Saturday, October 12, 2013

SXSW Eco 2013 - Part 3

The second day of SXSW Eco was a grueling pace of amazing speakers, amazing panels and far too many things to do. The very first panel section on my official SXSW Eco scheduler was packed with 5 different panels and presentations that I felt pulled to. In the end I chose "Who Wins Water," a discussion on the future of water, the lack of fresh water and the impacts of retooling the water design. The issue of water is one that many Americans take for granted because, in most instances, water is "free" or a municipally supported right. The United Nations has, for years now, declared and supported the fact that water and clean sanitation is a basic human right.

This panel was so interesting that I could hardly keep myself from retweeting the entirety of the discussion. This was especially true with Peter Glick who, after researching him is now a personal hero. Not only was he spot on with water issues but he even infiltrated and exposed aspects of the Heartland Institute, who I wrote about earlier in the month. The panel was really great at linking the human and the economic impacts of water and drought.

After the session I had to run to the amazing press room that the staff had set up to prepare for my Online Ocean Symposium hangout. The conversation went well and there will be a highlight reel coming but for now, here is the conversation.

After the hangout and a quick vegetarian bite at a local cantina I headed to a discussion between Bloomberg and VP of Next Generation Climate Action Kate Gordon. Next Gen is an organization trying to create political and personal action on the climate including supporting the green economy and fighting against projects like XL Keystone pipeline. Founded by Billionaire Tom Steyer who has been making some fantastic moves on the effort and some fantastic videos. Kate Gordon went into detail about their project "Risky Business" which tries to educate on the long term detriments of a bad-climate business model.

My next stop was the panel discussion and live broadcast from The discussion, titled "Beyond Extreme Weather: Has the Media Failed Us in Reporting Climate Change?" went into the over all coverage of climate issues, comparing it to other stories at the same time of publication and wording of the articles for adoption. The panel was filled to the brim with great experts and reporters in their field including a previous Hangout guest Kate Sheppard and moderated by the ever wonderful Chris Mooney.

While this conversation was interesting, educational and, in the end impact, the last question that the panel asked bothered me a little bit. An audience member asked "how do you measure the success of your stories." Every single panelist talked to the point of what I call passive impacts. Things like; readers, shares, comments, likes were highlighted as the "end-all-be-all" when these are all very low impact actions. I can not tell you how many articles I have read over the past week. I can tell you how many made me actually call a Senator or go to an event. I wondered if those metrics were considered; how much action and change occurred.

After the panel discussion, most of the action of the convention went to an awards ceremony with a mediocre MC and a far too crowded drink line. Deciding to try and keep to my favorite parts of these conferences, the conversations, I headed to a side event at a local bar. This event showed off an urban farming technique called a "living wall."

While an open bar, delicious foods and fantastic fresh garnishes were all distracting, the conversations were even more amazing. In the end, I was lucky enough to make some fantastic contacts and even had the privilege of riding to my hotel on the back of a motorcycle, driven by a hardcore urban farmer and all around awesome person Paige Hill of Urban Patchwork.

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