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Gentle Dismantlings: Letter from the Editors

Gentle Dismantlings Letter from the Editors

A collaborative Branch X DING special issue on the next generation of posthuman feminisms

Calling All the Wild Ones

“We do not live in a simulation—a streamlined world of products, results, experiences, reviews—but rather on a giant rock whose other life-forms operate according to an ancient, oozing, almost chthonic logic. 

Snaking through the mist of the banal everyday is a deep weirdness, a world of flowerings, decompositions, and seepages, of a million crawling things, of spores and lacy fungal filaments, of minerals reacting and things being eaten away—all just on the other side of the chain-link fence.” 

Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, 2019

If there is one word we could use to describe the current task of facing ecological destruction in ways that enable the survival of our species along with the six million others who dwell alongside us, perhaps that word should be redefinition

For in defining ourselves as separate from (and superior to) our more-than-human neighbours—animal and vegetal, machine and algorithmic—as subjects in a world of objects, we drink from the well of “deep, unnamed sadness” that the Native American botanist Prof. Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of when describing species loneliness—a sensation felt deep in the bones, which emerges from the loss of earthly relationship after centuries of ecological domination. 

But what if there is a different way forward? How can we foster a just, equitable and joyful transition through alternative means of kinship and worlding? How can we redefine business-as-usual, not only with regards to how we view ourselves but also the intricate webs of more-than-human connection which make us, us? 

Most importantly of all, how can we gently dismantle the structural forces that prevent us from interacting with each other—and all other life on earth—with care and celebration?

To bring this special issue into being, we invited more-than-human feminisms around the globe, from India to the Bahamas, to join us in uplifting emergent interspecies worlds within this world. We combined forces for the first time—across a magazine for the internet and things1, a magazine for a sustainable internet2, and a critical design studio3—conversing across platforms, cars and cockpits in between the spätis of Berlin and the misty shores of Vancouver.

Behind the scenes of making the zine

Exhausted by the daily inundation of media and hot takes on the inevitability of climate change, we decided to experiment in moving beyond a damage-centered approach to one that was desire-based4.  

In an open call for contributors, we sought far and wide for the wildish happenings that were actively engaged in fostering decolonial, feral, queer, intersectional and ancestral technologies (long evoked by communities on the margins). We invited future activisms rooted in pleasure and joy, and social imaginations that would energise. We received an enthusiastic response from projects, happenings and dream-spaces around the world—abundant evidence that the next generation of posthuman feminisms are already hard at work, reframing ecological, structural and technological forces in ways that make change. 

We are pleased to share the most notable tales in this (very special!) special issue, many of which are still in active emergence. By exchanging notes across alternative ways of being and dwelling alongside, they express the many ways that global injustices (from species extinction to technological accumulation) can be ever-so-gently, yet powerfully, transformed. 

The diverse nourishments of these seven featured pieces are designed to be absorbed like vitamins: metabolized slowly and in your own time, fostering wisdom and inspiration:

We have also included a Gentle Dismantlings zine (below) which expresses how the writings above, while separate entities, can also be combined to build a galaxy of possibilities. The zine can be printed out at home, folded, shared with others, and then unfolded into a poster.

With these assorted tales—wild, nascent, messy, joyful, still being born—we start to make a thousand small cuts into unjust systems—the kind that make good trouble. We honor all those who ‘made a fuss’ before us, and all the fuss yet to be made by those still logging on.

Through them (and through you, dear readers) we invite new worldings to emerge, a mosaic elegantly bound with the care-full weavings of interspecies fellowship and regeneration.


Kit, Julia & Michelle

A zine to print & fold at home

Zine for printing

From the magazine’s illustrator Leofrine Nøv:

These illustrations are rooted in accepting ancient anger and the chaos it brings forward. They call to the spirits of the earth, within the dirt, the rocks and the trees, in the hope of shaking your own spirit out of its shackles. These characters move in kindness through each other, not to please one another, but to serve in truth, to weave community, to complete our histories and salvage our futures. That’s real magic to me. The ostracism of ostracisation.

While reading these articles, I felt their ideas were tied together in an attempt of grasping profound notions of freedom and community we have only been able to imagine. The words of Maya Angelou kept echoing in my body, “You are only free when you realize you belong no place, you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

When I was asked to add the sentence “What does the trouble look like when it comes?” I thought of bright pink and butterflies. The wilderness of a water drop that dismantles the concrete wall. Gentle things that prevail by embracing the dark.

How to fold the zine


This special issue was a real labour of love for all involved, involving many untold hours of imagining and building. We would like to thank the authors for their patience and care, Laura Guzman for masterful copy-editing, and Leofrine Nøv for the beautiful illustrations.

About the Editors

Kit Braybrooke aka Dr KitKat is a transmedia designer – researcher who explores how systems make worlds, and in particular those that invite more-than-human networks to walk together across new terrains. They direct the critical design studio We&Us, which since 2020 has explored co-creation for systems change in Europe, China & Canada.

Julia Kloiber is the Co-Founder of Superrr Lab, a feminist tech think tank. In her work she investigates emerging technologies and future narratives. She is researching how technologies and policies have to be shaped to create just and fair digital futures for all.

Michelle Thorne is working towards a fossil-free internet. She is the Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the Green Web Foundation and co-founder of the Green Screen Coalition for digital rights and climate justice. She served 12 years at the Mozilla Foundation, most recently as Mozilla’s Sustainable Internet Lead. She publishes Branch Magazine.

