A few weeks ago I wrote about how over the years I have often come across examples of inspiring local innovations... which I have then realised almost no one outside of the local area knows about. And that as a result of this frustration, a few months ago I launched a new website – www.ivili.org aiming to showcase them all.
What I didn't realise when I did this, and what cheers me up as I search for more examples to talk about every day, is just what a huge number of such inspiring innovations there are out there.
The more I trawl the internet, and most specifically youtube, the more amazing stories I unearth. Yet the trouble with youtube is that, while it grows daily into the largest library the world has ever seen, it's a librarian's nightmare, with its content randomly labelled by millions of people across the world, and often stuck in the wrong place, with the wrong cover and a title that bears little relevance to the content within.
In some ways what I have been doing with ivili.org is tidying up one small corner of that library, and creating a little, but fast growing, bookshelf for sustainable solutions, innovations and ideas.
There's a man in China who has invented a solar water heater by lining his roof with glass bottles. Elsewhere permaculture gardeners are greening the deserts of the Dead Sea. A community tourism project in Thailand is helping villagers rebuild their lives after the tsunami. And a group called The Dinner Garden in the US is offering free seeds to anyone looking to grow food to feed themselves.
I could go on and on. I love that there are solar-powered floating schools in Bangladesh. An alternative currency helping the local traders of Brixton. And the 'Pot-in-Pot' desert fridge that uses no electricity to keep food cool .
These stories give me hope. And they make me wonder why they get so little play in the mainstream media. Sure, there is occasional coverage, such as BBC Worldwide's World Challenge, which each year selects six or so inspiring projects from among a host of nominees to make a programme about and funds the winner to the tune of $10,000.
But what of the many nominated projects they examine that don't make the final cut? Are all of them not worth reporting on, bringing to a wider audience, potentially inspiring others or opening up doors to funding? For the average person home at night after a long day's work, to flick through the channels and find yet another documentary following a beleaguered polar bear as it drifts to oblivion is disempowering.
Learning that there are thousands – maybe even millions – of people all over the world making a difference, and maybe living happier, more fulfilling lives as a result – might that not be a more effective driver to change?
Because there's no doubt that many, many people want to do something. Just look what happened this Saturday (October 24), on The International Day of Climate Action, when people across the world stood up to tell their leaders to act now, and decisively, to do something to avert the climate crisis.
There were some 4000+ events in over 150 countries, co-ordinated or inspired by 350.org, whose name is chosen because that's the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in parts per million we need to get to to avert runaway climate chaos. (And let's remember we're at 390 ppm now. This isn't about slowing down or modifying our course. It's about changing it).
As part of my small bit, a few weeks ago I committed Ivili to having 350 videos of sustainable innovations and ideas up on the site by Saturday. We made it, thanks mainly to the fact that there are so many stories out there waiting to be told. We'll aim for 500 by the end of the year, and next year, to mark 10:10's campaign to get people to reduce their carbon emissions by 10 percent in 2010 we'll try to have at least 1010.
I know they are out there. If anyone would like to help us find them, or tell us about the ones you already know about or are involved with, we'd love to hear.
Jeremy Smith is the founder of www.ivili.org and former editor of the Ecologist. His first book, Clean breaks - 500 new ways to see the world, a guide to some of the most inspiring examples of sustainable travel around the world, is out now. You can reach him through www.ivili.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org