? Grid intensity view:

Issue 1

Issue 2

Unknown grid intensity

Letter from the Editors: Change is a ‘Commoning

Astronomical drawings of the sun from 1882
Group of sun spots and veiled spots (Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, 1882) Source: Public Domain Review

Aerosols and masks, wildfire smoke, air pollution and police choking, intubation and asphyxiation.  

Breathing can be so fraught. Incredibly precious yet quotidian.

Fill the lungs. How much can you hold?

Sometimes, when I’m spending the day in front of my computer or engrossed in my phone, I don’t remember breathing at all. It must have happened. But where was my mind?

Right now, I’m with my breath. And on the lost breaths of so many. And on the deep yearning I have for my son, and the generations after him, to breathe with ease.

Tears come to my eyes with grief and the knowledge that it won’t be easy for him, for so many. What an unfathomable loss.   

The breath. It’s so simple, really. And so wondrous. How we inhale what plants have exhaled. Everyone should have the right to breathe with ease, the possibility of surviving and thriving.

Well, what am I going to do about it?


We are dreaming of a sustainable and just internet—an internet free of fossil fuels, free from extractivism and surveillance. 

We dream of an internet that helps dismantle the forces delaying climate action. 

We dream of an internet that enables lifelong learning, genuine exchange and meaningful work.

We dream of an internet that respects your right to be offline and to participate on your own terms.

We dream of an internet that is intertwined with other dreams of liberation. 

We’re dreaming together.  

This issue of Branch magazine is a practice of collective imagination. There are fragments and fleeting glimpses. Sometimes there is simply a lingering sense of what should be.

We invite you to wander along with us. 

What will you find? What will move you? How will we be changed together?  

All that you touch you change

All that you change changes you

The only lasting truth is change

God is Change

Earthseed: The Books of the Living by Octavia Butler

Inspiration for this issue emerged from adrienne maree brown’s beautiful writing about the power of science fiction and the need to transform ourselves to transform the world. She grounds her community justice work in accessible, creative scholarship about Octavia Butler and leads a facilitation practice that links imagination with political change. 

Open Climate Now!

Colorful meandering routes of the Mississippi River
Meander Map of the Mississippi River by Harold Fisk (1944). Source: Public Domain Review

Two global movements—open and climateboth reckoning with privilege and power in their own organizing, should seize the moment to work more intersectionally and learn from each other. The open movement with its values, community and action has the potential to greatly contribute to climate research and activism, and climate scientists and organizers should join the fight for the (digital) commons. We need open climate action, and we need it now! 

Beginning in the fall 2020, we the authors, piloted a series of “Open Climate” community calls to explore how to apply openness to climate action. What resulted was a conversation among a mix of disciplines and practices (sciences, humanities, community organizing, alternatives to intellectual property), backgrounds in the open movement (Free and Open Source software, data, hardware and knowledge) and global experiences that we hope will be productive for larger climate action.

This article is our first meandering attempt at recounting what we have learned thus far about the gaps in our movements and how they came to be and where open movements are doing hopeful work for the planet.

Continue reading “Open Climate Now!”

Letter from the Editors

A page from the 1901 issue of Shin-Bijutsukai, a Japanese design magazine
A page from the 1901 issue of Shin-Bijutsukai, a Japanese design magazine | Public Domain Review

We believe that the internet must serve our collective liberation and ecological sustainability. We want the internet to help us dismantle the power structures that delay climate action and for the internet itself to become a positive force for climate justice.

Branch magazine is a space for personal reflection, critical engagement with technology and internet economics, as well as experimentation and storytelling. It is an online magazine written by and for people who dream of a sustainable and just internet. 


Creating change requires all kinds of practices—art and design, professional development, civic participation, policy and advocacy, imagination and positive visions for our future. This magazine is our small attempt to gather what inspires and challenges us and to publish that in the open. 

