Community Challenges To Going Solar

Farmer Norm Welker on his land in Starke county, Indiana, where a solar power field is being constructed. Photograph: Taylor Glascock/The Guardian

Our thanks to Oliver Milman, as ever, and the Guardian, as always, for this story from the front lines of getting it done in spite of opposition:

One of Connie Ehrlich’s anti-solar billboards in Winamac, Indiana. Photograph: Taylor Glascock/The Guardian

‘It’s got nasty’: the battle to build the US’s biggest solar power farm

A community turns on itself over the aptly named Mammoth solar project, a planned $1.5bn power field nearly the size of Manhattan

When proposals for the largest solar plant ever conceived for US soil started to gather pace – a plan that involves spearing several million solar panels into the flat farmland of northern Indiana – something in Connie Ehrlich seems to have snapped. Continue reading

Youth & Perspective

It should not be this difficult to change viewpoints on an existential topic. But apparently it is. If it requires a new social media platform, and watching a few short, catchy videos, so be it:

A growing chorus of young people is focusing on climate solutions. “‘It’s too late’ means ‘I don’t have to do anything, and the responsibility is off me.’”

Alaina Wood is well aware that, planetarily speaking, things aren’t looking so great. She’s read the dire climate reports, tracked cataclysmic weather events and gone through more than a few dark nights of the soul. Continue reading

Sociology As A Moderator Of Economics

Zeynep Tufekci speaking at a conference in Munich. “I’ve just been struck by how right she has been,” said a Harvard epidemiologist. Credit: Felix Hörhager/Picture Alliance

By the time Zeynep Tufekci appeared in our pages last year I had been reading her analytical essays and op-eds for a while, and found her perspective on technology consistently clarifying. My instinctive apprehension about social media, which I could not explain, combined with my vague optimism about technology more broadly, which I also could not explain–found something to orient with in her writings. Now she makes an appearance through the lens of a keen observer of our media. What is keen about the observation is the attention to the sociological foundations of her perspective. With all that economics has done, for better and for worse, the influence of that dismal science has been ascendent for much of the modern era. Sociology has never had the prestige or influence in the USA that the field of economics has, and this profile hints at what this may have cost us:

How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right

Dr. Tufekci, a computer programmer who became a sociologist, sounded an early alarm on the need for protective masks. It wasn’t the first time she was right about something big.

Dr. Tufekci at a 2017 conference in Gothenburg, Sweden. Credit:Julia Reinhart/ Getty Images

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Americans in January that they didn’t need to wear masks, Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar, a professor at the Mayo Clinic and the editor of the Blood Cancer Journal, couldn’t believe his ears.

But he kept silent until Zeynep Tufekci (pronounced ZAY-nep too-FEK-chee), a sociologist he had met on Twitter, wrote that the C.D.C. had blundered by saying protective face coverings should be worn by health workers but not ordinary people. Continue reading

Listen To Workers, Especially On This Topic


Amazon workers lead a walk out to demand that leaders take action on climate change in September. Photograph: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

We hope someone in the upper ranks of Amazon is listening:

Hundreds of workers defy Amazon rules to protest company’s climate failures

Employees ‘needed to stand up for what’s right’ despite policy barring workers from speaking about business

Hundreds of Amazon employees defied corporate policy to publicly criticize the company for failing to meet its “moral responsibility” in the climate crisis.

More than 340 tech workers at Amazon used the hashtag #AMZNSpeakOut in public statements that condemn the company for not taking sufficient action on the climate crisis. Continue reading

You’ve Seen Bird Cams – How About a Salmon Cam?

Resolution is low, probably due to poor internet where the fish is and where I am, but you can see a coho, just like they say you might when watching the cam!

Resolution is low, probably due to poor internet where the fish is and where I am, but you can see a coho, just like they say you might when watching the cam!

We’ve shared various of the “bird cam” projects here before: websites, often run by universities like Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, that host a live-streaming video of a nest somewhere so that people around the world with internet can tune in to the parent or chicks’ activities at any time of day. In some circles, similar videos of cats are also available. Now, not necessarily for the first time but at least the first I’ve heard of personally, there’s a live-streaming site of a real-life stream owned by The Nature Conservancy (I’m surprised their blog writers didn’t pun their way into that one). Matt Miller and Chris Babcock write about the new Salmon Cam:

Welcome to Salmon Cam, where you can enjoy the underwater happenings of a California salmon river throughout the day, on your computer or device.

