Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Worldchanging Timeline: 2003-2009

We here at Worldchanging just celebrated our sixth anniversary! In addition to publishing a series of "101" posts, highlighting some of the iconic pieces we've published over the years, and a primer on blogs and other resources we lean heavily upon, we though that it might also be useful to share a timeline of the project so far, noting some representative events, to give the interested reader a sense of where we came from and how we got here; perhaps knowing something of the evolution of this project may even inform some of your own work.



Worldchanging begins in the Fall of 2003. Alex Steffen and Jamais Cascio had begun discussing possible collaborations after working together on scenario projects and a proposed new edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. Alex had just come back from a year spent on the road seeking innovative sustainability solutions; Jamais had just written two books for the Transhuman Space series, exploring the high frontiers of technological change. Together with friends from Bruce Sterling's Viridian list, including Jon Lebkowsky, Zaid Hassan, Alan AtKisson, Dawn Danby and Nicole Boyer, they launch as a place to share and debate innovative new solutions to the planet's most pressing problems. The project quickly grows from a casual blog to something bigger.

10/01: Alex Steffen posts Worldchanging's first piece, Second Superpower.

10/02: Alex posts Corruption and Transparency International, Thai Bio-Solar House, Organic Photovoltaics, Gillmor on Open Source and the Developing World ... he wistfully dreams of attending Eternally Yours. Jamais Cascio posts Earth Simulator and Cheap Solar.

10/29: Alex posts Reducing Poverty and Greening Megacities -- possibly the first longish essay. And "Ecological Economics" appears here.

10/30: Worldchanging's 50th post: Mbira and Traditional Music.

11/12: Jamais discusses the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology; Alex looks at better boxes with IcosaPods: "Flats of cardboard which fit together to form geodesic domes. Easily built, weather resistant, providing shelter and shade, lasting several years but 100% recyclable, they're what we'd be airdropping to refugees by the hundreds of thousands if we had half a clue. They also look cool.

11/19: Worldchanging's 100th post (Jamais) is called WorldEnding, a post which picks out one of the main bright green ideas: the failure of most apocalyptic thinking to be useful (or even interesting) and the need to imagine consciously optimistic futures as a tool for social change.

11/19: Worldchanging publishes its manifesto, calling for solutions-based reporting on innovation and more widespread collaboration: "changing the world is a team sport."



01/06: Worldchanging is nominated for a Bloggie for Best Group Weblog and Best Writing of a Weblog. More writers join the team as buzz grows around the project this year, notably Jer Faludi, Cameron Sinclair, Emily Gertz, Hassan Masum, David Zaks, Joel Makower, Mark Tovey, Regine Debatty, Rob Katz, Rohit Gupta, Gil Friend, Chad Monfreda and Dina Mehta. Over the next five years, more than 200 writers will contribute ideas to the site. Many of these people are leading minds in sustainability, social innovation and planetary futures.

01/13: Jamais shares his thoughts on why exploring space is a crucial component of our ongoing efforts to better understand -- and protect -- our home planet in Greens in Space.

01/14: Alex posts The Digital City, arguing that understanding the future of cities demands understanding ubiquitous technology, and visa versa: "There is no 'cyberspace.' We don't leave our bodies when we go online. Instead, the opposite is happening: computers and communications are suffusing the physical world, melting into the fabric of daily urban life."

02/19: Jamais publishes Open the Future, a call for transparent, democratic and collaborative approaches to emerging technology; the title becomes something of a rallying cry in Worldchanging circles.

March-June: Worldchanging builds an increasingly larger audience, finding many new readers through blogs like BoingBoing, Slashdot and SmartMobs.

04/07: Alex publishes The Way New Urbanism, suggesting we imagine the ways smart places, reputation capital, illuminated flows, social media and product service systems could lead actually make cities our best tools for building a sustainable future.

