This wiki profile part of our green wiki series.

energypedia is one of the handful of ongoing, very active sustainability wikis. Benjamin Rebenich of energypedia describes their wiki project for us:

From an energy perspective, the world is facing two seemingly contradicting problems. On the one hand, CO2 emissions continue to rise, especially in transition countries like China and India. On the other hand, there are still many regions suffering from extreme energy poverty. For example, the electrification rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is below 25%. We at energypedia believe that we can tackle this challenge of combating climate change while achieving universal access to modern energy by promoting renewable energy solutions in industrial and especially in developing countries. Offering free access to up to date information is our contribution to a better and cleaner future.

Energypedia – Connecting Knowledge

Energypedia logo

There are many projects fighting against climate change and energy poverty. However, there is still a huge lack of information and knowledge exchange between those efforts resulting in the disappearance of important information and experiences collected by individuals and institutions. Energypedia tries to fill this gap, connecting knowledge by offering an open wiki platform where everyone can benefit from the experiences of the global society by reading, writing, and revising articles on technologies and approaches related to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

We not only want to foster worldwide social and economic development by removing knowledge and communication barriers, but we also intend to connect people. By bringing energy experts, universities, civil society, as well as the public and private sector together, theoretical knowledge can benefit from the lessons learnt by practitioners and vice versa to catalyze innovative sustainable energy technologies and services. Therefore, energypedia not only offers editable wiki articles but also social media features like a newsblog, an event calendar, and an internal messaging system.

The symbolism of Earth Hour

Light a candle to reduce fossil fuel consumption! Wait a minute, what are those candles made from…?
Light a candle to reduce fuel consumption...?

In late 2011, Todd Sampson, CEO of the advertising agency behind Earth Hour, presented at a conference I attended, and he was engaging and inspiring. I’d always been skeptical of Earth Hour (wouldn’t a better action be to sign up for green energy with your power company?) But his presentation helped me be much more sympathetic: lights being turned off around the world is a grand symbolic action, and the sense that we connect with others around the world by taking part in this action is an inspiring, goose bump inducing feeling – at least while a gifted orator shared his described it from the stage accompanied by a beautiful slideshow.

It was a challenging audience, though, not your average sustainability conference, nor a marketing or managing conference – this was an audience of engineers. While younger engineers I spoke with were mostly positive about the presentation, and Earth Hour, but I found that older engineers in attendance were skeptical or ambivalent. One head of an engineering relief agency, not out of his 20’s but already skeptical enough, confessed privately: “I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, and I resented him for it, because I knew it was marketing.”

For all our skepticism, though, I felt the emotional power of the symbolism, and I was struck that an advertising agency had done what it knew how to do, done it well, and inspired a grand gesture.

So I’m inspired… not to be less skeptical, as skepticism keeps us from folly. Not to be less practical, as symbolism is nothing without action. Rather, I’m inspired to be appreciative of the roles of others in our “ecosystem” of sustainable action.

And when I see someone doing X rather than Y (when Y is something far more important in my view), it’s a reminder for me to ask if Y is my role. I can’t do what an advertising agency can do, and I can’t expect an ad agency to do what I can do as an engineer (or a teacher, or business manager, or community member, or communicator, or gardener, or scientist… insert your role here). But we can look for ways to work together, to do what we must in facing our challenges.

Earth Hour’s challenge is no longer to connect people; the challenge is to offer a reason to connect. Any movement of change begins with symbolism – it’s a needed step to prove enough people care about an issue. – Earth Hour co-founder Andy Ridley