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Worldchanging: The Book
Alex Steffen, 18 Oct 05

We've been hinting at this for a couple months, but now that the deal is confirmed, we can talk about it: we're doing a book!

This book (which bears the clever working title, Worldchanging) aims to take the best of what we've all been talking about here for the last two years and distill it into a single volume which makes sense to people who haven't been part of the conversation thus far. Much of this material will be familiar to long-time readers, but some will be brand-new, and all of it will be newly-updated and expanded: not only a best-of, but a remix.

Worldchanging, the book will also include a lot more how-to information: hands-on guides for getting things done -- access to resources for making better decisions on everything from greening your home and transforming your community to investing your money responsibly and advocating effectively. We know that there's a huge need for better information on how we can each in our own lives have an impact (we know this in part because you keep telling us), information that transcends the trite formula of small steps (50 things you can do to save the planet; 10 things you can do to prevent asteroid impacts, etc...) to give us useful operating instructions for building our own responses to the problems the planet faces. This is something we've been wanting to do for a while, but have lacked the opportunity and resources to do well.

We still lack resources, but the opportunity's here. We hope you'll help us make the most of it. We're very happy to be working with our publishers, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. The whole team there has been a joy to work with, but our editor, Deborah Aaronson, absolutely rocks. She gets Worldchanging. She gets the need for better solutions, more widely distributed. She believes in this site, and this community, and has worked hard with us to put together a project whose scope lives up to the magnitude of the challenges we face.

This is going to be a big book: 400 pages, well-illustrated, covering several thousand tools, models, ideas and resources for learning more. It will have national, perhaps even international, distribution.

Not many books like this get published. Fewer still are any good. Most of the ones that are good never even have a chance to reach a wider audience. We think it's pretty extraordinary that a major publisher believes enough (both in this project and in this scruffy little start-up nonprofit) to give us at least a shot at putting out a book that may actually change the debate, and might even change some lives.

It's going to be a heck of a lot of work, though. We have a great team of writers (including not only the Worldchanging krewe, but a bunch of other writers whose names will be familiar to long-time readers), and a tough little cadre of editors, but we need your help.

We need your brains, and insights, and knowledge and networks. We have a very short time in which to put this book together (about two months, really), and the only way this will work is if we build this thing collaboratively.

Over the next two months, we'll be asking for your help: asking you to share with us the books, films and sites you think readers of the book ought to know about; asking you to help us find and evaluate new tools and resources; asking you to share your expertise in the practical business of changing the world, from wiring up a home solar array to starting a business to volunteering effectively; asking you, in short, to help us share with a wider audience what, exactly, are the best ways of building a bright green future. We hope you'll share your ideas and experience with us and with one another. Stay tuned for more specifics: we'll be posting calls for assistance on specific topics starting next week.

So, we hope you'll join us in helping to make this happen. We hope you'll help both this book and this site live up to their names, and we hope we'll all have fun in the process.

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Comments

My sense is that there are many, many people out there who share the vision for a "bright green future", but there haven't been enough efforts to bring the various facets of it all together in a holistic, integrated way.

Congratulations on the book and thank to all you hardworking Worldchangers out there who take these good ideas and make them happen. You can certainly count on me and many others to help you in any way we can. Let us know what you need and keep up the great work!

No worries,
Roy


Posted by: Roy King III on 18 Oct 05

This is fantastic news. A two-month deadline is a hard task so I wish you the best and if I find myself able to offer anything I certainly will.
Will there be a way to pre-order the book for those wishing to throw capital at this project and give the publishers assurance of its success?


Posted by: Danger Stevens on 18 Oct 05

"I will ask five people to buy or borrow the next Worldchanging book to discuss together but only if 10 other people will too."

My pledge is live, go sign it! :)
http://www.pledgebank.com/worldchangingbk


Posted by: Daniel Haran on 18 Oct 05

Congratulations! With 400 pages per book, it would be "worldchanging" to try and print the book on paper with high recycled content and have the shipping consume less fuel somehow....got to live it right!


Posted by: barnali on 18 Oct 05

Thanks for the good words, everyone!

We are working with Abrams to try to make the book as green as we can, by the way.

It's also great to see the early offers of support and encouragement. We are hoping to offer some sort of pre-publication purchase option, which would be really, really helpful.

Thanks, everyone!


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 18 Oct 05

I look forward to this!


Posted by: Stefan Jones on 18 Oct 05

Excellent! Alex, this is great news.

Those of us who are part of Ashoka's Changemakers initiative will want to do whatever we can to help you with How-Tos for content, e.g., our Digest of Solutions http://www.changemakers.net/journal/300506/digest.cfm for How to End Human Trafficking, that grew out of one of Changemakers's "open sourcing social solutions" competitions. Next up is Meeting Disaster: Before, During, After.