  1.  Ding is a magazine series exploring feminist futures through poems, essays, articles and illustrations. It’s published by Superrr Lab, a Berlin based non-profit. Contributors include adrienne maree brown, Audrey Tang, Xiaowei Wang, Luiza Prado, Jac sm Kee and many others. ↩︎
  2. Branch Magazine is written by and for people who dream of a sustainable and just internet for all. Contributors include Taeyoon Choi, Ifeoma Ozoma, Superflux, Tega Brain, and Joana Moll. It’s published by the Green Web Foundation and received the Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity. ↩︎
  3. Studio We&Us is a critical design studio run which has explored co-creation for systems change since 2020 alongside public organisations such as V&A Museum, British Council and Counterpoints Arts. ↩︎
  4. From Unangax̂ scholar Eve Tuck: “Desire is […] neither/both/and reproduction and resistance. This is important because it more closely matches the experiences of people who, at different points in a single day, reproduce, resist, are complicit in, rage against, celebrate, throw up hands/ fists/towels, and withdraw and participate in uneven social structures — that is, everybody. Desire fleshes out that which has been hidden or what happens behind our backs. Desire, because it is an assemblage of experiences, ideas, and ideologies, both subversive and dominant, necessarily complicates our understanding of human agency…” (p.420, 2009). ↩︎

Letter from the Editors

Open climate is the meeting of the movements for climate justice and the knowledge commons.  

The co-editors of this issue of Branch Magazine met on a caravan. Inspired by the routes and exchanges of the old trading caravans, we have been traveling at our own time and pace, sometimes alongside each other, sometimes meeting again to rest and reorient. We’ve thought of these moments as our caravanserai

These spaces have been essential for our own personal and professional journeys—to take time to pause and reflect critically, explore nascent ideas and well-thought out ones, to immerse deeply into new contexts and to meet fellow travelers. 

The caravan 

During the pandemic, our caravan moved online. Throughout lockdowns, personal loss, isolated winters and hot summers, we gathered around the glow of our Zoom room and warmed our souls with stories from the road and our hopes and fears of the journey ahead. 

Babitha George, director of the design research studio Quicksand, dialed in from Bangalore and told stories of craft technology and community-centered design. She created Decentralizing Digital, a beautiful design research project done in collaboration with community partners, small-scale farmers in India and local artists. 

Shannon Dosemagen, director of the Open Environmental Data Project, called in from New Orleans and shared her interest in socially situated data. Building on these ideas, she co-authored the article Open Climate Now inviting the open movement to take climate action. 

Michelle Thorne, senior adviser to the Green Web Foundation and editor of Branch, was often facemuted on the calls from her home in Berlin, sometimes pushing a stroller or watching her kid play on a snowy, deserted playground. She was interested in how to build and maintain the knowledge commons in a way that isn’t extractive nor harmful in its emissions and environmental degradation.  

From our conversations, we knew we wanted to hear from others who were also dreaming about sustainable and just futures. We wanted to know: how is sustainable technology tied to community governance, to the knowledge commons and digital sovereignty? What does an internet look like that takes a craft approach—honoring local knowledge, local materials, and sustainable practices. And along this caravan, where are the places that foster an ongoing dialogue about climate justice and the open movement? 

From our rest stop conversations, we realized there is much to unlearn, to reimagine, to regenerate, to build and debate together. So we decided to publish a special issue of Branch magazine to celebrate these topics. 

Open Climate  

The fourth issue of Branch Magazine is dedicated to the theme Open Climate. 

While we are faced with urgent crises, we wanted to acknowledge that solutions may be slow. We wanted to divest from the narratives of disruption and solutionism and make space for embracing slowness and hope. We sought a future that is anchored in a respect for different kinds of knowledge. The stakes are high, and we need stories and narratives that bring us together and include us all. This is the power of openness. 

As we opened a call for proposals for this issue, we invited fellow dreamers and doers to respond to a social imagination that inspires climate action and to share what actions they are taking towards a more just and sustainable internet. 

We wanted to turn away from the daily inundation of hot takes that often privilege doom and despair. We wanted to prioritize initiatives that are community-centered, place-based and contribute to the commons, as we felt strongly that this was imperative for a more just future. We wanted to consider together how we could harness the tools of the open movement and apply them to climate justice and more rapid climate action, while also stewarding the knowledge commons and accounting for its environmental impact.

Proposals arrived in a broad array of formats—video, audio, writing, visual art, physical objects and code—even sensory experiences of climate change. We hosted an online ideas jam with all the contributors and invited them to make a new work for this issue or, in the spirit of free culture, to remix and repurpose existing pieces. We are very grateful to all the contributors for their kindness and passion in this process. 

In this issue you will find explorations of hi-craft rather than hi-tech. You will read about the hope of seed libraries and repair shops. You will learn about the leading open projects on measuring the internet’s carbon emissions and mitigating environmental damage from manufacturing hardware. You will be invited to walk along the rivers of India and to consider a handmade computer. You will be delighted in the alternative computing environments that have always been here: in rural places, among sovereign communities and with people prioritizing sustainability over reckless speed. 

Open Climate is a living, breathing practice. You will find some of its shapes and practitioners here. We hope it sparks connections for your work and that we might join each other on a caravan towards more just and sustainable futures.


When I think of the word enough, I hear the razor blade of my sister’s voice when the dogs keep barking. A command. An admonishment. Enough.

I feel the sliver of nervous anticipation before a new friend comes over and I take stock of the bowls of potato chips on the table and the six-pack of Heineken in the fridge. An accounting ledger. A social tissue. An expression of care. Is there enough?

I remember the taste of bile in my throat as the last day of production approached with 4 scenes left to shoot and a budget too small to keep going beyond that day (and I suppose before that: growing up with standardized tests and essay deadlines and exams closing in on me). A possession. A lack thereof. Not enough, never enough time.

