What can Second Life teach us about sustainability?

Like Dave Pollard, writer of the excellent blog ”How to Save the World”, I too believe the on-line 3D phenomenon ”Second Life” (www.secondlife.com) can make a significant contribution to sustainable development. Here are a few first thoughts:

Simulation of technology. If you can think it you can make it Second life. And then walk around it, see it, see it in context, show to others. Second life could act as a showcase for all kinds of sustainable solutions – from sustainable towns through water cleaning systems to energy capture. These solutions could be presented in a compelling way – where you walk from insight to insight gathering new knowledge and perspective. There is already a sustainable Eco-village in SL called Etopia. They are doing some good things which I will come back later to.

My Avatar in SL, Max Wahlter tries out a bamboo bike in Etopia

The other area of interest in SL is the money system. It is interest-free, and works like many an ideal alternative currency. You simply pay for right of use. Just now about four USD will get you an account and 1000 Linden Dollars. You can earn money by selling your time or the things you make. All transactions are tax-free. SL is an ideal place to try out alternative currency approaches.

The same is true of social structures. In real life (RL) we can get into a bad tangle when our personal economies are involved with others, say when buying into an eco-village or starting a business with companions. In SL you can buy an island with your friends, build a shop and start from there. Should it fail you can always close the computer and walk away – and you will have participated in an experiment for just a few dollars that would otherwise threaten your entire economy. SL friends of mine, Mia and Cal are trying just this. See their blog on asecondlifediary.gaia.com. SL provides tools for collaborating like on-line chat, text and voice, group notifications and possibilities to show videos and powerpoints and distribute text and other material.

Maybe one of the least talked about sustainable aspects of SL is its ability to bring all kinds of pleasures without using one drop of fossil fuels. This is important because we are at a stage where our consumption levels clearly must drop radically. This is not going to be easy. We are used to so much material comfort and stimulation. We can experiment with weaning ourselves off material pleasures, going over to establishing rewarding relationships on-line with people from all over the world and playing on-line. Whatever your needs – be they paint ball, jazz, hang gliding or fetish sex – you can find all on-line in SL!

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