The9Billion.com founder John Johnston doesn’t hug trees
I really struggle to call myself an environmentalist, at least in the traditional sense, even though I’ve founded a website to do with sustainability.
It shouldn’t, but even in this day and age for some people, the word environmentalist seems to conjure notions of so called “treehugging hippie” types.
Funnily enough, I don’t even like using the term “green”. I wouldn’t describe myself as green.
I try not to say things like ‘going green”, or “green economy”, or “green technology”.
I don’t want to be put in a green box off to the side. I think all these “green” things need to go mainstream.
Perhaps there won’t be a separate category one day – “green economy” will just be economy, and “green energy” will just be energy. That’s where we need to get to for some of these big environmental problems to be solved.
What common perceptions about environmentalists aren’t true?
Well as I said earlier, it’s not true that most environmentalists are so-called “treehugging hippy” activists.
I also don’t think the perception is true that most environmentalists these days are against advanced technologies, I’m certainly not.
I think innovative clean technologies and communication technologies in particular, are going to have a great deal to offer over the coming decades.
My site is about finding out how 9 billion people can live sustainably together, while having fun along the way.
Nobody has all the answers to that at this stage, but I think we should try to have fun finding out. Fun and pleasure are important.
It’s not all about end-of-the-world doom and gloom; quite the contrary, at least that’s true for me, and I think for many others as well.
What actions aren’t being taken to prepare for a projected world population of nine billion people?
Obviously the lack of global climate change action is a big deal, and the later we leave it, the tougher and more expensive it’s going to be to pull it back.
But I believe we can still do it, and there are quite a few positive things starting to happen.
I believe the exponential growth and dramatic lowering of the cost of solar power is one of those things, even though it’s still a small overall percentage of power.
That’s happening outside of any sort of global climate or clean energy agreement. We’re probably going to have to do this thing from the ground up, not from the top down.
Unfortunately, it seems that a certain amount of climate change is already locked-in and humanity is going to have to try and adapt, unless we find a safe technological way to reverse it later.
If we have a world population of 9 billion by about 2050 (already 7 billion now), it’s not going to be easy but as I said, I think we will work it out. Call me an optimist.
Then there’s the food, fresh water, and clean energy questions, among many others. Nobody really knows the full answers to all these questions just yet, and perhaps we’re not addressing them enough.
Part of the reason for starting The9Billion.com is to track the path to the solutions to some of these big questions, one day at a time.
You’ve also made a name for yourself as a leading social media strategist. What don’t you share on social media?
I don’t share as much about my personal life in social media these days, not as much as I used to in the beginning.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve kept all my social media profiles public as they’ve grown, that I’ve become more private. I’ve also got kids now, so that’s made me a bit more protective I guess.
I also don’t tend to engage in a lot of trivial chit-chat in social media these days.
I think there’s definitely a place for the ebb and flow of trivial conversation and chit-chat in social media; nothing wrong with it, but I guess I got a bit tired of it having been on Twitter almost every day since early 2007.
I kind of wanted there to be more purpose to the whole social media thing.
Who aren’t you following on Twitter?
If people constantly complain about trivial stuff, or are mean, I tend to ignore that. I rarely bother to unfollow once I’ve followed someone, unless they happen to be constantly harassing me or others.
I’ve enjoyed debating people quite a lot on Twitter about issues over the years, but I’m tending not to do that so much now, it’s pretty futile.
I’ve hardly blocked anyone on Twitter, except for reply spammers.
I like to pay attention to people who post stimulating thoughts and links.
You’ve had great success in your social media career, including WWF’s Earth Hour campaign. How shouldn’t a company use social media?
I don’t think companies should be trying to do the hard sell on there, that’s a real turn off for most people in social media I think.
People aren’t there to be sold at. It’s a bit like someone knocking on your door at dinnertime and trying to sell you something you don’t want, it’s very intrusive.
I think many of the things companies shouldn’t be doing in social media are just common sense really.
Act like your company is made up of real people, which it is, not a faceless brand. I think most companies are starting to get that now.
What social media platforms won’t we be using in five years?
We’ll that’s anyone’s guess, the web has been moving fast and it’s still relatively early days. It depends what’s invented and takes hold in the coming years.
For instance, if something is invented that gets popular quickly and happens to start sending Facebook’s user base into decline, and Facebook doesn’t manage to buy it out or neutralise it somehow, Facebook could take a real hit.
It seems unlikely at this point, but who knows? Chances are, if something like that happens, it won’t be from anything expected.
Imagine you were only allowed one more tweet for the rest of your life. What wouldn’t you say?
I wouldn’t try to tell people how to live their lives, but rather simply ask people to try to be kind to each other, no matter what. We could do with a lot more of that in the world.
Thanks for taking some time to chat with us John. Be sure to check out his forward-thinking website The9Billion.com