Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Environmental Twitter

Bytes of Note - Environmental Twitter / George E. Clark

Environment / September-October / 2009

Twitter, the microblogging Web site that enables users to post unlimited messages of 140 characters or less, became the fastest-growing Internet communication tool earlier this year, according to Nielsen Online. [snip] As with any general broadcast communication tool, Twitter can provide a helpful service to those with an interest in environmental and sustainability issues.

[snip] Any individual or organization representative can sign up for a free account. However, no account is needed to search all public Twitter streams ...  A search can provide realtime insight into a mixture of both public opinion and public relations spin on environmental issues. The advanced search features of these sites can be used to search specific Twitter fields, such as location, bio, and names mentioned. The usefulness of analyzing real-time data of this kind may be hard to imagine for those new to Twitter and may not yet be realized for environment-specific uses. [snip]


While few Twitter searchers may be interested in conducting sophisticated analyses of tweets, many will want to see what specific individuals or organizations are saying. [snip]

When starting out as an active Twitter user, or when beginning to decipher tweets as a passive Twitter searcher or follower, it helps to develop a basic Twitter vocabulary. Writer and social media consultant Greg Pincus presents a simple and useful list ... .


Besides the EPA, environment- and sustainability-related U.S. agencies on Twitter include the National Park Service (@NatlParkService), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (@CDCemergency), and FEMA (@femainfocus). The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration uses Twitter for a number of applications, including educating students about oceans (@oceanexplorer). is a directory of government and related Twitter users. Internationally, the United Nations Environmental Programme has begun an active Twitter program, @UNEPandYou, as has the World Health Organization, @whonews.

Environmental nongovernmental organizations using Twitter include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (@IUCN), Earthwatch (@tweettheheat), Greenpeace (@greenpeaceusa), The Nature Conservancy (@nature_org), the World Resources Institute (@worldresources), and the World Wildlife Fund (@WWFUS).

Twitter also provides a forum for practitioners in particular academic and policy fields and news organizations covering specialized topics. In climate, for example, Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and lead author of the U.S. Global Change Research Program report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, tweets as @KHayhoe. Richard Klein, a climate policy analyst for the Stockholm Environment Institute and a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has begun tweeting as @rjtklein. Earth Negotiations Bulletin, a news service on multilateral environmental negotiations, used Twitter to post news from the recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Bonn, Germany, as @enbclimate.

Locally, police and fire departments are beginning to employ Twitter to keep the public informed of incidents, a use that is likely to mean more active official emergency responders’ participation in disaster tweeting. In the United States, fire departments on Twitter include Los Angeles (@LAFD) and San Diego (@SDFD). Police departments include Boston (@Boston_Police) and Phoenix (@phoenixpolice).


Twitter is but one of a number of emerging social media, many of which already affect environmental work. Terri Willard (@taikod) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development has written a briefing paper, “Social Networking and Governance for Sustainable Developmentthat places Twitter inside a much larger context. Willard posits three key technologies that enable the “social web” and make it a potential force for sustainability: the prevalence of handheld computing and communication devices; the ease with which individuals can post, find, and comment on each other’s videos, images, words, and other content; and the potential of social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn.

Environmental subject librarians are a good starting point for new resources to explore on the Web, in Twitter, and in the evolving social information setting more broadly. Some use Twitter to connect with a broad constituency. Anne Less, a librarian with the U.S. Green Building Council, tweets using the handle @alessismore. Lenora A. Oftedahl, a librarian with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, tweets as @StreamNetLib. Anne Moser is head librarian and head Tweeter at Wisconsin’s Water Library (@WiscWaterLib).

George E. Clark is the environmental research librarian at the Harvard College Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @georgeclark. Thanks to @freegovinfo and @reblakeley for suggestions of a few resources for this column.



!!! Thanks To George E. Clark / Environmental Research Librarian / Harvard College Library / For The HeadsUp !!!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention Gerry! It's actually @KHayhoe if you can fix it


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