What about enough change, enough progress, enough time? As climate crises continue, exacerbate, intersect in increasingly destructive ways, I ask myself, and climate work more generally: what is enough? Becoming vegetarian and driving EVs and recycling shampoo bottles cannot outpace the rates of extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Moreover, if we were to stop drilling altogether, it might reduce harm in the present moment, but would not be enough to stop destruction from happening. So what is enough?

I grapple with enough because the tensions within this single word are often easier to distill than the bigger questions that arise in the context of the climate crisis. In turn, these distillations offer a seedbed to engage those bigger questions without being overwhelmed by them.

The astonishment of language is that it can inhabit multiple meanings simultaneously, but the crisis of language is its ability to both inhabit and evade a singular definition. Enough can mean a limit being reached, or a fulfillment of sorts, or it can be placed alongside its negative to indicate lack. For me, this word has always produced some level of anxiety: a doubt around the type of productivity I’m dedicating to a day or an essay; or a self-help mantra reflected back on my social media feeds: you are enough. When I finally looked it up, I was surprised to learn that its definition has to do with being satisfied or satiable. It isn’t actually about restriction or limitation at all. The dog has barked to completion; the chips are sufficient. 

To reflect on the origin of this anxiety, it’s helpful for me to articulate the origin of this essay, which started with a metaphor: words are seeds. Each word holds within it a future life and the capacity to imagine something new. If a word is a seed, then everything else becomes soil: the sentence it is placed within, the person who speaks it aloud, the socio-political and cultural landscape wherein they reside. The question ‘what is enough?’ looms for anyone thinking critically about what it means to live within the confining structures of a neoliberal capitalist society. I have heard friends pose this question to themselves in calculating the tradeoff between feeling depleted throughout a work day—throughout every work day for the next five to ten years—so that they can have financial stability for themselves and their family and their dreams later. I’ve been in conversations where this is posed as a hypothetical for the CEOs of Exxon (Darren Woods) or Amazon (Jeff Bezos) or Chase Bank (Jamie Dimon) as it becomes more confusing how someone could possibly justify a new oil rig or gross profit margins when it comes at the expense of our ability to breathe clean air. The answer always feels like a sigh, a disappointment: neoliberal capitalism does not seek to satisfy and is not satiable. It seeks to grow. It seeks to extract. It seeks to sustain itself, no matter the cost.

This scarcity mindset colors the mis/understanding of how we define this word, but more importantly, it obscures the fact that there is more than enough: there is plenty; there is abundance. Being able to construct new narratives requires new language, but it also requires owning the meanings of language we’ve inherited. Words in combination, rooting into each other, have the power to articulate a different future altogether. When we place words alongside each other in surprising patterns, we create new meaning. I suppose this is another way of describing metaphor: metaphor is our bridge to making language more material and owning the language we’ve inherited.

I wanted to learn how to animate this idea of language as a seed—metaphorically, but also literally. Visuals offer meaning when words fall too sharp and also too flat, when even metaphors feel like an exaggeration and an inadequacy. It’s a comfort to be able to turn away from language, even as I write and think about it. As I sit in front of Photoshop, trying to turn words into seeds,  I click on an icon: a series of circles following one another. I haven’t yet learned the software and so am still moving on instinct and curiosity, and so this is how I learn about tweening. Short for in-betweening, it’s a way of speeding up the notoriously slow animation process by taking two frames and overlaying them. The combination of frames makes motion more fluid, more like motion. 

I expand the speech bubble, forcing it to stretch into a shape that looks more like a speech bubble and then shrink it unnaturally to mold it into the shape of a seed. In this process, I start thinking about linguistic tweening. There’s a yearning for new words. Can we use it to build or visualize definitions that feel more true to a word’s actual meaning? “Climate change” becomes “climate crisis” – to mobilize people, to express the urgency of now. Global South becomes Global Majority – to create inclusion where it did not exist before. These progressions in language are significant. 

And also, I have put the letters e and n and o and u and g and h alongside each other so often in the process of writing this essay that the word itself loses its meaning sometimes. Language itself becomes meaningless often, whether in the face of repetition or in moments where words are inadequate. Your house can become engulfed in flames that engulf the only lands you’ve ever called home; your neighbor could die because she cannot afford air conditioning. Language cannot touch the materiality of a wall of fire crashing into your windows or the body’s instinct is to sleep when it is too hot to do anything else. In this light, the language feels like a data point at best, or, at worst, a weapon and violence. The unbearably big questions resurface: Who gets to live? Who gets to live their lives? Who gets to live their lives on their tongues?

Meaning-making happens through language and lived experience alike, but the tension between the two exposes an urge to identify one as more meaningful, in the same way that asking the question what is enough? exposes an impulse to answer it. The impulse towards definition reflects a bigger climate wish: if we answer what enough is, then maybe we have the information that will lead to decisions that can be part of a chain reaction of events that reverse global climate change. But even this kind of thinking misses the mark—widely, embarrassingly so. To answer this question requires a level of knowability we cannot have, an ability to project ourselves into a future where we’ll know exactly what we want and need from one moment to the next, and where it is possible to calibrate it exactly to the wants and needs around us. In other words, it requires the neoliberal capitalist logic that everything is finite and therefore we can make carefully laid out, rational decisions without any variability (except for competition).

