Two emerging trends have collided - crowdfunding and sustainability - and young visionaries are leading the charge. New technology allows social entrepreneurs to create realities that may have been out of reach even months before.
With bank lending in an ice age and the environment steadily going downhill, the situation is dire and sources of capital available to people who want to do something about it are drying up. "Young people are feeling out-of-touch with the old way of doing things, yearning for something to be a part of to help fix things," says Brendan McNamara, a young father who like many his age are frustrated by a planet seemingly falling apart at the seams in which the voice of the little guy is often not heard - and in which capital for mere sustenance, let alone saving the planet, is slipping away from the younger generation. There is one trick the youth have up their sleeve though, one that very few saw coming. The arrival of crowdfunding onto the scene is as impeccably timed as it is heralded.
The success of crowdfunding giants like Kickstarter and IndieGogo is now well-documented, from advancements of art and technology such as the Buccaneer 3D Printer and the Tesla Museum, but a few are also catching on to its potential to fund the necessary shift to clean but expensive renewable energy technology. Solar and wind are becoming more popular, but the upfront cost is still too much for most to bear. In steps crowdfunding with the means for entrepreneurs to fund sustainable projects that may otherwise be too expensive or slow with traditional means to quickly slow or reverse climate change. Even chief energy policy makers in Europe are considering turning to the crowds to make the rapid shift to a carbon-neutral economy possible.
Young people all over the world, many of whom have been campaigning in their own ways to create a green future, are using their skill in the virtual world in order to create actual change in the real world. And they're using crowdfunding to do it. A very recent success story came from youth activists in Boulder, CO who successfully blew past their initial goal of $40,000 and ended up with a whopping $193,018 to fund a campaign to create a local power utility run on renewable energy. Other similar projects such as one to clean up trash in the Florida Keys or one to create a currency as incentive to harvest plastic from the Pacific garbage vortex.
There are also a number of environmental sustainability land use concepts emerging which create community powered by renewable energy and fed by local food. EarthStar Foundation, the creation of Brendan McNamara, is one such concept - one that hopes to create a new model for the home of the future, which according to its creator will be "beyond sustainable - the homestead of the future will heal the damage human beings have caused to the ecosystem." He plans to use funding gathered through his IndieGogo campaign to purchase a large amount of forested land in order to preserve it, establishing renewable energy and local food systems as a means of fixing capital to the organization. "EarthStar will, with help from the crowds, be able to pay for itself - and then pay for other projects like it to exist elsewhere" through a worldwide information and grant network. This is just one of many such ideas emerging from a growing fertile landscape, finally being given the water it needs.
It seems that crowdfunding may be the long-awaited skeleton key to the lock box around capital, one that will hopefully allow a whole generation of dreamers to actually make those dreams real. With this new generation of "Earth Stars" rising just when it's most needed, there may be hope for the planet yet.