July: Jamais, Alex, Dawn, Gil and other contributors gather for a two-day, scenario-based workshop, exploring new avenues for sustainability and planetary futurism; a number of future Worldchanging themes (from leapfrogging to zero energy buildings, collaborative innovation to megacities as sustainability tools) are identified; Alex coins term "bright green" to describe the team's approach.

08/06: Worldchanging's published its 1,000th post: Reports From the Team.

October: Alex presents Worldchanging as a project for the first time at Maine's Pop!Tech conference.

12/22: Worldchanging is selected by Utne Magazine as their 2004 Independent Press Award winner for Best Online Cultural Coverage.

12/27: Worldchanging partners with Architecture for Humanity to call for donations toward relief efforts in Indonesia following the devastating Tsunami. The initial goal was to raise $10,000. Within three days, the effort raised more than $25,000; it went on to raise almost $125,000. With commitments by funders inspired by the grassroots response, the whole campaign ultimately brought in almost $500,000, which Architecture for Humanity used for reconstruction work in South Asia.

Worldchanging also publishes a number of influential pieces covering the disaster and suggesting new approaches to disaster relief, refugee aid and recovery, and a number of Worldchangers are involved in creating collaborative projects during and after.



January: Increasingly heavy traffic forces Worldchanging to move on from its awesome, first webhosting service, Laughing Squid, to our long-time partners Polycot.

01/05: Alex publishes Ending Poverty, noting that "extreme poverty is not a human constant, but a problem we can solve."

February: Ed Burtynsky makes Worldchanging his TED Prize wish, shining a spotlight on the team's work; the Sapling Foundation takes Worldchanging on as a nonprofit "umbrella" project.

02/25: Alex publishes Winning the Great Wager, which makes the case that we face not a number of separate problems, but one big planetary challenge with many symptoms, and that we have to solve them all together or fail to solve any of them. It triggers much online discussion, to say the least.

04/12: Worldchanging nominated for a Webby Award for Best Blog (other contenders that year were BoingBoing and Flickr).

05/04: Jamais presents his long-brewing ideas about the Participatory Panopticon and "sousveillance."

June: Chanel Reynolds joins the team as Managing Director, and guides the organization through the nonprofit incorporation and board-building process; Ethan Zuckerman becomes the organization's first President, and leads the organization's board for the next two years.

06/03: Alan AtKisson writes Letter from Bangkok after spending 10 intensive days training sustainability change agents, government officials, and business leaders from Thailand and from all over Asia: a growing number of Worldchanging pieces come from contributors living or working in the developing world.

06/25: Jamais publishes Human Changing, a collaborative interview exploring the possibilities of post-humanism.

06/30: WC3K (our 3,000th post) published, with updates from the original team.

July: Alex speaks at the TED conference; online video of this talk becomes a minor web hit.

August: Worldchanging team members gather at the Chinook Center on Whidbey Island near Seattle and plot out Worldchanging's strategy for the next two years, with start-up funding from Chris Anderson and the Sapling Foundation. Much discussion of the need for solutions-based journalism, attention philanthropy and better thinking about planetary futures and social innovation.

09/05: Alex publishes New Orleans: Everything Has Changed, a call to learn our lessons from the Katrina tragedy and respond to the new reality that "security, climate, poverty and the environment are all linked." The Bush administration responds by sending FEMA trailers.

10/18: Worldchanging announces its book deal with Harry N. Abrams Inc.

10/30: Worldchanging and Abrams announce that Stefan Sagmeister will design the Worldchanging book.

November: Sarah Rich becomes Managing Editor. Tessa Levine-Sauerhoff and Carissa Bluestone join the editorial team.



January: Worldchanging team finishes the book -- 600 pages, 1,000 ideas, almost 100 participants (from editors to researchers, writers to designers) -- in six months. Alex immediately books ticket for Baja, goes non-verbal.

February: Jamais presents Worldchanging ideas and his Earth Phone proposal at TED.

03/18: Alex publishes What the Yeti Crab Has to Teach Us, a call for humility and boldness in planetary thinking, reflecting an increasing focus on climate, ecosystem services, geoengineering and planetary boundaries.

