Posted: February 21st, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Conferences & Events, Influence, top, Transformational Change | Tags: #northernvoice09 | 2 Comments »
Liveblog on “The Future of Influence” talk, by Nate Elliott, Principal analyst, Forrester Research, Northern Voice Conference, Vancouver B.C, February 21 2009
- In my line of work, I hear a lot of people asking me about word-of-mouth marketing. But power of consumer influence been around for centuries: Tupperware, Amway, Avon. They all do billion in sales each year based on consumer to consumer influence.
- Companies ID influential consumers, give them something valuable (content, a product) then they find ways to motivate them to pass that message along.
- Not all influence is created equal. The internet didnt’ invent influence but carries a lot of power. New influencer: People active in social media. Motivations? To share their thoughts and opinions. Classic influentials: Internet users who are the first person others come to for recommendations. Most of the latter group only influentials in a single product category. Former group has a broader base. “They know quite a lot but they talk more as well.”
- New influentials exert active influence by proactively giving advice, classics are instead “go to” people. “If we didn’t ask them for advice there is very limited chance they wil give it.”
- New influentials want people to hear them. Why? A genuine sense of altruism, a desire to be famous. Even if new influencers are complete morons it wont matter because other people believe them.
- How do you change nature of consumer influence? Number of new influencers is only going to grow. Based on population of online Canadians ages 18-25:
- Nearly half (69 percent) are consuming social media; reading blogs, comments.
- Some 67 percent are joiners, who join social networks.
- Just 28 percent are actual creators
- While 27 percent are “critics.”
- Classic influence is going to remain stagnant.
- People are going to start getting overwhelmed by influence. Not only is there a lot of info out there about products and services, but the information is getting richer. Cites tripadvisor.com. Used to ask guests for one review. Now they ask for four different reviews: one about quality of service, location etc. The advice is now a lot richer. I can see photos of the rooms taken by guests w/stuff spread about.
- New Infuentials not growing leaps and bounds; there are not enough centralized sources of advice. Consumers don’t know how to I.D. the advice that is relevant to them.
- 4,000 reviews on an amazon listing are more annyoing than just two. How do I find out what an “average’ reader thinks of this book? Too many fan reviews. It doesn’t matter to me what honeymooners or backpackers think of my hotel. I want to know what other business people thought about it.
- Needed: Spread of reviewer profiles. Burpee Seeds sells seeds online, important that they have reviewer profiles. I need to know how that seed has worked for people like me. Has the person been gardening for one year or 20? What state do they live in, etc?
- Needed: “Integration of social graph.” To see what the people I know and trust every day think. The first few reviews on a site should be from people in my network, ie. my top facebook friends. FB tried this and there was a user uproar. Better implementations in the future will work very well. People are going to need that to sort through the relevance.
- Implement basic user profiles
- Recognize and reward the best contributors by engaging with them.
- Sites help you find the most relevant advice.
- Consumers, give sites a chance to prove they are trustworthy you can share your opinions/profiles with them seamlessly.
Talk finished. 11:27
Posted: February 18th, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Academia, Global Warming, Shopping, top, Transformational Change, Transportation | No Comments »
What’s the best way to stump one of the greatest minds of the global sustainability movement? Kidnap him and take him to Wal-Mart. That’s what I did last November, when I took Bill Rees—the University of British Columbia professor who coined the term “ecological footprint”–into the belly of the consumer beast. I escorted him into big-box hell, gave him $50 cash, and asked him to shop.
It was a fascinating experiment, because it revealed that the professor is in one sense, just like the rest of us. But in many other senses, he is not. Rees is an intellectual rock-star, wandering alone in a world of Blue Light Specials, and his cart contains peer-reviewed science proving that everthing we have built our dreams around is leading us to “a collapse from which there will be no recovery.” Thank you for shopping. Have a nice day!
Check out my feature profile of Rees, in the March 09 edition of Vancouver magazine:
Web version, from vanmag.com: Rees’s Thesis.
1.6 MB .PDF version of magazine layout: Rees’s Thesis.
Posted: February 12th, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: top, Transportation | Tags: high-speed rail, Transportation | No Comments »
If you believe the soothsayers at The Department of Energy, by about 2020 or so, America’s transportation sector will reach a dubious milestone. At that point it will be kicking out around two billion metric tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide per year.
Or not. There is another option, and President Obama again reaffirmed his support for it today at a town-hall meeting in Fort Meyers, Florida: Electrified high-speed rail, also known as HSR.
“Transportation is not just fixing our old transportation systems,” the president said. “It is also imagining new transportation systems. I would like to see high-speed rail, where it can be constructed.”
The president first pledged his support for HSR in his transportation plan, released a year ago on the campaign trail. “Providing passengers with safe high-speed rail will have significant environmental and metropolitan planning advantages and help diversify our nation’s transportation infrastructure,” he wrote.
They figured that out a long time ago in France, Germany, Spain, and Japan, and many other places, but in this country, there has always been something uncomfortably socialist about the idea. The official excuse was usually that America has too much geography without enough density.
It was more likely, though, that HSR didn’t have a voice inside the beltway, or a sympathetic ear in the White House. With the exception of Amtrak’s troubled Acela Express, for decades the country has shunted the concept onto the national passing track. The notion of comfortable and efficient 200 MPH+ Zephyrs and Flyers has proven a fringe crusade for a handful of academics and visionaries. You’d have about as much luck pitching a National Dirigible Fleet.
At least, until recently. The same day Obama swept to power, California voters passed Proposition 1a, which will establish a 220-mile-per-hour HSR system between Sacramento and San Diego. The state says the network, which it expects will be powered by renewable electricity, will reduce its dependence on foreign oil by more than 12 million barrels per year while heading off the annual release of 5.8 million metric tonnes of CO2.
Meanwhile, Amtrak ridership in the last federal fiscal year increased to 28.7 million, an 11 percent gain over 2007 — marking the sixth straight year of increases and the highest ridership since congress forged the company in 1971. Last fall, President Bush signed a bill that gave the railroad nearly $13 billion in new funding. The legislation encourages development of HSR corridors, and contains $2B in grants for states to establish or enhance service between cities.
There are other encouraging signs that HSR is inching closer to reality in the United States.
“Over the past few months, I have been hearing so much about it — like, ‘We have to do this’ — from places we haven’t heard it from before,” says Richard Harnish, director of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association — a nonprofit that has long worked to knit the region’s cities together with welded steel.
“There are people coming into the conversation who have a lot more oomph behind them, private executives who are tired of taking their pants off to get on an airplane.”
High speed rail is more than just an smart next move that could enhance continental mobility and American competitiveness. It taps into bigger themes: Within a matter of years, petroleum-based travel is expected to become so expensive that only the most affluent members of society will be able to take advantage of it. Americans are entitled to comfortable and efficient continental mobility, with dignity, and they know it.
How might this nation fund such a system? Pulling out of Iraq would help. You could also put a price on carbon, and funnel the revenues into a green infrastructure fund. There are obviously no quick fixes, here — but ever-wider highways and sprawl are not answers.
“We have crossed the tipping point,” says Harnish. “The question is, are we going to continue to dig the hole we are in, or do something to get out of it? Bailing out GM… that is really the wrong approach. We have to start figuring out how to convert our trips to trains and bicycles.”
What might slow HSR? In the early 1990s, Southwest Airlines hired lobbyists to kill a proposed HSR project in Texas. Politically, there’s no way that company, or any other airline, could get away with that today — though short-haul air routes will be impacted the most.
Taiwan’s recently-completed HSR system, while enjoying spectacular growth, is presently strangling domestic carriers: Most air routes between Taipei City and the island’s western cities have been discontinued. The trains are simply easier and more comfortable that the planes, for about the same fare.
It’s inevitable that America will decarbonize its energy sector. But it’s vital that the country begin double-tracking the task by planning an efficient, low-carbon interstate transportation network. The proven technology exists. And we have the leadership to make Interstate 2.0 happen. Let’s do so.
First published on The Huffington Post, February 12 2009.
Posted: February 12th, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Almost Green, Media Coverage, top | No Comments »
Blue Planet Green Living, a greener-living site based over in Iowa, is presently running the transcript of a long-ish two-part interview conducted with me a couple weeks ago. The discussion covers the recession, President Obama, green building, Canada’s tar sands, transformational change, the challenges of living both rural and responsibly, and yes, everyone’s favorite topic, the mixed blessing of artificial turf soccer fields. Check it out.
Bowen Queen ferry photo by Chris Corrigan.
Posted: February 11th, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Agriculture, Culdesactivism, Food, top | Tags: redfife wheat grains backyard small-scale | No Comments »
Making homemade bread has taken on a whole new meaning.
Brock McLeod and Heather Walker will teach you how to start your own wheat field. Even if you live in the heart of the city.
“We want to see a reintroduction of people growing grains for themselves in their backyards,” says McLeod who, together with Walker, has created Island Grains, a new participatory farming project on Vancouver Island.
“If we can start growing wheat locally, if there is enough demand for it, well, that could really help revise the food system.”
The idea is simple: Hand over $65, and McLeod and Walker will lease you a 200-square-foot slice of Makaria Farm, their 10-acre organic spread near the town of Duncan, in the fertile Cowichan Valley. They’ll also give you a grain seed of your choice, seminars with guest experts, and basic infrastructure support, including irrigation and tools. (“Yes, we have a scythe!” notes the website.)
You’ll attend a few guest-expert seminars, plant your crop, then show up for at least three subsequent days — two or more to tend (weed) your plot, and one to harvest and thresh, using a low-tech plywood threshing box and a standard household fan to separate the wheat from the chaff. You’ll leave the program, and your plot, with your own grains — which you can mill into flour as needed at home in your blender or food processor.
That includes your own back yard, which McLeod says offers more potential than you might imagine. Quoting tables provided in Gene Logsdon’s book, Small Scale Grain Raising, McLeod explains that 1,100 square feet — a 10 foot by 109 foot plantation — could produce about 60 pounds of wheat.
“You can probably get about two loaves of bread per pound,” he says, “so that would be up to 120 loaves of bread per harvest.”
That’s two loaves per week for a year. Out of what might presently be a lawn.
“It is a brilliant idea,” says Dan Jason, a longtime food activist and owner of Salt Spring Seeds, who will be supplying the project with red fife wheat, barley and other grain varieties. “It is neat way to introduce people to the whole concept of grain-raising without a lot of land.”
The area’s regional agrologist agrees that small-scale grains make a lot of sense. “It sounds like a really good idea, especially for people to get together and learn from each other,” says Wayne Haddow, who works for the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.
“We have a lot of under-utilized land in smaller lots on Vancouver Island, and grains do store very well,” Haddow adds. “The opportunity is there.”
McLeod and Walker certainly hope so, too. After growing a successful trial crop of red fife and barley last summer — they threshed it by stuffing a pillowcase and hitting it with a shoe — they’re opening their gates to 50 would-be micro-farmers and advisors in the coming season. (“We’re not the experts,” McLeod stresses, “but we’re bringing in the experts.”)
After launching their website on Boxing Day, the couple sold out all 50 of this season’s memberships before the end of January. They are maintaining a wait list.
The couple have come a long way in just a few years.
Two years ago, McLeod, 29, and Walker, 28, were living in a rented Victoria condo and working nice, stable — albeit boring — civil service jobs. Life was good: They ate out a fair bit, enjoyed the city. “But we weren’t really happy,” recalls McLeod.
So one day McLeod said the words that many of us say when we dream of a better, simpler life. “Let’s get a farm.”
The couple took out a mortgage, and in June 2007 bought Makaria. As they figured out what worked and what didn’t, McLeod came across Logsdon’s book.
It proved an epiphany.
“I’d always imagined that growing grains requires acres and acres of prairie just to make it worth your while,” says McLeod. “But Logsdon shows that just 1/40th of an acre — the amount of space taken up by a single-car garage, is enough space to grow the wheat you need to enjoy a loaf of bread every week for a year.”
They cooked up the idea for Island Grains after listening to the Deconstructing Dinner podcast hosted in part by The Tyee. That program documented the Creston Grain CSA Pilot Project, a community supported agriculture program in British Columbia’s southern interior region that last year attracted international attention.
“We figured, if it is doable, and there’s this much interest,” says McLeod, who grew up on an organic farm, “then we would like to do it here and invite other people to join us.”
Their timing proved perfect. Don Jason reports that his customers have been asking for grain seeds in increasing numbers. “Since about October I have been getting so many orders for barley and wheat and spelt; it is phenomenal, every second order is asking for grain.”
“If you do something inspiring,” says Matt Lowe, cofounder of the Creston Grain CSA project, “it creates a chain reaction. I’m glad to hear that what is happening on the island is inspired by what we are doing.”
Originally published in The Tyee on February 11, 2009.
Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Almost Green, Habits, Media Coverage, top | Tags: Economy, FSC, greencollar | No Comments »
British Columbia is about to lose 975 green collar jobs for the next eight weeks— and potentially longer. That’s because the only two industrial-scale Forest Stewardship Council sawmills in British Columbia—the same mills that sliced up the framing lumber for my Eco-Shed (see below)—are about to fall silent.
Tembec, the company in question, is shutting down its Elko and Canal Flats sawmills for two months as of early next week. When you factor in a third plant that will also spool down for the duration, 975 employees will be out of work.
The fact is, you don’t have to be a solar-panel installer to have a green-collar job. These mill workers were processing lumber from just about the only industrial forestlands in all of British Columbia that are truly managed sustainably. The vast majority of the rest are clear-cuts—the standard-issue take-no-prisoners logging strategy that has, over decades, devastated thousands of square miles of ecosystem in this province.
Here’s a snippet from Almost Green that explains why FSC lumber is so important:
In a nutshell, the FSC tree logo does for lumber what the Energy Star label does for appliances and windows—it lets you know you’ve made the greener choice. An FSC stamp guarantees that the wood adheres to a set of ten principles of forest stewardship, including a set of kinder, gentler harvesting practices. FSC-certified foresters work selectively—leaving tracts of trees intact—and pay close attention to issues such as erosion, wildlife habitat, streams, and lakes. The program was set up to protect biodiversity long before greenhouse gas emissions really hit the radar screen, but it certainly advances carbon-conservative practices along the way.
The shutdowns shouldn’t surprise anyone, really: As I note in my book, I only managed to get my hands on the ultra-rare Tembec eco-studs by pure fluke. (It pretty much fell off the back of a truck.) Tembec has shipped almost every stick of the dimensional lumber produced at Elko and Canal flats exclusively into the States—in railcar quantities, and likely to big-box home-improvement chains—and people just aren’t building much of anything down that way these days.
The company has failed spectacularly to market its responsibly harvested lumber here in B.C.—the place where Tembec’s sustainably managed forests grow, the place where the logs are cut up, and the place where the green-collar workers have been punching the clock and making it all work. As I document in the book, none of the local Home Depots and lumber yards I called had even heard of the stuff. Consumers can’t ask for FSC lumber if they don’t even know it’s an option.
Now, it isn’t just the company’s product that is heading south this week, it’s their business, too. A damn shame. Does anyone else see a lesson here?