Social media and blogging have caught on like wildfire in political campaigns: over the last few election cycles, we’ve seen candidates for all levels of office taking advantage of web-based tools to rally the troops, get the message out, and rapidly respond to issues, events, and criticism.
But what about when the elections are over, and the work of governing begins? In theory, blogging’s a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of an official’s constituency, and to engage with those constituents on a daily basis about the issues that matter to them. A number of elected officials, as well as government agencies, have picked up on the value of the Web 2.0 “marketplace of ideas” to continue discussions raised during campaigns. Not nearly enough, perhaps, but, slowly, government 2.0 is taking shape.
Environmental issues have taken a more prominent place in our civic discussion, and government officials are using social media as one way to motivate and facilitate debates over energy development, land use, global warming mitigation, and other relevant issues. While there’s much more that could be done to leverage social media as a means of ensuring transparency and accountability on environmental policy, a handful of blogs at the federal level are setting a solid standard for using blogs as a means of engaging with citizens.
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenversations blog: In my humble opinion, Greenversations is the cream of the crop of federal-level blogs with an environmental focus. It’s frequently updated by a variety of authors from within the agency, hosts a couple of regular features (Science Wednesday and “Pick 5 for the Environment“), and provides a wide range of content: from policy discussions to educational suggestions to action tips. It also publishes bilingual posts (in English and Spanish) every Thursday.
- The Department of Energy’s Energy Empowers blog: If you’re a sucker for a good success story, Energy Empowers is full of them. The blog focuses on “…personal success stories give us a glimpse of how, together, we are building America’s new energy economy.” From individuals to small businesses to local governments, Energy Empower illustrates how green/clean tech approaches to economic growth and development are working across the nation.
- The National Agriculture Laboratory’s InfoFarm blog: InfoFarm covers wide range of agricultural issues, so it’s not a “green” blog in the traditional sense. It does, however, have top-level categories on both Natural Resources and Environment, and Organic Production. InfoFarm’s very good at creating list/link posts to resources that you may find helpful, as well as action tips; substantive discussion of agricultural policy isn’t quite a prominent as some might hope. It’s layout, unfortunately, is awful: they could really make better use of permalinks for full posts and comments.
- The GLOBE Scientists Blog: GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is a joint educational program for primary and secondary students involving NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of State, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The blog is designed to get students discussing environmental science: program scientists contribute posts, and encourage schoolkids to engage with them.
- NOAA’s Marine Debris Program blog: This one’s definitely the most niche of federal-level environmental blogs — the program focuses on cleaning up debris from commercial fishing and other maritime activities. An interesting project I discovered here: “Fishing for Energy,” which “recycles” some forms of marine debris (like commercial fishing nets) as biomass for energy production. This one’s hosted off-site, on a Blogspot page.
- The White House Council on Environmental Quality blog: Say what you will about the current administration, they “get” social media pretty well. The Council on Environmental Quality’s blog is probably the most wide-ranging on this list, and does cover stories and events at other agencies that are blogging. It’s updated pretty frequently; unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have comments enabled. I can understand that — the amount of spam and/or inappropriate comments could overwhelm the system. It also undermines the very concept of social media, though… dialogue is critical. I hope the tech geeks at the White House are working to make this blog more interactive.
While I mined both USA.gov and Google for green government blogs, it’s certainly possible I missed some. Know of another environmentally-focused blog published by the government? Let us know about it, as well as what you think of it…