for those of us who want to live close to nature are the ones most in danger of destroying it, most immediately anyway. So what I am constantly thinking about is how to balance quality of life and being environmentally friendly and still live in or near nature.

    2. Some main points made in the book is this idea of greening cities and because of the density they have the possibility of being far more efficient than anything in rural areas. It then goes on to bring up sprawl and how environmentally detrimental it is. Not to mention how people living in the suburbs get advantages from living near city, and the people living in the city pay for those advantages as well as pay the price on their own health for living in the city. Unfair to say the least.
    I also read about the dutch made some suburban streets places for people and cars to be in the same area. They pretty much did away with sidewalks, the lines on the road, added trees and planters, and made the road a place for people and slow moving traffic to share. The thinking behind it is, knowing that people are always in the area and that its broken up by planters, cars are forced to slow down a move slowly thru the area. They call it a woonerf street, which translates to street for living.
    Another topic I read about, but have heard about before, was Mycoremediation. Which is basically using mushrooms to clean up soils and the environment. Bassically mushrooms that eat fossil fuels and not only that but are edible after they do it. Its as close to magic as you can get.

    3. Question: Do you think we should stop urban sprawl completely? Do you think its possible?

  5. breezejane Says:

    1. when i was younger, my father remodeled his house and purchased a kitchenette very similar to the one in the book on page 153 (shelter) which is basically compact in size and is convertible. you can change the size of any shelve or cubby into the proper size to fit your needs. i really liked that this is featured in a ‘green’ book on how to save space, time, and money in your ‘shelter’ of choice.

    2. in the community intro i like the talk about how in every first world country there is a third world-like part within it and in every third world country there is a first world-like part with in it as well. the millennium development goals set out by the UN talk about how and what we need to do to take care of every person on the planet. these goals haven’t exactly been set into play yet, necessarily but the fact that we have something to compare our progress to at all is a major step in the right direction. i also liked how they talked about the albedo of buildings in new york and how if we painted buildings a lighter color and made streets a lighter color of concrete, it would emit less heat into the atmosphere (heat island effect) and therefore reduce the temperature of cities and be better for air quality, energy consumption, and the health of its inhabitants (p. 258)
    if new york lowered its temp. by only 3 degrees (by lowering the albedo) it would be equal to saving the environment from all the cities gas powered buses and service trucks. its insane what little things like that ca do.

    3. what was the thing that struck you the most in the cities or communities part of the book?

  6. saulramos Says:

    In response to Shelter:

    1. I find value of thinking of our homes as tools for living. I think this concepts provides us with that pragmatic/inspirational outlook to change at the individual level. Taking it from that perspective I think we can better understand not only the ecological value that an energy efficient home brings us and the world, but to re-evaluate our emotional connection to it. Overall, this chapter made me think about the lack of emotional connection that we have to things/peoples and issues that are beyond our boundaries, both physically and conceptually. Among many issues affecting us, we are about to face a massive environmental displacement in the coming years affecting mostly poor countries and there’s discussion about technological solutions to deal with it, to contain it, yet, there’s not a moral discussion in how to deal with this imminent disaster.


    As we exhaust our resources and countries and communities have less to share it is evident that “Global South” will take a larger toll in terms of consequences. Given that the “Global North” is perhaps more at fault for this, given histories of oppression, what obligations do we have to the developing world? Do we just let them take the hit and worry about us?

    2. Main points

    1. Importance of creating a symbiotic relationship with nature when thinking about our homes. It is possible for them, instead of expending more energy than cars, for instance, to actually produce an output of energy to satisfy our demands.

    2. Given our current economic model, there are tipping points that could be reached availing the development of green products (including housing)as industry standards.

    3.Current development is not only poor in design and heavy in energy consumption, but it also displaces values for community well being (no parks, no neighborhood feeling, no goods within walking distance, lack of natural light, etc). Green development is healthier alternative in more holistic way.

  7. dmitriyskoog Says:

    First off: The main points:

    1: It is worth tossing stuff into the recycle bin rather than the one next to it, and it’s certainly necessary to buy clothing and food that is made in the most resource-minimal way possible (and hopefully not by one of the mega-corporations who’s best interest it is to perpetuate the current unsustainable economy). But alas, we developed nationeers, Americans in particular consume such a grand spectrum of items that simply reducing our “net?” impact in one field such as organic cotton T-shirts isn’t a remedy, it’s a small step in the right direction. What needs to happen is overhaul of the way the average American looks at consuming in conjunction with how companies produce what it is we use. It’s a bit like the hydrogen car situation: The technology for hydrogen cars is functional (and being used in bus lines of a few cities). It is near prohibitively expensive, but so were computers back in the day. The major block to Hcars is gas stations. There would need to be incentive for hundreds of thousands of individual gas pumps (their Shell or whatever corporations) to add a new type of fuel to their offerings. This entails building giant (shock-proof and stable) underground tanks or something of the sort, and having supply sources and all kinds of expensive logistical bits. Since a H car costs somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 (that is, there are a few models that’ll be comming out in “a while”, maybe 5 years?), there’s no incentive to overhaul this 100+ year-old system. It may take upwards of 50 years to make this little shift. Also, H technology’s growth would likely be greatly accelerated if those working on it had real-world feedback and all, but if there’s no fuel source in the real world, no real-world data, slower development and longer transition period. Sorry, I went off on a tangent, but that’s the general gist of something I remember from an interview of some respected science-type on a website who’s name has long since left my mind. According to the qualified and likely quite optimistic estimates of countless scientists and ecologists, our deadline is around 30 years (geez, It was generally accepted to be like 50 years back in 02! by 2012 It’ll be 5 days!?!)