In the process of writing and animating this piece, I find myself repeatedly trying to hone in on definitions, experiment with mediums that might better encompass what I’m trying to say, settle on something that will make the push and pull of these questions rest. But more honestly: thinking about language and climate is messy, my metaphors get bungled all the time, there is no such thing as enough and there is no such thing as not enough. Tweening has offered a way out of thinking only in terms of definitions by emphasizing the movement in-between. Applying tweening to movement building, it provides a framework to lay out steps between now and “the future”. What does now look like? What does an ideal future look like? And what are the 10 frames in between those two points in time? Whether you define those frames as “policies” or “steps” or generally “things that need to happen”, how can the incremental steps create motion and movement? By shifting our attention from the yearning for definition to the movement itself, we resist the impulse to control— ourselves and others.

But tweening also offers a reminder of how easy it is to see the 10th frame as the final one. Sometimes I pause my animation, play it, and replay it. Sometimes I do this with an eye toward improving it—how do I make the speech bubble expand as if someone is breathing into it?—but if I’m honest, I’m also excited by the movement, the translation of this idea to fruition, creating a moment of motion where there had been nothing before. And given how much time I spend with each frame—two hours yields a 14-second clip—I want to replay the full video to see each frame as part of the whole. As I do this, I’m reminded of how often, historically, we’ve rested on the sufficiency of forwarding momentum. Identify a step, take it (and sometimes we don’t get that far), and name it progress – all without making a big enough impact to actually create a just world, without acknowledging that what we envision for a just world requires respect for changing what that world looks like with new information. It’s a humbling experience to realize you’re stuck, whether in a frame or a political movement.

And this offers encouragement to grow beyond the places of being stuck. Thinking through a word does not offer the material support that mutual aid does; that being part of a community does; that an environmentally just policy does. But in thinking through the word enough, it’s possible for me to put a name to the ways I’m entangled in certain types of thinking—a neoliberal, capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacist—to identify ways I can keep untangling, keep extracting myself from the types of thinking that created a world I am so afraid of, so ashamed of, that has hurt so many people I love and has hurt so many more I don’t know. How can we use this to inform some of the ways we approach the imaginative work required to create solutions that step outside of linear paths? How do we let movement inform how we can move differently? Some of the analogues between the animation process and climate work feel hopeful to me: in slowing down, we speed up; by hovering in the tweening, the motion, rather than the definition of a single frame, we can tween towards the futures we want.

About the Author

Michelle Cheripka (she/her) is an interdisciplinary media maker focusing on personal experiences of systemic issues. She is currently based in Los Angeles.

Open Climate Then and Now

“We are living in a climate crisis,” announced UN Secretary-General António Guterres as he called for governments to immediately cut emissions to avert a climate catastrophe.

The last year has been a dramatic reminder of how real climate change is: fires, floods, droughts, and food crises haunt populations worldwide. This has also been a year of important advances in fighting the climate crisis: rise of the youth movement, IPCC reports, COP26 meeting, and other political manifestations such as the recognition of a Right to a Healthy Environment. We are approaching more concentrated action on the crises. However, there is still so much more work to do. Now is the time for every part of society to take climate action.

The open movement needs to act as well. In 2021 we, a group of practitioners and researchers in open science, hardware, knowledge, and infrastructure researchers, came together to explore how the open movement could step up to the climate challenge. A year after our first piece for Branch (Open Climate Now!), we are excited that this whole issue is dedicated to the theme.

Since our first community call, we hosted many conversations with people thinking about how open practices can strengthen with climate action. Over the course of 12 community calls, with 20 speakers and 175 participants from across the globe, we identified issues where the open movement could be key actors in a sustainable future. We are happy to share those insights here.

1. Our information environment is polluted by companies and governments who deny or delay climate action. We need to reclaim a robust knowledge commons.

The climate crisis is also an information crisis. The knowledge commons can be an important tool to fight back.

Companies use various tactics to stop or delay climate action, such as: climate denial (arguing that climate change isn’t happening), predatory delay (holding back climate action to continue profiting from the status quo), and the pollution of the information environment (with mis- and dis-information campaigns and corrupted experts). 

The open movement can help clean up the information environment by:

Foregrounding the viewpoints of frontline communities. This can be done by creating open climate data narratives to fight misinformation and help environmental policymaking (Call #4 with Myanna Lahsen and Silvio Carlos).

Distributing information in formats that communities need and understand. These can then be shared with other decision-makers to make progress on demanding climate action. Accessible, reusable, and persistent open data is crucial (Call #7 with Matt Rotta).

Improving the quality of the information, not just the quantity. There is a need to interrogate who benefits from the scientific status quo in the natural sciences and those who do not. Open practices in knowledge curation can help how people accept and engage with science communication (Call #3 with Emma Baker and Lisa McNamara).

2. Digital technologies both help and harm in the fight for climate action. Openness can help address the environmental impact of digital infrastructures.

The Internet and our digital technologies have rapidly expanded energy needs. But these digital technologies can also help us do things such as track deforestation or understand the performance of renewable energy. 

The open movement can reduce the environmental impact of technology by:

Leveraging openness as a tool for replicability, transparency, and impact. Good documentation and access to data are necessary to build sustainable solutions (Call #1 with Tjark Doering and Tobias Augspurger).

Aiming open source at the target of achieving a fossil-fuel-free Internet by 2030. Open data and practice can enable more transparency on the real impact of the Internet and what can be done to make it more energy efficient while breaking up tech monopolies’ control of a green web (Call #5 with Chris Adams).

Foreground the perspective of indigenous communities because sustainability depends on social arrangements. The data analysis of threats has to be combined with digital care for the communities impacted (Call #12 with Narrira Lemos, Luciana Ferreira, Márcia Nóbrega and Bruno Rigonato).

3. Downscale climate science to local levels and work for the “smallest possible policy-maker.”

Going from highly centralized science or policymaking to communities that can act requires attention to the needs at the most localized possible level, whether by using local languages or training local communities.