April: Soon after writing The Open Future: Open Source Scenario Planning, Jamais Cascio launches his futurism consultancy and starts Open The Future as his new online home.

04/10: Book release date announced.

05/30: Alex publishes Ecological Handprints: Population and the Limits of Possibility, pointing out that it is within our capacities to design a prosperous, thriving civilization that lives within the planet's ecological limits; that, indeed, we could even have a wealthy society that restores and improves the Earth (a theme later followed-up on in his popular essay Limits and Brilliance.)

09/05: Alex writes Letter from the streets of Berlin: Anti-Fascism and 21st Century Communities, one of a series of letters from the road in what has become an increasingly heavy, international travel schedule for the team, driven in part by the importance of speaking fees as a revenue source for the organization. By October 2009, Alex alone will have given over 200 Worldchanging talks.

10/15: Worldchanging goes live with its first major redesign since launching, with Matt Chapman and Egg Design partnering on a new look echoing Stefan Sagmeister's book design.

10/21: Worldchanging announces plans to kick off local blogs in each of the cities it visits on the book tour.

10/28: Worldchanging Book Tour kicks off at Seattle's Town Hall, with an evening with Bruce Sterling and Alex Steffen.

10/31: Worldchanging Canada launches.

11/01: Worldchanging fans swarm at 11:11 a.m., answering a call to Help Us Hack the Publishing System. Worldchanging debuts as the #12 best-selling book on all of

11/03: Zaid Hassan posts India Eats Democracy after returning from a visit to that country; Blaine Brownell writes about prosperity within limits in his Letter from Japan: both reflect an increasing number of long-form reports from the field.

November/December: The Worldchanging Team goes on tour, visits Portland, Ore., New York, Vancouver, B.C., Minneapolis, Chicago, Toronto, Washington D.C., Austin, Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco; presents to crowds at the Shedd Aquarium, the World Resources Institute, the Buckminster Fuller Institute, the Common Wealth Club and the New York GreenDrinks' Holiday Party. Much fun is had by all.

Most-clicked posts of 2006:

1. One Laptop Per Child - a Preview of the Hundred Dollar Laptop
2. A Visit To Tesla Motors
3. Tracking Hasan Elahi
4. How to Wean a Town Off Fossil Fuels
5. The Space of No(w)here – tackling homelessness
6. What Happens When Things Get Free?
7. Stern Review: How Climate Change is Revolutionizing Economics
8. Urban Grids / Respiratory Oases
9. Google Sketch-up: Model your world?
10. Milton Friedman and the Social Responsibility of Business
11. A Brief Visual Reminder that We Are, Actually, on a Small Planet
12. The Map is not the Terrain; the Sim is not the City
13. Biomimetic Ocean Power
14. Living in an Urban Cactus



February: Alex Steffen speaks at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town. Alex and Sarah Rich present their ideas for seedPOD at Doors of Perception in New Delhi.

03/23: The Worldchanging book wins an Organic Design Award from Organic Architect.

04/24: Worldchanging is nominated for a Webby award for Best Magazine.

May: The New York Times Magazine features Alex Steffen as one of six innovators in its Ecotecture Issue; Alex will end up having giving almost 600 media interviews by October 2009.

June: Worldchanging gets planning help from students at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, leading to a strategy that emphasizes earned income (from book sales, public talks and advertising) and reader support. This combination proves vital for the next two years.

06/07: Ethan Zuckerman reports on Ory Okolloh: “My dream is for my daughter to find her future in Africa,” while Sarah Rich discusses desert growth in Dubai's Burj al-Taqa: A Zero-Energy Tower in the Desert.

6/26: Alex sends a Letter from Visby, pondering Linnaeus, the Encyclopedia of Life and the Metaverse.

September: Alex presents at Picnic in Amsterdam.

October: Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century receives The Green Prize for Sustainable Literature (category: Adult Reference) from the Santa Monica Public Library; Worldchanging publishes the results of its first major reader survey, of over 1,000 readers.

