The David Suzuki Foundation: Being Green Online

It’s still Earth Day, so as I promised, here is my interview with Vancouver’s Elijah van der Giessen who is the Creative Services Coordinator for the David Suzuki Foundation.  He was recently involved in Net Tuesday, where social media people and those that want to make a difference come together to swap ideas.

1.  How has the green movement and the Suzuki Foundation in particular been able to leverage going online?

The David Suzuki Foundation has had a web presence for the last decade, and an email newsletter for the last five years.  We’ve used the web to connect with our media releases, and with academics through our reports. Over the two years that we’ve explored two-way engagement tools, and have invited our community to participate via pesticide-free garden contest, our Facebook page, and through flavour-of-the-week Twitter.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of going online for the David Suzuki Foundation has been the influence it has had more widely on our communications across the Foundation.  We’ve benefited from Hugh Macleod’s theory of the porous membrane, which suggests that the authentic voice demanded by online communications will inevitably infect and spread throughout an organization.  So the online work is starting to change how we approach our reports, media releases, and outreach strategy. Some internet-native green organizations are doing some amazing work.  I’m a personal fan of 350.org and World Changing.

2.  Are there any issues around technology, e-waste or CO2 emissions in regards to any online activity?

All of our actions have consequences.  Peter Robinson, DSF’s CEO, has written about the impact of the technology industry’s constant “need” to upgrade, our electronics are full of nasty chemicals (but progress is being made!), and even cloud computing requires enormous power to run the server farms, but all this is mitigated by the incredible power and reach new technologies give us.  Grumpy old man David Suzuki may not  always like it, but an email is definitely much more energy efficient than a letter.

3.  It’s a slow economy, people want to save money, they’re worried…how can we keep the momentum going to do something positive that might take more costly measures?

Economically challenging times have traditionally been a great time for environmental progress!  The last time the environment was at the top of Canada’s agenda was during the recession of the late 1980s, because people realize that going green saves money.  Increasing energy efficiency reduces your heating bill, and avoiding toxic pesticides can save you serious money too.  Even the Financial Post realizes that the economy isn’t going to slow the momentum of the green movement.

4.  There has been recent decent from supporting a few local NDP candidates because of environmental issues. Can you expand on this?

Here’s a link to our B.C. campaigner’s his blog on climate policy and the B.C. election.

5.  Why is BC so great at championing the cause?  Is it?

Surrounded by the Ocean, mountains, and one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, how can British Columbians not be awe-struck by our natural environment?  We’re compelled to protect it!  But we certainly have a mixed record.  The carbon tax is a very important project, which is going to set the standard for the rest of North America, but our reputation around species and habitat protection and transportation planning have been backward.  (Check out our report on where B.C.’s climate policies stand in comparison to other provinces.)

6.   What  does your ideal future Vancouver look like? (Technology, roads, the city, etc.?)

The David Suzuki Foundation’s report, Understanding Sprawl, and toolkit encourages communities to reshape urban areas. We need more dense and compact cities, with better bike paths and pedestrian friendly walkways.