The open movement can empower the smallest possible policy-maker by:

Integrating local information and knowledge with climate risk and forecasting. Emphasize local adaptations and mitigation practices that can make the best use of expert models. This is particularly urgent for addressing intersectional inequalities with the inclusion of indigenous and local knowledge systems to build trust in relationships, thus integrating resources in multiple languages through “Climate 101” information packages intended for broader dissemination in local settings (Call #3 with Emma Baker and Lisa McNamara).

Supporting shifts in individual choices and personal knowledge. Organizations and environmental scientists might focus on solutions at a bigger scale than on individual behaviors in the environmental and climate space; the larger system shifts occur through individual choices and personal knowledge, which means that they are the sum of the actions of even small stakeholders (Call #2 with Ana Grijalva).

Recognizing the importance of “openness” beyond licensing and open technology. This can support active community participation where the main actors are not necessarily trained scientists, technical experts, or the usual technology enthusiasts, but rather school children and their parents (Call #11 with Ana Tuduri).

4. Free access to climate information by growing the socio-technical capacity of community spaces.

Openness helps with community-making practices around environmental research and activism. It also needs to address questions of scale. For instance, open hardware initiatives have proven to be one of the means we have to collaborate on implementing sustainable technologies that can be sourced and locally produced for carbon footprint reduction.

The open movement can help free access to climate info by:

Encouraging the rise of scientific pre-prints. There is strategic importance in publishing first and reviewing later with the rise of pre-prints to support an environmental knowledge commons. Targeting publishers for open access to climate information will not create long-term equitable solutions, because the problem of article processing charges (APCs) being owed will not be addressed (Call #8 with Iryna Kuchma). 

Including community-based insights, using everyday language to communicate relevant climate research, and creating multilingual content, especially in local languages. This helps regular citizens provide feedback on research are steps that can be facilitated by existing open initiatives and communities (Call #9 with Ruby Damenshie-Brown and Call #10 with Jean-Noé Landry, amongst others).

5. The open movement is a cultural movement in principle, and it can offer value to other movements by operating intersectionally

Open values alone are not sufficient. We need to make sure that open practices meet the needs of local communities. Nevertheless, it can bring a powerful perspective to other movements.

The open movement can help other movements by:

Emphasizing that openness is based on a human-centered perspective where justice is the starting point. This can be a motivator for collaborators in the movement. It is the values around justice, which ultimately drive how we create and share organizational practices, and in turn create the space to work with other movements, like those calling for climate justice (Call #10 with Jean-Noé Landry)

The value of openness is in the ability to explore global narratives, fight disinformation, and rally around important issues with the broad public. The open communities that center local language and local context can enable participation and representation through campaigns on a global scale (Call #9 with Ruby Damenshie-Brown).

Where from here

For the past two decades, the open movement has worked to shift unequal power dynamics in science, technology, and society. From the rise of free and open technologies as infrastructure for peer-production platforms such as Wikipedia, the definition of open data standards and practices, and the application of collaborative values through community science projects, we have created a common wealth of social, environmental, and technical knowledge. Despite our collective achievements, however, we still lack a shared ecological vision in the open community to respond to the climate crisis.

One of the key things we learned is to deal with the tension between the urgency of socio-environmental action and the slow tempo of trust relations that are fundamental for opening spaces for solidarity-building. Against an unjustified, imposed pressure to publish research as fast as possible, there is a real urgency to address climate issues rapidly so that we can prevent some of the most catastrophic trends. One of the brilliant aspects of the open movement has been its ability to collaborate, move collective ideas further, and develop them into collective solutions, but, as the saying goes, if you “want to go far, you cannot walk alone.”

Open Climate is an open invitation for you to join us in this effort in community-building.

We came together in 2020 because we felt the need to connect our work in the open movement with the climate crisis. Was there even a connection, or were our desires forcing a connection? Through our community calls, we have seen multiple ways in which the open movement could help take climate action: from research to policy, from digital infrastructures to community organizing, from public campaigning to knowledge creation and sharing, and from academic training. 

Open Climate has become a catalyst of various initiatives. It changed the perspective of each of us on the organizing team. Shannon and Scann now better understand how the knowledge commons can help with climate justice and how environmental justice is connected with the space of digital rights. Alex has brought lessons from the community calls to craft his message with the Wikimedia movement in addressing climate issues on Wikipedia. Michelle has been active at work with the Green Web Foundation to open up data on how the internet is powered and how to transition to a fossil-free internet by 2030. Emilio has continued expanding Appropedia and teaching about appropriate technologies alongside organizations such as the UNDP. Luis Felipe has been dedicated in the past year to integrating FAIR and CARE principles in collaboration with the HDF Group for an NSF project dedicated to the study of the impact of climate change in Alaska. In the next several years, Shannon and Luis Felipe, alongside other collaborators, are conducting a new project to create a commons for socio-environmental data with support from the National Science Foundation.

Going forward we plan to continue sharing what we have learned with others and give opportunity and space for continued open climate interactions.

During the second half of 2022, the Open Climate collective will begin a fellowship program to support activists, researchers, and other people interested in working at the intersection of open and the climate crisis.

As we move forward, we want collaborate more with the digital rights space and other organizations working on harnessing the power of open and bringing it into climate action. Interested? Learn more on our wiki.

Climate Action and Net-Zero Ambition: Best Practices for Small and Medium Enterprises?

SMEs and Climate Action

This is a joint publication by Cathleen Berger (Climatiq), Chris Hartgerink (Liberate Science), Indré Blauzdžiūnaitė (Trafi), and Vineeta Greenwood (Wholegrain Digital). It is cross-posted from the Climatiq blog.