The Salmon Cam is located in a tributary creek on The Nature Conservancy’s Shasta Big Springs Ranch. The camera is powered on in daylight hours (currently between 7 am and 7 pm Pacific time). Throughout the season, it will provide a view of migrating Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Continue reading

We Are Not Sure We Could Have Said It Any Better (But We Will Keep Trying)


More than one contributor to Raxa Collective saw the original New York theatrical production of John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation; we agree that the underlying conceit never gets old. We get it. We love it. And we play our own version of the six degrees game every time we post on this blog, or on any of our various other social networks. We are not in the habit of passing along the advertising of hotel companies, and this is not likely the beginning of a habit; but why not share a good ad when we see it?

Thank You, Oxfam International

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The Oxfam International campaign Behind the Brands aims to address how little is known about supply chains of the top 10 largest food and beverage companies. Listening to the NPR Salt Chat provides a good explanation about how pushing for transparency from these big companies is a catalyst for on-the-ground change. The campaign has only been around for a year and a half and they’ve already seen great progress in terms of land rights for local community, government intervention, and women’s rights.

It’s not always easy to connect the dots between the food we consume and the people who grow it, or the impact of growing and processing that food on the health of our planet.

But a campaign called Behind the Brands, led by Oxfam International, an advocacy organization dedicated to fighting poverty, is trying to make the inner workings of the 10 biggest food companies in the world more visible…

We sat down to talk with Chris Jochnick, one of the architects of this campaign and Oxfam America’s director of private sector development. We touched on how social media is giving activists more power, why big food companies respond to pressure, and whether corporate executives are his friends or his enemies.

We also wanted to know: Will the promises that these companies make really translate into concrete changes on, say, cocoa farms in West Africa?

Continue reading

Fair Use In The Ever-Modernizing World

We have no doubt, as we post our several items a day on this blog, that we should credit photographs, writing and all other content whether original to our own contributors, linked to a third party website, or whatever the case may be.  But we admit sometimes there are borderline cases where we learn by trial and error what the rules of fair use are.  We appreciate all learning opportunities on this topic. Click the banner to the left to go to the magazine’s website Technology section, where this article illuminates the shadowy borders of fair use, with a story about two remarkable young entrepreneurs and the ethical, if not legal, issues they face in building traffic over the internet:

There is a new ubiquitous media brand on Twitter.

No, I’m not talking about Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media or BuzzFeed or The Verge, or any other investor-backed startup.

I’m talking about @HistoryInPics, which, as I discovered, is run by two teenagers: Xavier Di Petta, 17, who lives in a small Australian town two hours north of Melbourne, and Kyle Cameron, 19, a student in Hawaii. Continue reading

Science Journalism And The Dynamics Of Democratizing Commentary

Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images

Lovely, thoughtful, radical stuff happening over at this old school publication as it navigates the new world of social media (click the image above to go to the source):

Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at, we’re shutting them off.

It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter. Continue reading

WED 2013: Food for Thought

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.

From left: Allegra Marzarte, Lu Li, Martin Bawden,  Raphaëlle De Gagné, Ashley Ostridge

From left: Allegra Marzarte, Lu Li, Martin Bawden, Raphaëlle De Gagné, Ashley Ostridge

Tomorrow is World Environment Day. A United Nations Environmental Programme initiative, WED is annually celebrated on June 5th in an effort to increase environmental awareness and positive environmental action. This year the theme is food wastage, with the motto: Think, Eat, Save. A recent report by the UNEP  concluded that every year, roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — never makes it to from farm to table.

While one may imagine that most food wasted is a result of the actions of individuals in developed countries, this is not the case. Many developing countries, including India, also have an enormous food waste crisis. Specifically, while India is 2nd in the world in food production, as much as 20 to 40 percent of the food grown spoils before reaching consumers.

Here at Raxa Collective we have several initiatives to both alleviate food wastage and help both the local community and the environment. Continue reading

Fighting Fire With Fire

This isn’t the first time we’ve applauded local libraries taking a stand to protect their place in public service. But the particular example above is prime in terms collective action lassoing social media.  Kudos to Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide agency for campaigning the hoax, and hurray for yet another library with the backbone to publicly roar.

Troy Public Library would close for good unless voters approved a tax increase. With little money, six weeks until the election, facing a well organized anti-tax group who’d managed to get two previous library-saving tax increases to fail, we had to be bold. We posed as a clandestine group who urged people to vote to close the library so they could have a book burning party. Public outcry over the idea drowned out the anti-tax opposition and created a ground-swell of support for the library, which won by a landslide.


Note To Maggie

August 14, 2012

Dear Maggie,

We got so busy that we neglected to notice your work and its wonderful home until just now.  I may have heard someone say boingboing before, but I did not know what it meant.  Now I have one data point to help me understand it.  It looks in spirit and even in content much akin to our own style and interests on this site.