    2: International trade < sustainable. The current running of global human society is, well, global. So much stuff sits in a crate on a quarter-mile long ship for 3 months to get to our friendly Wal Mart. This costs us apes tons of fuel, add pollutants to the communal pool, and hurts both the economy of the recipiant and provider of the products. For us, the recipiants, it naturally costs the average, unskilled laborer jobs. For the supplier, likely the worker in a developing country, it may well hurt even more. What has been seen in a number of countries that have fallen into a niche of exporting a limited number of products is that most of the work goes into making these products. they bring foreign money, but that $ must be spent importing all the other stuff they don’t make, and the country stays stagnant while all others grow and is thus left behind. bad. Make ur stuff locally! it makes jobs and saves fuel and starving asian kids!

    3: Eat locally too! For the same reasons as above, plus it’s a way not to eat tons of poisonous stuff! Bloody eat what looks like it at one point belonged in soil or on the rib of a mammal! Not like it was born in a plastic wrapper!

    Cool link:

    The American Nuclear Society site. There is a fair amount of info hidden around here on the elementry principals of nuclear fission. It ultimately would use supercharged neutrons (that shoot off when certain atoms fuse) to heat water that’d turn a turbine! nothing explosive or too dangerous or capable of blowing up!

  8. grassroots4500 Says:

    Grr…I wrote something out last night but through computer error it got deleted…so here goes again.
    1. I really enjoyed the intro. I believe I’m pretty well informed on our reality and I think the intro did a great job of summing at least our environmental reality up. It even has some glimmer of hope in there to shine some light amongst all the doom and gloom. I think the biggest thing to take away from the intro that it touch upon is that the change needs to happen sooner rather then later and it needs to begin on all levels. Including government, infrastructure, and of course the individual (the day to day stuff).
    2. Some important points brought up in the intro include peak oil, this continuum of ever rising standard of living (when is enough is enough?)and resource scarcity. A quote that really struck me was “We need a new model that allows unprecedented prosperity on a sustainable basis.” Ya that’s what we need all right but as with most thing the devil is in the details.
    3. Question to the group: Are you willing to lower the standard of living you have grown so accustomed to? Do you feel guilty for it? (living at our current consumption rate)

  9. saulramos Says:

    In response to Stuff:

    1. The idea of urgency is critical to the book, and to some degree, it is the same feeling that drew me into the class. However, it is interesting that as I become more aware, more preocuppied with the somber reality, and as I seek to engage more with a pragmatic approach to sustainability I find more and more people involved. The creation of a culture, a movement, and becoming acquianted with it has been very rewarding and challenging. It exposes the complex layers that as society we need to address and it creates a viable sense of hope based on our current reality.

    2. Important points:

    1. Sense of urgency in creating a new culture working to think, learn and solve the problems of today.
    2. There are no immediate solutions, and in thinking, designing and creating the products that we need, there are intermediary steps and mechanisms that we need to engage in order for this products and approaches to evolve to become as effective as we wish for them to be.
    3. Within our current political-economic system, despite being plague by injustices, we have power, consumer power, and it is important to understand how it works in order to make it work for us and the environment.

    The approach of the authors is to find solutions within our current political and economic systems. Are radical measures needed in our political structure in order to more vigorously move towards sustainability? For instance, does our constitution allow for sustainability?


    This link is in response to the question above. This is an article that begins to take a critical look at our constitution as it affects our environment.

  10. dmitriyskoog Says:

    Top points:
    first and foremost, there is no doubt that we carbon sapiens sapiens need to change the way we use our available resources for the sake of our future. Further, the book hints that we have most of what we need technology-wise already, the important stuff just permiates our collective bank of knowledge in such a way that we must isolate it and piece it together. I don’t think this point should be taken litterally, as we obviously need to continue to develope our science. I believe that what it referes to is that we humans (nations till now) have assembled and adopted “total war” mentalities to overcome challenges before, and thus we have some playbooks and societal trend data to rely on. The only difference here is that our challenge is a much tougher one, and we must adopt “total progress”,rather than anything that has to do with war…war would waste time, efforts, resources, and resolve and if we even got into one major war, it would probably be too late.

    Our population (well all but China and northern Europe really) is growing in a mindless and destructive manner. There are two ways to stop it, and one of them will happen: educate women, give them financial opportunities, promote family planning, do all the responsible stuff could help humans around the world to understand that more than 2.1 kids per family (heck,more than 1.2!) will sink our ship. Option 2: mass, painful, starvation resulting in lots of mass graves.