We invited 25 wonderful people to share how they understand the climate impact of technology and how we might change it for the better. In this magazine, you will hear from internet professionals—developers, designers, managers, executives, educators, policymakers, funders and artists—describe how they are greening their daily professional practice. You will see that there are very direct actions, such as switching computation to run on renewables. Yet there are deeper, systemic ways to green the internet that you will also find described here, and it is this practice that we seek to cultivate.  

For deeper change to happen, internet professionals must understand the underlying structural issues of the climate crisis and its inequalities. We must go beyond tech solutionism and towards intersectional climate justice work. We strive to connect sustainability to root causes and to inequalities experienced at different intersections—gender, race, class, ability, and so on. 

Going forward we see the need to more develop interdisciplinary practices and tools for greening the internet. Mentorship and collaboration play a key role, as does supporting technologists on their climate journeys and closing the gaps in climate justice and digital rights efforts. 

The Making of Branch: GOLD principles

In the making of Branch, we wanted the website itself to live up to the dream of a sustainable internet. We know that technology isn’t neutral, and therefore we set out to embed the values of a more sustainable, just internet into the website design and development.

We were inspired by frameworks for inclusive design and accessibility, such as POUR (perceivable, operable, understandable, robust) in the WCAG guidelines. For the Branch website, the qualities we sought were Green, Open, Lean, and Distributed, or GOLD

Here’s how we broke down GOLD for making an online magazine. We think it can be adapted for other digital products as well.

Green

Green refers to green energy and the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. We thought through the digital supply chain: from the site running on servers powered by green energy, to adapting what we send over a network, to designing for the widest range of devices, and reducing the need to run on newer hardware.

Open

Open in this context refers to a cultural practice beyond a software license. We share the site’s source code on Github, and we also chose to use WordPress because we know that more than a quarter of the web runs on WordPress. We teamed up with experts in the ClimateAction.tech community with prior work in this domain, like the author of wp-susty,  to make the approach we took easier to emulate on other sites without needing to be a specialist developer.

Most the content is licensed under the permissive Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, and we sourced many of our images from public domain archives and other open image pools. We also chose an open license to make it easier for the ideas in this magazine to be copied and modified across other nodes of the internet. We hope this gives the content a resiliency long after this website is forgotten.

We also wanted to be open and transparent about physical resources required to use digital services, which is why we foreground grid intensity on the website. By exposing the materiality of the internet and the intermittent patterns of renewable energy, visitors to the site can see how the website changes in response to the amount of renewables on the electricity grid. 

Lean

Lean is an acknowledgement that even when we use green energy, there is still an unavoidable environmental impact to most digital activity. Our decisions of what to build matter, and so we chose to tread lightly. While lean here refers to avoiding needless waste, at the same time, like in healthy ecosystems, it is critical to keep some slack in the ecosystem and to stay flexible and adaptable to outside changes. Otherwise, if we obsess over efficiency above all else, we can end up in a brittle, hyper-optimised state. Or we end up cutting out features and media so intensively that we remove much of what makes the internet fun to begin with.

Distributed

Distributed refers to both geographical and temporal shifts of activity. We designed the website to be easy to cache and distribute across a content delivery network. Furthermore, visitors can time-shift more energy intensive activities, such as downloading heavy media files, to happen when there’s greener electricity available. 

We hope you enjoy this first issue of Branch magazine. Thank you for reading!

About the authors

Michelle Thorne is interested in climate justice and a fossil-free internet. As a Senior Program Officer at the Mozilla Foundation, Michelle leads a PhD program on Open Design of Trust Things (OpenDoTT) with Northumbria University and several art and research initiatives as an Environmental Champion in Mozilla’s Sustainability Program.

Chris Adams is a co-organiser of the online community Climate Action.tech, and co-founder of greening.digital, a consultancy specialising in helping digital teams, build greener digital products and services. He joined the Green Web Foundation in 2019 to lead their energy, open source and open data initiatives.