We all know that climate action is urgent. We also know that the private sector is responsible for the lion’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is why we feel the need to do our part: assume responsibility, reduce and mitigate our impact, and accelerate global climate action.

Yet, we find ourselves at a conundrum. Though part of the private sector, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are neither required nor necessarily supported in their sustainability journeys.

Achieving Net Zero: Challenges for SMEs

There are three primary challenges faced by SMEs:

  • Lack of scope 3 guidance. Understanding an organisation’s environmental impact generally requires a solid assessment of the amount and the activities that generate emissions. There are direct and indirect emissions (scope 1 and 2) as well as emissions that are accumulated across an organisation’s supply chain (scope 3). Scope 1 and 2 are comparatively straightforward to calculate. However, between 80-99% of overall organisational emissions tend to fall within scope 3. As of now, SMEs are not required to account for their scope 3 emissions — which unfortunately translates into a lack of guidance for how to do so, even voluntarily.
  • Lack of clarity and methodologies for digital products. There is significant growth and investments to boost digitisation of products and services, both public and private. To little surprise, the emissions related to the tech and startup sector are noticeably rising. The biggest share of tech-related emissions come from data storage and operations as well as the use of those digital products by end users. Scope 3 Standard of the GHG protocol, the main guideline for scope 3 calculations, does not specify methodologies for digital activities. The situation gets even more complex when it comes to data collection – today, 60% of cloud-based operations are managed by three leading service providers and none of them are openly sharing emissions from networking, memory, compute, data storage, or the lifecycle emissions of servers. 
  • Lack of net-zero targets applicable to SMEs. Science Based Targets (SBTs), the initiative helping companies to set the goals for carbon reduction, launched a simplified guideline for SMEs in 2020. Ironically enough, the simplification merely cuts away the main “polluter”  — scope 3 emissions. In other words, 90% of the footprint of digital SMEs don’t have to be reduced, thus there’s no way for the majority of startups to become net-zero. 

One thing should be clear: To meet global targets of staying within the 1.5°C global warming threshold, we need everyone. Including small and medium enterprises.

Best Practices for SME: 4 Examples for Climate Action

As we are continuing to explore the space of scope 3 calculations and reduction, we are stepping up and assuming responsibility as stewards in SMEs. We got together to share best practices, learn from each other, and collaborate to drive change. Practical steps may differ but the direction is very much the same. With this, we hope to pave a way for other SMEs as well.

To illustrate this is how we tackle these challenges in our respective organisations:

  • Climatiq: Est: 2021 | Employees: 10 | Headquarter: Berlin, Germany
    Climatiq has applied to become a certified B Corporation. In doing so, we are committed to report on all 3 scopes of our emissions publicly and continuously (building on our own science-based backend solution for carbon intelligence). While as an SME we may not get net-zero certified, we will continuously monitor and apply best practices for reduction. 
  • Liberate Science: Est. 2019 | Employees: 2 | Headquarter: Berlin, GermanyDespite only a handful of people in our organization, we estimated our emissions for our first operating year within a matter of hours, with the help of a climate impact expert. The knowhow and thinking about sustainability is business-efficient, once it is available. We need to do more to make that knowledge available to SMEs.
  • Trafi:  Est: 2014 | Employees: 100 | Headquarter: Vilnius, Lithuania
    Besides calculating our digital footprint and removing the emissions that cannot be reduced, Trafi scales the transparency and detail on companies’ scope 3 emissions, with the focus on commuting. We help organisations to view, track and report the impact of their employees’ travel and, most importantly, incentivize sustainable commuting. 
  • Wholegrain Digital: Est: 2007 | Employees: 20 | Location: London, UK
    Wholegrain Digital is a certified B Corp, 1% for the planet member, has a Green Handshake policy and aims to be one of the UK’s most sustainable businesses. We estimate our scope 3 emissions and reduce them through innovative initiatives and we offset our CO2 emissions as well. We share our impact and ethics reports. Beyond Scope 3, we also estimate, reduce and offset our client’s digital emissions through championing the creation of low carbon web products. Our Website Carbon calculator project is a part of our knowledge sharing practice that helps others to also measure and reduce their own digital carbon footprint.

Join us and spread the word

The EU Taxonomy will only start applying to SMEs by 2025, though mandatory corporate sustainability reporting currently remains the sole responsibility of larger companies. We want to encourage more SMEs and digital companies to start embarking on this journey now and to hear from those who already did. By 2025, the climate clock will only have four years left. Time’s ticking.

Are you a small or medium sized company committed to climate action? We’d love to hear from you! We welcome additional signatories and invite you to share your experiences with us through this form.

We will follow up with all of you and plan to convene a few best practice sharing sessions in the coming months.

Letter from the Editors

The internet—essential to modern life and also the world’s largest coal-powered machine. 

Like the shipping industry, packets zigzag across the globe and connect billions of people through a colossal distributed infrastructure we rarely see until it chokes, like a container ship stuck in the Suez Canal or Facebook going down. 

Ships run on bunker fuel, some of the dirtiest sludge on the planet. Much of the internet burns on coal, the historically the cheapest, most convenient fuel available. And while the IPCC is calling “a code red for humanity,” the tech sector and shipping each emit 1-3% of the world’s carbon a year with projections rising. 

The internet is becoming a brittle and polluting monoculture. Seven Big Tech companies predominantly control the internet and its infrastructure, and they are among the wealthiest in the world. 

As the climate crisis intensifies, with more frequent and severe weather events, and more wealth is consolidated in the tech sector even during a pandemic, we’re seeing how this destructive default doesn’t serve humanity or the planet.