    The only sustainable way for the human race to live sustainably is not as warring tribes inhabiting different islands looking at eachother with nervous and jelous eyes, but as a coherent faction looking outward into space together. That is, every person would need to attain similar quality of life. Were the folks in the northern hemisphere to live with thrice the resources as their southern fellows, the southies would want more, and there goes sustainability. In Fact, solving our looming crysis by learning to make do with what’s left (rather than, say…developing the next logical energy source that can do more than Fossil fuels ever could…) requires a multi-spectrum revamp of Earth culture. People need to reconcile petty (or completely not petty) differences and at the very least agree to become one group, rather than tribes. Point 3!

    We humans live on a planet who’s ecosystems can bounce back. But if we, for example, cut all the rainforests down, there won’t be as much ability to remove CO2 for millenia. The earth’s CO2 removal systems will be perminantly reduced as far as human lifespans are concerned. This applies to all other valuable services and lifesupport that natural cycles provide. This means that if humans are to get to it, they need to realize that they need to shoot ahead of their currently evident mark as far as per-capita energy consumption goes. This is akin to leading when shooting out of a car (come on! someone must do it!), as we’re closer to low-resource town when the bullet hits the target than when it leaves the gun.

    Something I’ve learned here is not something I’ve learned so much as something I don’t really think about but was jolted into thinklng about by the writing. The social aspect of policy changing is far too frustrating for me, as I’m a tech-science guy who would rather not understand or deal with the mostly dead-weight masses. But I suppose there is merit in equalizing the quality of living for folks everywhere as a step toward sustainable culture.

    As for a link…I’ll add one later…sorry. class is in 4 minutes.

    1. aaronjudgement Says:

      I think it’s also possible that mother nature is about to do some ‘spring cleaning’ so to speak and a lot of those dead-weight masses are going to be eradicated. The potential for violent and catastrophic change is very real. *Not trying to be a downer just looking at things with open eyes.

  11. breezejane Says:

    i think it would be really helpful if all the older comments were to be deleted (as well as my first one) so that there isn’t any confusion as to who posted what and wether or not its from this semester.

    answers for the first post:
    1. I took a social activism class last year and we learned about how Harvey Milk wanted change in the bay area for gay and lesbian community members everywhere, but especially in one of the most liberal places in the country, San Francisco. He would constantly talk about how we need fair and equal rights for everyone and in the reading, I came across this quote: “We don’t need a miracle to win this race; we need a movement” (22). this was in reference to the growing need to ban together as a human race and finally out an end to some of the things that are ruining our planet one decision at a time. all we really need, as my professor once said, is a small but brilliant ‘green for the planet’ idea lead by some of the top leading environmentalists to properly bring the people together. we talked about what these ideas could consist of and we came up with a finally lasting alternative to fossil fuels such as rice or soy which would then in turn take a new kind of engine which would no longer pollute the atmosphere. we need a green-movement like we need air.. literally.. and time is running out.

    2. -I think that some of the most important things in the three intros to the worldchanging book were when Sterling talked about how the book is an encyclopedia of exit signs on how to save ourselves from disaster and self destruction. it was a real eye opener as to what I was actually holding in my hands and I grew very excited to read on from that point.
    -The editor talks about how “they show us at once how powerful we are as individuals, and how much we need one another; how imperiled the planet is at present, and how great the future could be” (15). I think this is important for us to realize because we really do need each other more now then ever before, and if we don’t ban together to change our ways, we can say good by to the livelihoods of our children.
    -A quote I think I’ll never forget was when the editor said :if you’re under the age of thirty, you can expect to see a post-oil civilization in your lifetime” (17). this is a great and mighty thing to think about.. and I’m all for it. we need to start finding real usable alternative fuels, so that when this day comes, it won’t be a total shock.. for if we don’t change our way soon “it’ll land us in a world of deserts, hunger, and freaky weather” (17).
    -“If everyone on the earth lived like the average north american, we’d need five planets to support our lifestyles” (18). i can’t imagine what it will be like when we aren’t living like we’re used to, but I don’t think this is a necessarily bad thing. I’d like to start exploring new avenues of less human consumption and I think we should all stop buying and consuming.. buying and consuming, maybe even perhaps try to live with what we already have and only buy new things if its absolutely necessary (like of our only pair of scissors break.. we buy new ones.
    -The polar doomsday vault (72) is a great way to prepare for the future of human war. I honestly think that the human race will struggle to find a balance between what we have now and what we wont have in the future. this vault provides a place where seeds of all kinds are stored by natural climate sources (frozen by surrounding weather) and will be available for later use.

    3. what did the rest of the worldchanging group members think of the editors intro?

    1. aaronjudgement Says:

      I would like to read more about this polar doomsday vault, thanks for the intro to this book.

  12. breezejane Says:

    this is just my first reply.. seeing how things kinnda work on this site.
    seems kind of tricky, but ill get the hang of it, like blackboard.. it just takes some time.
    i ordered my book online last night to be shipped the fastest it can, so ill do my first readings when i get it, and post my response promptly.

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