Social Contagion: What Makes Some Things Catch On

My objective with this blog, with my book Deep Green, and with my low-footprint lifestyle, is to help spark a widespread, enduring craze for low-footprint living. Not just a flash-in-the-pan fad, but an enduring passion. And one that is widespread across geographic regions, segments of society.

In my mission, I rely heavily on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter. Social media have been a great asset to the low-footprint-living movement, as they have to the permaculture design movement and other ecologically oriented movements.

The other day on Facebook, I came across a widely shared post that linked an article about how the late rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle inspired a book club for black men. The Facebook post showed his reading list. (Here is his reading list via Goodreads.com .)

The list is wide-ranging and anyone would do well to embark on it. One of the books that caught my eye was Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger. That book is now tops on my reading list. I plan to order it and read it in the next three days and will get back to you with a post about it.

For now, a few links for you — may they support you in whatever you are setting out to popularize, be it low-footprint living, homeschooling, the greening of your city, or something else wonderful.

Nipsey Hussle Book Club Creates a Space for Black Men (L.A. Times): The rap star was a bookworm, and black men are finding inspiration in his reading list. (Here is his reading list via Goodreads.com .)

“What makes things popular? Word of mouth is 10 times as effective as traditional advertising, but why do people talk about and share certain things rather than others? Why do some products catch on, some ideas diffuse, and some online content go viral?” (from jonahberger.com, regarding his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On)

“In Contagious, Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. … Contagious provides specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and content that people will share.” (from Amazon listing of Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On)

Jonah Berger on YouTube: 6 Reasons Things Go Viral (he has numerous other videos as well, including what looks like a 40-minute TED talk or TED-like talk)

Love, Art, Storytelling

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” ~ Elie Wiesel

“What, exactly, does a survivable future look and feel like? And why have we so far proved unwilling to adapt our lifestyles and demand the policies that are needed to achieve it? … An ambitious new project in Sweden is … developing an unexpected tool that could enable the public to grasp the practical steps that would lead to more sustainable societies: storytelling. Telling tales might seem an odd priority in a fast-transforming climate but … [Chief Storyteller Per] Grankvist insisted that such an approach was vital, for the simple reason that facts alone are not something people engage with.” (Gratitude to grist.org for reproducing this exhilarating CityLab story as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.)

The “storytelling” initiative in Sweden is such a wonderful synchronicity for me. Over the past year or so, I have felt intuitively drawn to invest a considerable amount of love and energy in writing a fiction story (a novel) that revolves around themes of permaculture, low-footprint living, resilience (personal, social, ecological). The story has a strong comic element which I did not initially set out to create, but which lends a nice balance to the seriousness of the themes. The rough draft is finished and I plan to self-publish the novel later this year. Stay tuned for announcements!

Saving, Restoring Coral Reefs

Even widespread, seemingly hopeless global issues have a component we can address with our personal habits. My old rallying cry from my days as an angry eco protester, “Look in the Mirror!” (abbreviated LITM, or sometimes in my extra-emphatic moments LITFM) turns from an eco-chide into an opportunity.

One example: the coral-reef crisis.

The following list of links starts with articles about the problem, then you get some articles about solutions being implemented on different levels. And finally, the last two articles suggest choices you can make in your everyday life to help protect coral reefs and even contribute to their restoration.

Enjoy! And thanks always for being on this journey with me, to protect our amazing planet and all the creatures with whom we share it.

State of the Planet: Losing Our Coral Reefs (by Renee Cho, on Columbia University blog). “Coral reefs, the ‘rainforests of the sea,’ are some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on earth. … If we continue with business as usual, 90 percent of coral reefs will be in danger by 2030, and nearly all of them by 2050.” Excellent article, includes good background info on “What is coral?”

Plastic trash is sickening the world’s coral reefs (nature.com) While plastic trash is only one of numerous human-induced threats to coral reefs, it is significant, and it’s one we can all work on. By the way, there are natural threats to coral reefs also (such as predatory starfish, and El Niño), but that’s no reason not to do the many things that are in our power to help the situation.