Also, we'll help with marketing/promoting the book as soon as it's out. Excellent!

Cheers,
Karin


Posted by: Karin Hillhouse on 18 Oct 05

Good stuff, but if it's only going to be available nationally, I suggest you call it 'nation changing', or if the content will be North-Western world focused, call it 'developed nations changing'.

Or Backyard Changing. World changing = individuals changing just a little bit. Put their actions where their mouths & ideas are. We need more than opinions and visions. Too many people are out to change the world, overlooking the fact that they need to change themselves 1st.

And please don't neglect institional and social aspects of change... it's core. Technological fixes won't achieve much without it. World Changing doesn't necessarily mean better world and it won't if it's not a holistic approach.


Posted by: Dendrobium alderwildtianum on 18 Oct 05

I hope we (international readers) can buy the book online. Even though it will be published in the U.S., I trust WC to take its usual approach, which is that of making "global" issues palpable and concrete for us, individuals and small organisations, from all over the world.

I'm not an expert, but I'm sure you could make "regional" editions, with links and info to regional organizations and resources. Why not make a "Worldchanging. Europe Edition" "Latin America Edition" etc?

I'm absolutely certain you will find a publisher here in Europe, and that there's a big enough market out there. There are very many green thinkers and enthusiasts on the continent.

Anyway, good luck and I'm sure many of us will want to help as much as we can.


Posted by: Lorenzo on 19 Oct 05

Alex, congratulations! To this aging hippie, it seems that "The-Next-Millennium, This-Time-It's-For-Keeps, Whole Earth Catalog" is in the works.

I have a tool catalog in front of me. It's full of great stuff. To the extent that I'm already a carpenter, some of these tools would help me. To the extent that I'm no furniture craftsman, their use is limited - I could spend thousands increasing my capacity to butcher fine wood. A collection of tools is helpful, but training in their use is vital, and developing the wisdom to use them virtuously is paramount. I hope your book will address this.


Posted by: David Foley on 19 Oct 05

What would be truly world-changing is a globally-distributed non-allopathic, non-pharmaceutical solution to a flu pandemic that is a superior treatment, costs pennies per patient, is easily distributed (does not require refrigeration, etc.), and is not a multi-billion $$ boondoggle that bankrupts Third-World countries. Read about the 0-1% mortality rate associated with homeopathic treatments provided during the 1918 flu pandemic here (as opposed to the 30% mortality rate from standard medical treatments):


Posted by: Denise on 19 Oct 05

Here's the link to the story on homeopathy used in the 1918 flu pandemic: http://www.nesh.com/main/nejh/samples/winston.html


Posted by: Denise on 19 Oct 05

A pony would be nice, too.


Posted by: Sarcastic SOB on 19 Oct 05

David Foley said what I woulda said were I as eloquent.

A pony would be good too.

and a way to figure out what impact the book has


Posted by: Dendrobium alderwildtianum on 19 Oct 05

I thought we were addressing institutional and social aspects of change that we can work towards effecting; ones that would be worldchanging in a holistic, human, and beneficial way.


Posted by: Denise on 20 Oct 05

It would be a shame if you can only publish it for the US market. If 400 pages includes pictures, you'll also need to think about (simultaneous, cooperative) translation - how many pages of text did you say?


Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 20 Oct 05

Denise, you're right. When we can learn to disagree with respect, without resorting to unnecessary cruelty and sarcasm, the world will be better. But we also need to weigh evidence impartially, realizing that we often think something is true because we find the idea of it beautiful. WorldChanging has made me reevaluate many of my own prejudices and sacred cows. I hope the book will do the same.


Posted by: David Foley on 20 Oct 05

Alex,
Just to play devil's advocate, Why put this information into a book? How can having the information in a book be better than having it online? What is easier to do with a book and harder to do online?



Posted by: occam's comic on 22 Oct 05

"Alex,
Just to play devil's advocate, Why put this information into a book? How can having the information in a book be better than having it online? What is easier to do with a book and harder to do online?"

it seems like a good is a good idea becuase the internet is mostly utilized and available really to people in the first world. Also, it seems like it might be a cool idea to send this book around to people who need it. a manual on sustiability delivered to the right governments or cities might help educate people on how promote sustianability and create it themselves. By one for your mayor =)

peace,
A


Posted by: andrew on 23 Oct 05

also hacktivate;s D.I.Y. meshnetworking for cheap is a nice little article:

http://www.vdomck.org/blog/2005/07/22/how-to-build-a-mesh-network-with-wrt54gs/

peace,
A


Posted by: andrew on 23 Oct 05

"Just to play devil's advocate, Why put this information into a book? How can having the information in a book be better than having it online? What is easier to do with a book and harder to do online?"