What’s more, when we do see chances to change the rules for a fairer, more sustainable, more just set of defaults, to steer us away from the cliff, we see these same firms lobbying to kill this progress in the name of short-term profits.

A Dissonance 

Like many tech workers who grew up loving the possibilities of the internet to connect and empower people, learning about its destructive power causes us to experience a dissonance. How can this tool, with so much potential, speed up fire and floods and human suffering? What are we going to do about it? 

Tech is built and maintained by people. What tech workers do each day can either accelerate the climate crisis or slow it down. As tech ownership and profits become concentrated to the hands of a few, how can workers advocate for their rights and more equitable futures? More than transitioning energy, we must shift power. 

Divest from Big Tech

Today, we’re seeing tech workers unite across geography and pay grade to link arms with climate activists to demand better. 

Big Tech sells itself as a solution to the crisis. But it’s part of the problem, too. The tech sector is rife with lucrative contracts with fossil fuel companies. Brilliant software engineering—optimizing this, improving a model for that—ends up accelerating the extraction of oil and gas, which when burned, pollutes the air, heats the planet and cuts short the lives of millions of plants, animals and people.

Big Tech must end its business with fossil fuels companies. And we, the people who dream of a sustainable, just and diverse internet, need to divest from Big Tech.  

A Fossil Free Internet by 2030

That why we want to focus our efforts on achieving a fossil-free internet. And we want to make that happen by 2030. 

The urgency and scale of the climate crisis demands action. With a big push, the internet could be decarbonized in a few years. And in that transition, we could reform the internet and turn it into a positive force for climate justice. 

To get there, we need new narratives that shift what is desirable and possible. We need to transform our practices and make strategic partnerships with allied causes. And we need open infrastructure—data, code, poetry and repeatable pilots—to model how we can build bridges across social movements and achieve a fossil-free internet by 2030.

This issue of Branch uplifts the people and projects who are making that vision a reality. We want to situate these issues in larger movements for sustainable and just societies. We want to think at a network-level and in open partnership to gain momentum. We want to challenge colonial solutions on how to get to a fossil-free internet through further extraction of the Global South. 

The next few years will be critical for the future of the planet and the internet. We need to expand the coalition of people working towards this shift. We hope you find some inspiration for action here. 

Climate Justice as a Core Competency among Internet Practitioners

Designs from Kimono Pattern Books (ca. 1902) via The Public Domain Review

A few months ago, we at the Green Web Foundation set out to understand: How do we advance climate justice as a core competency among internet practitioners? 

To learn more and practice these findings, we created a fellowship programme to bring on board five fellows with a range of perspectives and experiences. This article summarises the findings and co-learnings through the fellowship so far.

How It’s Going

The Green Web Foundation’s fellowship set out to explore three goals. Firstly, to explore the narratives of responsible internet practices. Secondly, to understand the key characteristics of climate justice in the context of a sustainable internet. Lastly, ways to teach these practices forward among internet practitioners. 

The Narratives

The Green Web Fellowship sought to explore compelling narratives that link responsible Internet practice with climate justice. This first phase focused on testing and learning from what is working in narrative storytelling. Validation and feedback in various communities were drawn upon, from open source web developers to digital security trainers, from sustainable development experts and climate activists.

The emerging themes are:

“A fossil-free internet by 2030.” Through conversations with our fellows and in our convenings, we realized setting a target would help galvanize and focus on climate action. We’re currently commissioning supporting research on a path to fully transition the internet away from fossil fuels by 2030. This has been an exciting development to emerge from this research.  

“Divest from Big Tech.” Even if the internet moved to 100% renewables, while it would definitely be an improvement, we wouldn’t have achieved a sustainable and just internet. We would also need to be prepared to talk about power as well as energy—being prepared to divest from Big Tech and its control over our internet infrastructure, software and economics is one way to address an existing imbalance of power. We can point to multiple examples of divestment as a strategy to press issues that would otherwise be ignored by large, powerful players, from the social justice point of view, but increasingly a climate justice point of view as well.

“Climate justice as a core competency.” Many efforts to green the internet do not centre on climate justice. While our program has a long way to go to better understand what it means to address this idea meaningfully, we are finding that it is very enriching to do so and supports a larger vision of social justice and equity. 

Climate justice in the context of a sustainable internet

Building on the fellows’ experience and learning arcs, as well as in conversation with communities and one other, the programme sought to understand the skills and characteristics that might describe climate justice as a core competency with internet practitioners. 

The key to this was understanding how fellows could be community organisers and peer learners as they answer this question for themselves. We host weekly conversations about how to connect their individual interests and experiences to the goals of the larger fellowship program. So far, this has been a rewarding space for peer learning and new takes on the program’s theme have emerged from it, including: 

  • Where you stand depends on where you sit: position, visibility & defusing privilege
  • Reform, Resistance, Reform after Resistance
  • Appropriate technology and a sustainable internet
  • How much do tech workers currently talk about `climate justice` and other keywords? Data scraping and analysis. 
  • Framing sustainability with and without justice.
  • Openness as a tool to shift power.
  • Abolitionist tech stack.

Salient questions our fellows are surfacing as part of the research:

  • What resources are powering our projects and how do we manage those resources? 
  • Are we willing to approach our work with a set of values that centers several generations after us? And how do we do that?
  • What protections do we need to fight for in the workplace to hold companies accountable around climate justice goals?
  • How do we measure our impact on the climate crisis?
  • Are we willing to sundown projects if mitigating their negative impact on the environment is impossible or creates little impact?

We created an open library of recommended reading and other resources we come across or write. This is hosted on Zotero, an open-source tool that makes it easy for others to contribute and export these readings. 