‘Iconic’ Florida Keys Primed for $100 million restoration (Tampa Bay Times)

Grassroots divers known as ‘gardeners’ are trying to save coral reefs (Metro News UK)

Mini Reefs Filter Water, Attract Fish (WPTV.com) – mini reefs that retail for a mere $300 are reportedly increasing numbers of fish and other marine life. Any growth in those populations is good news for coral reefs, since the reefs depend on fish and other creatures for their survival.

Five Common Causes of Coral Reef Destruction (LeisurePro.com)

How To Protect Coral Reefs – 14 Steps (Wikihow) – Things you can do to make a difference, from reducing single-use-plastics to being mindful about where you buy pet fish. (I never knew “fishing with cyanide” was a thing. Yikes!) I learned some new things from this article.

My Newest Wall Art: Decor with Function

Here’s a corner of my living room. The little “painting” on the wall is actually just a piece of cloth covering a thermostat. Here’s the story …

I have a wall-mounted electronic thermostat I’m not using. (I don’t use air-conditioning because I don’t like being shut in from nature; and I don’t use heat either, we don’t really need heat in my part of Florida.)

The electronic thingee is small but still not pretty, and I wanted to find a way to pretty it up rather than have to rip it out of the wall. (I plan to live the rest of my life in this house – but in case I ever do have to sell it, the central climate-control system is all intact, except the new owner would have to buy a new a/c compressor because I got rid of that large outdoor object to make room for a birdbath.)

So, I used the little thermostat box as a base for a “painting” — which I made by wrapping an old piece of silk (which I had been using as a paintbrush-wipe cloth) around the box and tying it with twine. I enjoy the effect! And I can change out the “painting” to a different one anytime!

Happy New Year everyone! I think 2020 is going to be a great year for eco consciousness and compassion.

#ZeroWasteInteriorDesign #ArtOfLowFootprintLiving

BTW I just now posted this same post on the Journey To Zero-Waste Facebook group, but I’ve added the teeniest bit of extra content here for you my dear readers. Love you and thanks for being here with me in the #GrassrootsGreenMobilization! “Our chief weapon is joy…joy and style…style and joy…. Our two weapons are joy and style…and ruthless energy-efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are joy, style, and ruthless energy-efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Goddess of Thrift…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as joy, style…. I’ll come in again.”

(And if you get that reference, I love you even more, and I have an extra special bonus New Year’s Eve prezzy for you. Here you go. You’re ever so welcome.)

Pet Poop Solutions

Someone in the Journey to Zero-Waste group asked about eco-friendly ways to deal with indoor cats’ poop. (By the way, as of this writing, the J2ZW group now has over 114,000 members, in countries all over the world.)

From other members’ responses, I learned about two options:

1) the LitterKwitter, a potty training system designed for training cats to use a regular toilet. I had previously heard tell of a select few highly advanced felines who used their humans’ toilet, but this was the first time I had heard of an actual potty training device.

2) EnsoPet, an in-ground pet-waste composting box that utilizes bokashi (anaerobic decomposition process).

The EnsoPet can handle dog poop also, as well as other pet poop including rabbit and guinea pig.

I googled and found other in-ground dog-poop composters as well. One is the Doggie Dooley from chewy.com. Enzyme tablets and water are added to the poop to break it down.

Given that people are becoming familiar with compost in the context of Fluffy and Fido’s poo, is it unreasonable to hope that mainstream acceptance of humanure composting will not be far behind?

The Power of Native Plants

When I was first getting into permaculture (the design of human environments that provide a net benefit to ecosystems, as opposed to taking more than they give back), I didn’t think much about native plants; I was more focused on growing food for humans.

