The central activity of the internet has become eliminating trash

At some point, the central activity of online communication shifted from seeking to eliminating. 

This is something I realized much later than I would have liked, but is fast becoming my grand unifying principle of networked life. It basically goes, when the internet was a new and wonderful place, it unlocked paths of communication, so its power was in what it could provide that was not previously there, or was only there through very limited avenues.

Today, the central feature of the internet is that everything is there, all the time, provided and consumed by everyone. That overabundance is not only abused for nefarious purposes, it’s simply, logistically unsustainable. There is so much information beaming out at us that if we're not careful we become effectively snow-blind. 

So the central task of anyone seeking to consume information online in any kind of useful way is no longer to hunt things down; it’s to constantly eliminate as much as possible. To clear away sticky, screaming tidal waves of trash. 

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It's Time for Funders to Bankroll Climate Movement Building

The response to Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement was swift and encouraging. Hundreds of mayors, at least 10 states, and scores of businesses and universities issued statements or signed pledges to continue progress on climate change, with or without the federal government.

On the philanthropic front, Mike Bloomberg (who also serves as U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change) took a lead role in committing many of these parties to maintaining U.S. climate leadership. Bloomberg Philanthropies also pledged up to $15 million to the U.N. body that oversees implementation of the agreement to cover a portion of the operations costs the U.S. would have paid. Foundations like MacArthur, Hewlett, Rockefeller, McKnight, and Goldman foundations all made statements with varying degrees of disappointment, regret and condemnation.

We should celebrate their actions and draw hope from the fact that so many are willing to defy such a reckless decision by the president and the GOP. But Trump’s decision, and the political landscape that allowed it, reveal a larger problem—the American public is just not all that concerned about climate change. For example, a recent Gallup poll on the "Most Important Problems" facing the country found that environmental issues ranked 15th among non-economic concerns. Other polling has found the same thing, even as Americans report supporting the Paris Agreement. If the mass public doesn't care urgently about climate change, why should we expect our political leaders to care?

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

A Funding Effort to Build a Stronger, More Diverse Climate Movement

Getting the United States to take meaningful action on climate change means building a lot more power, starting in communities where people are most vulnerable, and then building local momentum into state and national solutions.

That’s the philosophy of Roger Kim, and the Climate Fund he’s been overseeing at the Democracy Alliance since last year. The DA formed the Climate Fund in late 2015, pooling money from foundations and donors to back local groups organizing around climate, particularly among the most impacted communities, low-income communities, and people of color.

It’s not an approach that overall environmental philanthropy has excelled at—green giving has a track record of underfunding smaller grassroots organizations and justice and equity work—but Kim and the Democracy Alliance are trying to close that gap. I talked with Kim about where the fund is headed, and why the DA chose this route. It’s a moral decision, building power and leadership in vulnerable areas, but it’s also a strategic one.

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

The Troubling Oil Money Behind Dartmouth’s New Energy Institute

To create a new institute focused on society’s pressing energy problems, Dartmouth has accepted $80 million from a powerful oil family surrounded by controversy. Such a gift seriously undermines the credibility of such an institute. When a really good school like Dartmouth College decides to take on the future of energy as a priority for its faculty and students, you would want it to be rigorous and independent—a beacon guiding the way as we grapple with climate change, sustainable development and environmental justice.

And you know what? Dartmouth’s new Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society may very well turn out to do some great work.

But that $80 million, half of the institute’s funding, comes from Irving Oil and the powerful family behind it, which is surrounded by controversies environmental and otherwise. This casts serious doubt over the initiative’s credibility before it has even started.

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

The Prosthetic Eyeball Is a Work of Art

Originally published at TheAtlantic.com. Making a realistic eye takes more than technical skill: an Object Lesson.

The eye is about the size of a quarter, resting gently in Kurt Jahrling’s hand as he adds faint washes of yellow and blue to the white surface. The ocularist has already laid tiny, reddish-pink threads of silk over the surface to mimic the curves of blood vessels, tiny rivers winding from either corner toward the iris. A hazel centerpiece surrounds a black dot meant to mimic the pupil; as the finishing touch, he adds the arcus, a grey ring that hugs the outer edge of some aging irises.

The result is an astoundingly close approximation of the missing right eye of a 63-year-old Bostonian named Kevin. Kevin had his eye surgically removed eight months prior. Today, he’ll wear this tiny piece of acrylic home: an illusion, a practical placeholder, and a little piece of art.

Read the full article at The Atlantic.

Image: Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters

Can Philanthropy Spur the Massive Climate Finance the Developing World Needs?

There’s perhaps no bigger climate-related challenge than the trillions in clean energy and sustainability investments needed in developing countries. How can private philanthropy possibly make a dent? While reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb climate change is a global challenge, in many ways, the energy futures of two countries, China and India, will shape the course of the planet.

India has a goal of bringing energy to more than 300 million people, a quarter of its population that currently lives in the dark. Meanwhile, China is urbanizing at breakneck speed, with its cities expected to house one in eight people on the planet by 2030. That kind of rapid development could translate either to a global expansion of clean energy or hundreds of new coal plants pumping carbon into the atmosphere.

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

'Extremes Are Becoming the Norm.' Why Water is the Next Big Issue For Philanthropy

There’s perhaps no bigger climate-related challenge than the trillions in clean energy and sustainability investments needed in developing countries. How can private philanthropy possibly make a dent?  While reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb climate change is a global challenge, in many ways, the energy futures of two countries, China and India, will shape the course of the planet.

India has a goal of bringing energy to more than 300 million people, a quarter of its population that currently lives in the dark. Meanwhile, China is urbanizing at breakneck speed, with its cities expected to house one in eight people on the planet by 2030. That kind of rapid development could translate either to a global expansion of clean energy or hundreds of new coal plants pumping carbon into the atmosphere.

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.