26 Mar 2017

Nine years of aguanomics!

Foz do Iguacu (Aug 2016)
So here we are again, another anniversary of blogging, another year of same-same but different (last year's edition).

I still love it and for the same reasons: I like contemplating and sharing ideas. I like learning from others. I don't care if anybody pays attention in this "attention starved" world, but I love it when readers learn something, email suggestions or questions, and recommend aguanomics :)

From numbers to community

Every year I look at the number of visitors, how long they stay, where they come from, and so on. Google analytics tracks these variables (and many more), but I don't try to manipulate or anticipate them. I'm not sure if these statistics [pdf] reflect actual people or bots (why does this post still get about 1,000 views per day? Maybe I should advertise viagra?), but the annual count of unique visitors has stayed about 50,000 for several years now.

People visit for reasons unlikely to show up in statistics, but visits rise when water is in the news. My ask-me-anything on reddit got over 5,000 upvotes when "drought" was news, but a later one I did on adaptation to climate change only got 48 upvotes. I don't mind this "market test" on my ideas' importance, but I worry when the public (i.e., people unlike you) ignore the climate or water issues affecting their communities. Perhaps those topics can be left to the experts, but I am pretty sure that such delegation is (a) failing where we see so many problems and (b) not resolving an urgent need for  citizens to understand what's going on, what needs to change, and how change might occur.

That's why I'm blogging a lot more about politics and community. In some ways that reflects the greater importance of politics when populists are promising everything (while lacking the capability or even a concern about delivering anything) and communities are under increasing threats from climate, migration pressures, economic uncertainty, and so on. The success of homo sapiens rests on our ability to work together (homo neanderthal had a larger brain and was probably more clever than us, individually). We risk greater suffering and despair when we fail to cooperate or fight with each other.

Besides blogging more on those topics, I also started two projects in the past year that each aim to  help communities help themselves. With the Life Plus 2 Meters project, I have asked authors to offer their visions of a world in which climate change impacts are visible (sea levels are "2 meters higher") and people are adapting -- or not -- to these changes. That project resulted in a fantastic book (free to download or buy paperback/kindle at cost) with "visions" from 27 authors. I plan to ask for donations to support prizes for the best contributions to a second volume in that series next month, so (a) read the book, (b) think of whether or not you have a story to tell (the deadline will be in June) and (c) think about donating to the campaign when it comes. If you want to stay updated on this project, then subscribe to its newsletter.

The second project concerns local communities today. The City Water Project "aims to improve people’s access to clean drinking water by promoting consumption where water is already clean and improving quality where it is not." I am engaged in this project with help from (a changing list of) LUC students. We have made slow but steady progress at understanding public perceptions of water quality and working with local organizers in communities affected by (perceived) water quality problems. This work has taught me how hard it is to get traction with utilities as well as with people "who should care." After a pilot in Den Haag (The Hague), we are launching campaigns in Galway (Ireland), Flint (Michigan), and Toledo (Ohio) -- each one dependent on the abilities and determination of our local partners. If you want to stay updated on this project, then subscribe to its newsletter.

Blogging, teaching and further research

I reversed course 6-months ago from a decision to "blog less, tweet more" as I found that clickbait ecosystem to be ineffective (indeed, it seems to me that Facebook is losing people's attention for its force-feed, ad-driven, hyperfluid spew of "updates"). Although some people may like to get their "news" in tiny bites, I find it easier to communicate in a format that allows as many words as needed (no more!) as well as archives, links, discussion, etc. Although I do not have as much time to blog as I did 7-8 years ago (100+ posts per month!), I still enjoy writing posts that help me (and maybe you) think more clearly.

Although I love blogging, I still have my obligations of teaching and research -- let alone enjoying all that Amsterdam and the Dutch have to offer. I often blog about bits and pieces of those activities, but I cannot (and shouldn't) write about everything. Even so, I hope that you enjoy those occasional updates here (for more, subscribe to my general newsletter). The one thing that I can see "trending" in my life is less of a worry about engaging with every topic or rushing to put out more material. I'm sure that nobody ever "runs out of stuff" at aguanomics, just as I am sure that other people out there are capable of thinking about their own solutions to topics -- especially when those topics are local to them. (Hear that Californians?) That said, I absolutely love learning about new topics, places or ideas, so please do email me when you've got something interesting to share!

Bottom Line: We will always have something to talk about on aguanomics!

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