In recent years, though, I have repeatedly run up against the reality that native plants are incredibly important. Indeed, without them, we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. Here is a short list of their benefits:

food and habitat for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators

stormwater absorption

uptake/filtration of nutrients that would otherwise run off into waterways, causing pollution

erosion control

food and habitat for wild animals

Now, plants other than native plants can provide most of these benefits (such as stormwater mitigation and nutrient uptake/filtration) also. The only problem is that if we don’t preserve native plants in each region, we risk depriving pollinators of essential food and habitat. Furthermore, unlike natives, nonnative plants can be invasive, taking over a habitat and crowding out the native species.

If you want to learn more about native plants, and connect with people who value them, I suggest attending a meeting of your local native plant society. The North American Native Plant Society offers a list of native plant societies in the USA and Canada. I have become a regular at my local native-plant group, the Pawpaw Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. I’m learning a lot, and am making connections with people who are working on major essential tasks such as wildlife habitat preservation and watershed protection/rehabilitation.

At one recent meeting, the guest speaker was the founder of Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company, which produces tea from the Yaupon holly, a Florida native plant that is a natural source of caffeine. (I think of yaupon tea as North American yerba mate!) In the course of producing its product, Yaupon Brothers is also providing regenerative livelihoods to local people, caring for nature, and respecting native culture. Everybody wins!

I hope you find a native plant society near you. And if there’s not a group near you, maybe you could start one.

A big part of my yard is now covered with native wildflowers and native grasses. I recently posted to my YouTube channel a “Deep Green Minute” dedicated to the Gaillardia (Blanket Flower), one of my favorite wildflowers native to my region. Along with this striking orange-and-yellow flower, the minute-long video shows other native plants, and a ladybug pupa. Go here to enjoy! (By the way, my channel now has about 40 videos but they don’t all seem to show up on the list; only a very few of them are showing up on the list right now — sorry about that. Not sure what’s up with that! Or maybe you can see them all on your end, I don’t know. If you figure out anything do me a favor and drop me a line; I am not always able to troubleshoot this kind of thing by myself.)

And here’s another YouTube channel you might enjoy: Halifax River Urban Watershed Initiative. On this channel, Dr. J Cho, who I met when she came to speak at our native plant society (on the topic of using native plants for stormwater mitigation), is making videos highlighting various people in our area who are helping to protect our watershed in some way. Examples include a restaurant that is composting its kitchen scraps rather than sending them to landfill; and a local group that extends recognition to local businesses that are voluntarily cutting back on single-use plastics. Check out Dr. Cho’s YouTube channel here.

What’s great is that you too can create a YouTube channel highlighting people and projects in your area that are making a difference. Got a phone? Go out, find something you want to boost, video it. You could even do this as a project with your kids.

And I will end this post with a nice reading tidbit for you, from one of my favorite writers on mindfulness and spirituality: Finding Nature in Your Neighborhood, by Madisyn Taylor at DailyOm.com.

A Good Kind of Messiness

When I walked down the block to fetch some more of the oak logs from curbside where a tree had been chopped down, I saw the most glorious sight: A bunch of young kids riding around on what were obviously brand-new scooters and bicycles. This used to be such a normal sight when I was growing up: kids of assorted ages engaged in unstructured play. A couple of adults were sitting on a nearby porch, but they were engaged in their own conversation while casually keeping an eye on the kids. This sight is not so normal anymore, which is why it struck me.

Strewn on the lawn of the big corner lot were an equal number of other new toys — balls, other scooters and bikes.

What beautiful chaos!

And earlier today on my Facebook feed I ran across this quote: “”One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” (Andy Rooney, American writer, producer, humorist; born 1919, died 2011.)

I’m a big one for clean-as-you-go cooking; desk decluttering; constant easy tidying-up. But some kinds of messy are just beautiful, and worth allowing to sit for a bit while fun is in progress.

Merry Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas. I’m finding more ways to celebrate it, such as slowing down and noticing wonderful stuff I used to take for granted.

Further Reading:

A New Movement Is Working To Get Kids To Play Outside Again (earth.com)

25 Best U.S. Cities for Kids to Play Outside (fatherly.com) – If your place isn’t on this list, maybe the article will give you some tips for creating more of a play-friendly environment in your town or neighborhood.