Teaching It Forward

It’s not just about understanding what climate justice looks like—internet practitioners will have to commitment to transform practices and behaviours with the aspiration to connect with others and teach it forward. 

In support of that, we hosted the Gathering for a Sustainable Internet with 25 digital rights, climate justice, and open/green technology practitioners thinking at a “network level” about these challenges. We sought to work with people interested in building bridges, working in a coalition with each other, and collaborating at scale. 

Together with the human rights and digital security trainer Beatrice Martini, we hosted a Capacity Building workshop in November for the fellows on designing learning experiences for adults and how to design syllabi. This workshop builds on a course taught at Harvard School of Education and the agenda and activities will be published in the open. 

The next phase of the fellowship will focus on how to best serve the communities and beneficiaries from the fellows are working with, and how their engagement can refine and improve these advocacy narratives, learning materials and ultimately find pathways to incorporate climate justice in the careers of internet practitioners.


The program is only halfway done and will run for several more months. If you want to read more about how internet practitioners can advance climate justice in their own work, read more about what the fellows are learning and trying out on the Green Web Foundation blog

A Beginner’s Guide to Climate Justice in Tech

A volunteer learning group at Work on Climate set out to better understand the intersections of justice, climate, and technology.

They wanted to make a beginner-friendly guide to climate justice, tailored to the tech communities they worked in. Throughout the process, the group acknowledged they were not scholars nor frontline experts, nor that there was a unified opinion on what climate justice is or collective well-being looks like.

Here is a peek into their Climate Justice 101 Guide and a workshop they ran in collaboration with the Climate Action Tech community earlier in 2021.

CAT Salon: Exploring Climate Justice in Tech (with Alisha YiXin Pegan & Richard Kim)

Over the course of about five months, about ten of us from Work on Climate researched and wrote an introductory guide to climate justice.

Our Climate Justice Learning Group (part of the Work on Climate community) wanted to create something that we ourselves had been looking for—a clear and accessible introduction to climate justice. None of us were climate justice experts; we sought to gather and amplify the existing work of experts and activists.

The first iteration of the Climate Justice 101 Guide launched in March 2021.

After our launch, CAT hosted some of us to talk about climate justice and the Guide. The video above is from my and Alisha Pegan’s talk at CAT Salon West on June 8, 2021, “Exploring Climate Justice in Tech.”

Our talk comes out of the work that we did as writers and editors for the Guide. We define climate justice, introduce the Guide, and present a framework for analyzing injustices in climate work.

I hope you watch it and find it useful!

In the months since this talk, I’ve only seen climate justice become a larger and larger part of climate change conversations. A brief and wildly diverse set of examples:

  • At COP26 in Glasgow, activists including Greta Thunberg held major demonstrations on climate justice.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed millions of dollars in climate justice and environmental justice spending, some of which has become law, some of which is being considered at the time of this writing.
  • Project Drawdown published “Climate Solutions at Work,” in which it advocates that emissions-reduction strategies must “Embed Climate Justice.”
  • Climate Week in New York City had an Environmental Justice track.
  • UK-based Carbon Brief published a week-long series highlighting climate justice.

To continue your climate justice journey, I encourage you to explore the Guide and learn more climate justice, especially through the dozens of resources we link to.

And we may be revising the Guide in the coming year—feel free to post in #learning-group-climate-justice in the Work on Climate Slack if you’d like to get involved!

Finally, since this Salon, a number of us from CAT and Work on Climate (among them Marwa Eltaib, Yang Hong, Melissa Hsuing, Sandra Pallier, and I) have been teaming up to present outgoing events on climate justice.

Our goals are to explore and integrate climate justice in our communities. We’ve hosted three events together so far in 2021: a workshop on applying climate justice, a talk with climate justice expert Joycelyn Longdon, and a climate justice community discussion.

Look for more events in 2022!

Decentralising Digital: Artefacts from Hopeful Futures

Digital Farm Tool. Woven jondu grass pouch, recycled tin containing various electronic components, soil spike. 2032.
Digital Farm Tool. Woven jondu grass pouch, recycled tin containing various electronic components, soil spike. 2032.

Working with rural communities in Karnataka, India, Decentralising Digital is an ongoing research project seeking to co-create new narratives for decentralised digital futures.

We are exploring how developments in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, the voice enabled Internet, machine learning and artificial intelligence might be harnessed to meaningfully support rural communities in India. We imagine that the work presented here can be adapted and used by other communities and stakeholders, in their own work in reimagining different, more sustainable futures for these communities.

We imagined a series of artefacts that might be found in these diverse futures. These artefacts intentionally adopt a visual and material language rooted in the knowledge of the people and the communities we worked with.

Continue reading “Decentralising Digital: Artefacts from Hopeful Futures”

Decentralising Digital: Exoskeletons

Farmers wearing locally produced exoskeletons made by the community and built from traditional techniques.
Speculative illustration and story by Yuvraj Jha as part of the Decentralising Digital research project.

It is widely understood that one of the hardest parts of farming is, to put it mildly, farming. Labour intensive, unpredictable, and in the long run, backbreaking.

And this is one of the primary reasons why the younger generation is moving to the cities for a better future. This has led to fewer people working in the fields, which means less food or more technology on our farms. Neither of which is a good idea. Even though tech and automation are good overall, in the long run the health of the farm depends on the health of the farmer. And the potential disconnect with the land proves to be extremely debilitating over decades. However, the back-breaking load of farm work over prolonged periods of time causes health issues such as hernia—issues that at the moment do not have sufficient solutions and continue into old age. This speculative illustration accompanies a short story on the lives of people in a village who have deployed exoskeletons on their village farms instead of drones.

Continue reading “Decentralising Digital: Exoskeletons”