The Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker project is about to have its second major growth spurt since our start-up last summer — and we’re asking you to be part of it.
Today we launch a series of online forums, and with them hope to inaugurate a vibrant discussion of the city’s unique municipal carbon tax approach. But it’ll be one that will be significantly easier for you to take part in. Check out the new discussion boards.
Our aim when we launched this project — with the help of the Knight Foundation and it’s News Challenge grant — was to see if two long-time environmental reporters could partner with local citizens to explore participatory journalism’s potential, in this case to cover a tough eco-issue like global warming, and find a local focus for a story with national and international implications. …
With a flurry of activity over the intervening months, we’ve launched this web site, filled it with blog posts, arranged for print distribution in some well-known local publications, and promoted it in radio and other public appearances around the region and the country.
We also reached out to numerous community members in the public, private and non-profit sectors, ranging from Boulder city officials administering the tax to local folks adjusting their greenhouse gas output, from the environmental coordinator for one of the leading green hospitals in the country to the co-director of the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Center for Environmental Journalism, as well as to a leading business community official, local newspaper editors and reporters, energy experts from a nationally known think tank, and scientists researching climate change for NOAA, among others.
Yet our initial approach – create a group weblog where various players could share their views and talk with one another — hit a wall. One of the big lessons we’ve learned is how hard it is to get community members to think of themselves as citizen journalists with information and ideas to share. Despite the obvious interest and expertise out there, we’ve found it’s just too high a hurdle for contributors to start by thinking of themselves as authors on a blog.
In reponse, we have developed a simpler method of participation – our new online discussion forums — that we think offer a far less daunting barrier to entry.
We think these new forums can build on existing online conversations in the areas of energy conservation, emissions tracking, government watch-dogging, transportation, and business opportunities and impacts. We will be synthesizing, highlighting, and distributing the key points of these public conversations through the blog and other venues.
Without a doubt it is the people in the community who are the most important aspect of this project. In essence, we’re covering a unfolding environmental issue while involving the people who are affected. Because there’s an immense storehouse of energy and environmental expertise within the Boulder community, we feel strongly that experts and commentators will rise to the surface and become active participants in the discussion over how well or poorly the city’s carbon tax dollars are being spent.
While we are not expecting to attract a mass-media-sized audience, we do hope to prompt community engagement — especially if what happens on our site triggers activity online and elsewhere, such as conversations on other forums, e-mail lists, blog posts and comments, comments on mainstream media stories, etc.
And if we’re successful, we’ll have found a model through which communities can set their own agendas more effectively by giving citizens the tools they need to cover themselves and talk to each other more easily. Join us to make that happen — see you on the boards!