OCEAN, the Online Community Environmental Action Network

September 20, 2009

I am proud to live in a time when more people care about protecting the environment than ever before. However, even with all of the amazing people working in the conservation movement,  one of the biggest parts of my job is still public education. Most people have never heard that sharks are important, that sharks are in trouble, and that they can help. Many people have still not heard that the oceans are in trouble, and a few genuinely have not heard that the environment as a whole is threatened.

What solutions we can implement are limited by how many people know about the problem. The best science isn’t going to help if we can’t convince the general public of the need to do something. Every single one of us who cares about protecting the environment needs to help spread the word. In many cases, excellent resources for spreading the word are already in place- they are just underutilized.

It is with this important goal in mind that I am announcing the formation of a new volunteer-based conservation group : the Online Community Environmental Action Network (OCEAN). The purpose of this group is to use online resources  to spread conservation related information.

Members of OCEAN will help spread the word about certain blog posts, petitions, multimedia resources, and conservation websites. They will do this via the following online resources (and I am open to suggestions on others):

1) Facebook. Many people have a facebook account (I daresay most). Facebook has an easy link-share feature (indeed, some of you found this blog because of Andrew or I using the link-share feature).  If you post a link to your facebook profile and include a brief personal message about it, all of your facebook friends can see it in their minifeed and some of them will click on it.

2) Digg. Digg is slightly more complicated to use, but if you have a facebook account, you have a Digg account. Basically, Digg is a community of people combing the internet for cool sites and voting on how cool they are (i.e. “digging” them). If lots of people (i.e. OCEAN members) Digg a site, then it will move up in popularity and the entire enormous Digg community will see it. Though any site added to Digg is technically viewable by the whole Digg community, the best way to spread information quickly is through the “Today’s Most Dugg” site, and to reach that we need a lot of OCEAN members to “Digg” a site.

3) Neatorama. Neatorama is a community blog that is meant to bring the “best of the internet” to its readers. It allows all of its registered readers to submit a website for consideration and then vote on whether a post is “Neat” or “Not” for 24 hours. If enough people vote it “Neat”, it is featured on the main page. Registering for Neatorama is free and only takes a minute.

4) Twitter. Twitter is a popular micro-blogging site, and thanks to services like TinyUrl it is possible to share links to those following your Tweets. This is probably the least effective way for someone to help spread the word if you don’t already have a Twitter account since it takes time to build up a following, but if you already have a Twitter account you can help!

Here’s how OCEAN will work:

  • Anyone can join! E-mail me at WhySharksMatter AT Gmail DOT com with the subject “OCEAN Application”, and I’ll send you the information!
  • Anyone can submit blog posts, petitions, or conservation websites to me. I’ll choose the best to send to the OCEAN general membership.
  • Only I will have access to the mailing list and I will never divulge your contact information to anyone.
  • I will take care of entering the entries for Digg and NeatoRama (the time consuming part) and I will only ask you to vote on them (the really, really easy part and the part I can’t do alone).
  • I will send e-mails to OCEAN’s general membership with a list of the best blog posts, petitions, and conservation websites. Each will have a direct link for you to post in your facebook profile, a link to where you can “Digg” it, and a link to where you vote “Neat” on Neatorama. I’ll also include a TinyUrl for those of you on Twitter.
  • OCEAN members will, upon receiving these e-mails, post links in their facebook profiles, Digg the website in question, and vote “Neat” on Neatorama. This will spread the word about important topics in the world of conservation.
  • OCEAN members will document what they helped to share and give me this documentation. Each month, the OCEAN member who helped the most will win a prize.
  • People who put lots of dedication and energy into OCEAN will be rewarded with leadership positions. As the organization grows, it will become impossible for me to run the day-to-day operations by myself.

How I will choose what links to share with the general OCEAN membership:

  • I would love to share every single link that people suggest. However, at the end of the day, it is my name that will be primarily associated with OCEAN. I do not want to be associated with extremists like certain ex Obama green jobs advisers and have it come back to bite me years down the road.
  • I will not share any link associated with Sea Shepherd or similar extremist groups.
  • I will not share any link that demonizes people on the other side of the debate.
  • I will primarily focus on marine conservation issues but I am open to anything.
  • Since I am putting in most of the time on this issue, a lot of links will be from Southern Fried Science. However, I will make sure that at least half of the links are from other resources.
  • If records reveal that you have helped to share a great deal of sites in the past, I am more likely to share a link from you in the future.

Perks of joining:

  • You will be helping the environment by spreading the word!
  • Joining is absolutely free!
  • You get to hear about all kinds of neat stuff in the world of conservation that you otherwise wouldn’t have come across!
  • You get to help bring attention to your favorite cause or blog!  Submit it to me, and if I like it I’ll share it with the general membership! This is a great way for small conservation groups or new blogs to get the following they deserve!
  • A lot of our readers are high school students. Some of you are getting ready to apply to college. If you help us and contribute a lot to OCEAN, I’ll help you with a recommendation letter explaining what OCEAN is and how you helped. I am also happy to do this for older members applying for jobs or graduate school in the fields of environmental science or conservation biology.

Downsides of joining

  • You will get lots of  (short) e-mails from me.
  • This will take some time on your part- I estimate less than an hour per week, though, including all the link-sharing, voting, and documenting.

If you are interested in joining OCEAN and helping me to spread the word about saving the environment, please e-mail me at WhySharksMatter AT Gmail DOT com with the subject “OCEAN Application”.

OCEAN is proud to be affiliated with Southern Fried Science.


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