If work brings you to India, or any of the other locations where you see contributors on this site, please let us know.

Regards from Kerala,


p.s. we like your other site too. Continue reading

Understanding Social

It is not every day that a publication comes out of left field into your life and illuminates something so interesting and important.  Take a look at this article in the Columbia Journalism Review.  The issues are huge.  The characters are a mix of the usual suspects and the unusual innovators:

Jonah Peretti was 29 and had already earned a reputation as something of a wise guy. He had been a technology teacher at a New Orleans private school when he was admitted to a graduate program at MIT. His plan was to study ways networks might foster communication among teachers, but got sidetracked midway through his master’s thesis. In 2000, Nike was inviting customers to create footwear with personalized wording. The company had been criticized widely for selling sneakers made by desperately poor people in impoverished countries. Peretti, tall, skinny and bespectacled, submitted his request: He wanted his sneakers emblazoned with the word SWEATSHOP. Nike declined. At which point, Peretti did a clever thing: he e-mailed.

“I Will!”

What began as a WWF Australia project to focus public attention on climate change has turned into an international movement that has become the largest voluntary action ever witnessed, reaching 1.3 billion people across the globe.

In the best possible way the movement has gone viral, expanding exponentially, bringing people together in a celebratory atmosphere that represents the power of social media and a good idea. Continue reading

Travel, Writing & Games

This series has always been worth reading, whether you are an American looking through the eyes of a fellow American, or otherwise intrigued by a niche of American perspective that is not quite representative of that culture as a whole.

First things first: sometimes a book, a music recording or other item is only available from the mainstream online retailers such as Amazon or iTunes, but whenever possible we promote the purchase from independent sellers.  So click the image to the right if you want a link to independent booksellers in the USA, provided by the ever-entrepreneurial American Booksellers Association.

Now, the side show: the series editor Jason Wilson is also a contributor to a site we refer to on occasion, and he wrote an interesting item a couple of years ago that began:

Continue reading

USA Refresher

Before there was social media as we know it today, there was social media.  Social reformers and thinkers of all varieties have centuries of experience not just using the tools of social media, but utilizing them.  Leveraging them.  August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. was one of the days when the USA experienced a moment of truth, and when social media included word of mouth, television/radio simulcast and later replay.

This is the day when the man who spoke longest on that day is remembered officially.  One minute into the above video he begins speaking, but the memory is affected, no matter how many times one has seen, heard or read these words, most when that man talks about his hopes for the future of a country that had a history of injustice, but also a history of reform, change, improvement. Continue reading

Revisiting The Tiger Trail

When I send emails to friends, colleagues, and others about this website, and the objectives of Raxa Collective, I normally add links to a few posts that I think are representative.

Almost always, this one is included.  Michael captured the moment well.

As we continue adding contributors to this site, and the diversity of topics and locations we pay attention to expands, for some reason I still come back to the Tiger Trail as a favored topic because it is such a good example of what we care about.

That tendency to return, at least in thought, led me to reconnect with a “lost” member of our Tiger Trail entourage. Continue reading

Can Your Horoscope Do This?

Living in India has really highlighted the cultural differences of things that I have often taken for granted.  How we meet our future spouses is most definitely a case in point.

My culture certainly has its fair share of well meaning friends, relatives and co-workers who have the “perfect person” in mind for someone to spend their lives with.  Even if one doesn’t wish to avail themselves of this advice, it is often persistently given.  Barring that, people meet frequently at school, parties, conferences, libraries, sporting events, airports…the list is endless, and one has to wonder at the statistics of how frequently those serendipitous meetings lead to long term relationships.

In Kerala (and I believe the rest of India as well) there is still a tradition of family involvement in the choice of life partner. Historically there was always an “auntie” (the catch-all name for an older, married woman) who has just the right match for young men and women of their acquaintance.  But times are changing and computers and the internet have taken a role in this process, whether it be “on line dating” in the Western world, or “matrimonial sites” here.

I was recently shown a “print out” from an on line matrimonial site based in Kerala.   Continue reading

When Wheels Start Turning

“180+ countries. 2000+ events. A single day to move beyond fossil fuels.”

Even if you missed one of‘s September 24th Moving Planet events, the goals of reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is a 365 days per year project.

Whether its with Climate Ride in California, Clif 2 Mile Challenge in your neighborhood, or the Great Power Race in 2010, there have been many ways to get involved in this global call to action.

365 Days a year; 40,075.16 km around the globe; cast of thousands; cost? Priceless.  

Get Moving!