November: CNN International films and airs a documentary about Alex Steffen and Worldchanging for its "Just Imagine" series; Worldchanging: A User's Guide... published in French.

November: EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment) editor Ross Robertson interviews Alex and defines the Bright Green movement in the article A Brighter Shade of Green: Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century. "Bright green" sustainability is taken up more and more widely.

December: Alex presents ideas for sustainable urban culture at Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona.

December Worldchanging named a Prix Ars Electronica Honoree; also determined to be the second biggest sustainability site on the web by Nielsen Online (Treehugger is bigger).

Most-clicked posts of 2007:

1. "Woonerf" - Anarchy the Key to Safe Streets?
2. Lunch at the Langar: Exploring a Free Kitchen in Delhi
3. paraSITE: A Decade of Urban Intervention
4. Green Building Simulation
5. Frictionless Windmills from China?
6. Make This Earth Day Your Last!
7. Colonizing Planet Earth
8. The Future in a Tiny Sphere: A Conversation with Yoshinobu Tsujikawa
9. A Carbon-Negative Fuel
10. The Survival of Languages in a Digital Age
11. Google Transit 2.0
12. When Simple Things You Can Do Really Do Make a Difference
13. The Space of No(w)here – tackling homelessness
14. The Open Architecture Network and the Future of Design



January: the CBC show Spark features a long interview with Alex on product-service systems, producer responsibility, backstory insight and why owning things may be over-rated. Post-ownership, product-service systems and other ways of delivering prosperity without consumption become a larger and larger part of the Worldchanging discussion.

March: Julia Levitt takes over as Managing Editor (replacing Sarah Rich, who left for an editor job at Dwell magazine) and Sarah Kuck comes on-board as Associate Editor; Alex publishes The Politics of Optimism.

04/10: Worldchanging named a Webby Honoree for Cultural/Personal Blog.

May: Worldchanging updates and re-launches its local blog, Worldchanging Seattle. The new site was created with the help of a generous grant from the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation.

06/30: Alan AtKisson sends his Letter from Tällberg: Turn Back, O Man. Worldchanging's Scandinavian connections grow steadily stronger.

07/14: With help from designer Morgan Greenseth, Worldchanging launches the Imagine What Comes After Green Campaign, asking readers to imagine a future that works.

07/28: Alex shares some thoughts on Scenius, Innovation and Epicenters as part of an ongoing discussion about philanthropy, new models for social change and the importance of nurturing social innovation.

August: Brittany Jacobs takes over as Managing Director; Worldchanging: A User's Guide... published in German and Korean.

10/01: Worldchanging celebrates its 5th anniversary with friends and fans in Seattle at the Sole Repair Shop.

10/26: Alex sends a Letter from Stockholm, seeing a hopeful future in the streets of Sweden.

10/31: Worldchanging Canada, our longest-running local blog, celebrates its second anniversary under the editorial guidance of Mark Tovey.

11/06: Worldchanging launches its Inaugurate Change campaign, urging President-Elect Obama to make a strong call for sustainability part of his inaugural address; several Worldchangers, including Jonathan Greenblatt, Cameron Sinclair and Alex, advise the Obama transition team in various ways.

12/03: Alan AtKisson writes about true sustainable development in his Letter from Entebbe: Which Way is Up?

December: Worldchanging begins major research work for its second book, Bright Green.

Most-clicked posts of 2008:

1. White Light, Less Heat
2. An Arctic Sea "Foaming" with Methane: What Now?
3. My Other Car is a Bright Green City
4. The Future of Shopping Malls: An Image Essay
5. Thinking Differently About Health Care
6. Imagine What Comes After Green
7. No Time for the Singularity
8. The Problem with Big Green
9. What Does Climate Change Do to Our Heads?
10. The Outquisition
11. How Affordable is that Subdivision, Really?
12. Zero, Now.
13. Saving Zipcar



January: Alex writes Ray LaHood and Changing Our Thinking About Transportation, challenging Obama's appointee for Secretary of Transportation, saying we need new thinking in the role. Alex and others end up pleasantly surprised by Ray LaHood, if still very disappointed by the U.S. stimulus bill, which invests hundreds of billions in outdated and completely unsustainable projects.

