"Electronic Environmentalism" is an activity within the environmental movement, the idea that work can be done on the web by looking at electronically posted information, evaluating that information, cooperating with a network of people to increase the work, and advocating for improvement of environmental conservation or protection. Since the work occurs over the internet, it is conducted electronically. This is a new application for the phrase “electronic environmentalism”. Other uses of this phrase apply to environmental management related to the electronics industry. In other words, neither the type of work we do providing public oversight of environmental projects nor the use of the phrase “electronic environmentalism” are new but the use of the phrase to describe this type of environmentalism is new. After studying the early concept of a wiki, a kind of flashcard system that captures ideas on the the boundaries of understanding categories of things, I realized that our project here at Environmental Review, Inc. is a type of environmentalism that has not been widely described yet.
I started using the phrase "electronic environmentalism" when I tried to describe the type of work we do here at Environmental Review, Inc. What we do is work over the internet with a network of reviewers to provide technical reviews of electronically posted documents that are out for public comment for protection of human health and the environment and provide suggestions for improvements to those documents via email. It’s all done over the internet, from locating the public notices posted by governmental agencies, to reviewing the documents collaboratively via email or document management system, to emailing the comments. We identified that there is an enormous need for commenting where stakeholders may be absent, unaware, or unable to comment due to the technical nature of the work. The projects we are interested in involve air quality, air pollution, water quality, water pollution, soil contamination, hazardous waste disposal, endangered species, development plans with environmental concerns and so forth. The comments we provide and the governmental agencys’ responses are posted on our website for public viewing. That way we provide useful information to the governmental agencies for improvement of project performance and increase knowledge of environmental issues by the public since our work is viewable by the public on our website. And we do it with a decentralized organizational structure.
Our project is just one example of electronic environmentalism. Other organizations are doing it to but have not formally called it as such. Other examples include communities using electronically posted information under the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know-Act which provides public information on chemical hazards. The act established the Toxics Release Inventory Program which requires industries to report the type and quantities of materials they handle or discharge. That information is available for public viewing on the USEPA website and communities have used that information to effect environmental mitigation in their communities. That is a type of electronic environmentalism. Another possible type of electronic environmentalism may be to use satellite imagery available for viewing on the internet to identify degraded creeks and salmon habitat pursuant to conservation and restoration efforts. There are many possible types of ways to practice environmentalism through electronic environmentalism, it is a growing field. We will see if we can create a new entry in Wikipedia for this newly coined use of the phrase "Electronic Environmentalism".