In addition to andrew's response to this, I'd add that books are preferable sometimes. I love being able to access vast, gushing fonts of information like Worldchagning on the net, but sometimes it sucks to have to cram in front of a terminal to read a long essay, no matter how important and engaging. All that glare and involuntary crouching is bad for your eyes and posture. It's nice to get "physical" once in a while.

Also, this means (mythical?) old-rich-people-who-don't-touch-computers can read it, too.


Posted by: egrec on 24 Oct 05

Will the book contain "howtos"? Then I'd love it to be physical so we can take it to where we'll be building things.

Of course, there could be a "companion CD" full of things we can print or view or, wait, listen to ...


Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 25 Oct 05

Thanks guys for all the good advice and kind words.

You also raise a number of important questions, many of which I hope we'll be able answer pretty quickly here.

Stay tuned!

Thanks again,

Alex


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 26 Oct 05

what about mouhammed yunusŽ(i definetly mispelled something here)the poors banquor?


Posted by: thor on 27 Oct 05

I love books with steps that the "common man" can take to better the future. This is certainly something I would buy/download and feel good passing around to friends. I often recommend articles and books to people- books that describe gigantic problems that will take hundreds of billions of dollars to solve... rather than the millions of man-hours people without billions of dollars might more easily be able to give.

Congrats on the book deal.


Posted by: David Lucas on 27 Oct 05

A history of civilizations, Frenand Braudel
If this is a man, Primo Levi
The human condition, Hannah Arendt
Mythologies, Claude Levi-Strauss
Le petit prince, antoine de Saint-Exupery


Posted by: catherine on 28 Oct 05

The mankind Robert Antelme
Idiot Dostoievski
Karamazov Brata Dostoievski
War and Peace Leon Tolstoi
Voyage au bout de la nuit Céline


Posted by: JB on 28 Oct 05

i've only just discovered this website and i'm afraid i won't be too much help in donating information but i'm certainly willing to absorb it. this book is a great idea, i hope it succeeds, and i'll be buying it & signing up to the linked pledge, once i've figured out who the 'right' 5 people that i know are.


Posted by: Gareth Ward on 28 Oct 05

récits de Kolyma, Varlam Chalamov.
des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde, René Girard.
Dostoïevski.
William Faulkner.
Raymond Chandler....


;


Posted by: Brunner on 28 Oct 05

Alex,

I've never designed a book, but lessons from interaction design (which I've done a lot of) might be useful here. For example, don't design a book. Instead, design the experience of using a book. Design "using a book to change the world." It might lead you to a different result than if you get too caught up in (or fall in love with!) the book as object. Books as objects end up on coffee tables, not kitchen tables. Thinking of the book as a set of interactions might lead to different indices and navigation at the very least, perhaps different layout, even different articles. And of course in software, as I'm sure you know, it's best to try do that user-interaction thinking up front, not as design applied at the end when the structure's already been decided and it's too late.

You could even develop use cases. What can I do with this book? If I wanted to, say, add solar to my house or build a cookstove in Rwanda or learn more about biomimicry, how exactly would I proceed? There are obviously a lot of potential scenarios but some basic types may jump out as typical or important. Keep a list, and as the design evolves, keep testing against the list.

You might also get together a group of users, potential readers across your target audiences (oh yeah, what are your target audiences? Rank them). Test the prototype out on them while it can still be changed.

I'm amazed at how easily we designers, whether of products, web sites, books, houses, whatever--fall into the trap of designing objects, when we should be designing the experience of using those objects to a given end. (Don't design a kitchen, design cooking or doing the dishes!) Worldchanging the Book obviously will have a lot of uses and will therefore be a huge design challenge. It won't be able to do everything well, but with some thought, it will do what it really needs to do well enough. If it does, it will be amazing.


Posted by: Jeffrey Rusch on 30 Oct 05

I agree it can be nice to have a physical book to heft, to read, to turn down the corners of pages, to throw in a backpack.

But then I got this idea. How about the Worldchanging Wikipedia? It's an interactive set of how-tos where we can all log on and add/update things as necessary. Maybe the 10 Things You Should Never Forget When Installing Solar Panels in Nigeria needs to be changed to 11 things after someone tries it out.

And finally, what's with the 2-month deadline? Sure, every day we lose more arctic ice, but things like books can be higher quality when more prep work and slow, thoughtful pondering on sunny afternoons go into them. The World can wait 4 or 6 months to be Changed if that change would be years more effective. Your editor may rock, but she's also rolling with the insanity of the times.


Posted by: Kim on 31 Oct 05

The Worldchanging site is great! Many thanks to all who contribute - it's much appreciated by myself!

I'm looking forward to the book - which I hope will hit the shelves in Aotearoa / NZ, where I am.

There was a post recently that asked for the top five books (?) - I can't find that post! It would be good to find it again so I can build my summer reading list.

C Dempsey


Posted by: C Dempsey on 2 Nov 05



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