02/29: Bright Green, Light Green, Dark Green, Gray: The New Environmental Spectrum runs, defining the divisions within the environmental movement.

03/16: As our spring pledge drive begins, Worldchanging is awarded an incredible incentive: a $100,000 challenge grant from Pierre and Pam Omidyar.

04/22: The Worldchanging Team publishes Earth Day: 10 Big, Really Hard Things We Can Do to Save the Planet.

05/11: Worldchanging Ideas Auction opens for bidding. Worldchanging moves to its new office in downtown Seattle at GGLO's Space at the Steps. We are sincerely grateful to the principals and team at GGLO for their incredible show of support for our work.

06/02: ABC's Earth 2100 television special features Alex Steffen on "Solutions for a Bright Green Future."

06/17: Worldchanging publishes its 10,000th post!

07/10: Worldchanging launches the Attention Philanthropy collection. For this special series, we invited members of our network to nominate projects, people and ideas for "attention grants," meant to shine a light on work worth singling out in a crowded world.

08/03: Julia publishes The Ruins of the Unsustainable: Searching For Answers to the Suburbs, reflecting a strong interest on the site in how we might adapt broken systems and transform collapsing, unsustainable places into something new, echoing Bruce's observation that "The ruins of the unsustainable are the 21st century's frontier."

09/22: Alex publishes Letter from Copenhagen -- Cities and Citizenship, and follows it with Planetary Boundaries and The Failure of Environmentalism. Both articulate the need for a redefinition of the meaning of sustainability and an embrace of new avenues for achieving it.

10/01: Worldchanging celebrates its sixth anniversary.

Most-clicked posts of 2009:

1. The Jellyfish, Plug-In Wind Power For Every Home
2. Free Parking Isn't Free
3. Earth Day: 10 Big, Really Hard Things We Can Do to Save the Planet
4. Bright Green, Light Green, Dark Green, Gray: The New Environmental Spectrum
5. Turning Shipping Containers Into Customizable, Affordable Housing
6. Ray LaHood and Changing Our Thinking About Transportation
7. Solar Carbon Payback
8. LEED Platinum Prefab Home Now Available
9. The Ruins of the Unsustainable: Searching For Answers to the Suburbs
10. Geoengineering and the New Climate Denialism
11. Sonoma Mountain Village: Is Green Suburbia Possible?
12. Finland: The World's Best School System?
13. Oceans Are the New Atmosphere
14. Attention Philanthropy 2009
15. Artists, Foreclosures and the Ruins of the Unsustainable

Worldchanging By the Numbers

Posts: 10,571
Comments: 28,000
Newsletter subscribers: 13,500
Readers: over six million unique readers since 2003
Talks: 250+
FB group members: 2,800+
Donations: 2,260+
Media coverage: more than 600 stories and appearances

All photos licensed by Creative Commons

Bookmark and Share


What a fantastic timeline! Really brings a human face to WorldChanging. Good primer also!

Posted by: Meema on 8 Oct 09

Thank you for the compilatin of articles! Will be interesting to see what was being written about a few years back that has come to fruition today or is still a problem today!

Thanks for the post!


Posted by: John - TitanEnergyWorldwide on 12 Oct 09

Post A Comment

Please note that comments will remain open for only 14 days after the article is posted. While previous comments will remain visible, attempts to post new comments after this period will fail. This helps stop comment spam, so your forebearance is appreciated.

The Worldchanging comments are meant to be used for further exploration and evaluation of the ideas covered in our posts. Please note that, while constructive disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting. We will also delete at will and without warning comments we believe are designed to disrupt a conversation rather than contribute to it. In short, we'll kill troll posts.

Finally, please note that comments which simply repost copyrighted works or commercial messages will be summarily deleted.

Yes No







MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg