Is Online Collaboration Making Green Inroads?

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In 1985, Mary Porter and Alan Isaacs (below) launched a dating service to connect progressive-minded singles in the environmental, vegetarian and animal rights communities. GreenSingles boasts it has matched thousands of globally-conscious members who share  common values and interests.

“Relationships are hard enough, but they are made easier if you share common interests and values, when you ‘speak the same language,’ and when you are moving in the same direction,” Isaacs tells me.

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Now, 25 years after the singles network was hatched, it’s not just lonely hearts reaching out  for a green connection, but eco minded beings everywhere, through the expedient vehicles of social and ecopolitical networking. They are seeking  knowledge, friendship,  support and action to make a difference.

The Copenhagen Climate Summit showed us setting limits to protect our quality of life on the planet rests in our own hands, not in the hands of the man. Indeed, if the post-Woodstock generation has learned anything it is that real change comes through bucking the corporate stronghold through revolution. It appears a green one is afoot, even if it’s a communication revolution, bonding eco friendly cells one link at a time.

“The connecting and the collaboration can be fueled online but it is only essential if people disconnect from their computer and cell phone screens and take our cause to their neighbors, the streets and city halls,” says Marnie Glickman, founder of Green Change, an online organization building the green movement for peace, justice and democracy.

Glickman doesn’t believe virtual lawn signs make a big difference for the green revolution, and argues she must prioritize her online organizing to effect the kind of change that can save the world.

“One thing we are doing is getting people to consider running for office or to identify good leaders in their communities,” she explains. “We call those who are identified, meet with them and tell them one way we can stop global warming is to replace the bozos who aren’t doing much work themselves.”

Is online green collaborating making inroads for saving the planet’s resources?

“Networking between grassroots organizations, I think, has made them far more effective in sharing best practices and lobbying for change,” observes Keith Gilless, Dean of the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. “Clearly, if people weren’t getting something out of it, they wouldn’t be putting so much into it. The hard part is the same with any search engine; how do you not drown?”

It’s a provocative question, considering the seemingly endless number of entities residing in the great, green abyss. They include social services like Twitter, Myspace , LinkedIn and Facebook as well as political action sites such as World Coolers and Make it Right.

You can befriend and follow any and every green address registered online, an enormous and often exhaustive investment of time for those truly committed to the cause.

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Domains like Cooltribe allow for the exchange of ideas, while emerging eco media, such as our own EcoSalon, cover news and trends in areas from wellness to the three R’s of reducing, reusing and recycling. There is a wealth of home improvement industry links, grassroots water and animal protection groups, fair trade vendors, college campus activists, regional farmers markets, green moms, fashionistas, biodiesel fuel resources, hippies sharing winter solstice rituals – even celebs like Brad Pitt, Daryl Hannah and Adrian Grenier.

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Gilless, who has seen the College of Natural Resources triple in size at Berkeley since he first started there 26 years ago, admittedly went kicking and screaming into cyberspace, but now like many of his generation, finds it to be indispensable in educating the school’s 1900 environmental studies undergrads and 400 graduate students.

“We make extensive use of the web in teaching now, if only because it is so much cheaper than photocopying, and from the standpoint of the environment, a lot better than photocopying,” says the dean, who set up a site for connecting students, faculty and alumni this year and watched it spread like wildfire. “In terms of delivering materials and accessing scientific literature, it is very important. ”

But as with most movements, a green revolution comes down to relationship building, something the prophetic founders of Green Singles sensed back in ’85 with the idealized notion that love is the answer. Find a mate who cares as much as you do and team up for action.

“There is strength in numbers,” says matchmaker Isaacs. “We need to show a united front in order to save the planet.”

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.