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An experiment in crowd-funded fast publishing: a new book on carbon neutral cities we'll write, design+ publish in the next 3 weeks! Read more

Seattle, WA Nonfiction
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This project was successfully funded on April 14, 2011.

An experiment in crowd-funded fast publishing: a new book on carbon neutral cities we'll write, design+ publish in the next 3 weeks!

Seattle, WA Nonfiction
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About this project



The climate crisis demands that we start rebuilding our cities to become carbon neutral. But what does carbon neutrality mean? What does it look like? How do we measure it? My goal here is to explain carbon neutrality in a short, amusing book that can be read in an afternoon

It's time to demystify bold climate action, fast. By being the first to show support, you'll help make this book a reality in time to announce on Earth Day (with release in mid May). You'll also get cool stuff.


With captivating design from Open (the creative geniuses behind Good magazine's design, Planet Green's logo, and the new Google for Nonprofits campaign) and text drawn from my popular "climate neutral cities" talks, Carbon Zero: A Short Tour of Your City's Future will take the reader on an adventure into his or her city's future.

I'll start by explaining the typical sources of greenhouse gas emissions in a North American city, using actual numbers from Seattle to illustrate the proportions and the controversies inherent in assigning responsibility for complex actions (should emissions from products made in China but purchased in the U.S., for instance, count as American or Chinese?).

I'll then move step by step through the various greenhouse gas sources, exploring solutions which can slash those emissions while providing more prosperity, better quality of life, or both. Drawing on real-world examples of successful projects and places, I'll show how these changes feel on the ground, painting a concrete picture of life in the near future. Using a few key charts and clear illustrations (Open are masterful information designers), we'll help readers visualize complex realities quickly.

The goal is not to dictate how any city ought to evolve; the goal is to show that a panoply of good climate solutions already exist, and more are in development, making for a variety of pathways into a climate-friendly future. It's a guide to thinking about an important set of issues, not a single-answer prescription.

Bucky Fuller once said that people never leave a sinking ship until they see the lights of another ship approaching. One of the reasons it is so hard to act on climate change is that most of us are afraid of what we'll lose, but uncertain at best about what we'll gain.

Yet, I'm convinced that the gains far outweigh the losses here. I think the gains are so great, we'd want to proceed with many of the boldest climate plans even if climate wasn't the biggest threat facing humanity. In fact bold action on climate may be what separates the world's most successful cities from ones that fail; in short, we're going to love our carbon-neutral, zero-waste, leafy green, car-free, unrecognizably ecological, economically booming urban futures... or envy someone else's.


Discussion of climate action these days is full of messages about do-it-yourself, small acts and ways to "go green." But this year, with a sense of malaise in the progressive community, a climate-hostile Congress and the oil, coal and chemical companies lobbying, spinning and greenwashing as never before, we need something more than a few simple steps.

But we can't build what we can't imagine, and we usually have a hard time imagining what we don't understand. Carbon neutrality is complex, but it's not rocket science: there's no reason why everybody can't understand its basics. But most people have never heard carbon neutrality explained, much less explained clearly in a book they actually have time to read.

This is a chance for us to not only create a resource for those people, but to push forward the larger debate as well, shining a light on the kind of change it will take to build a planet with a future.


Your early support will pay for my time to write it, a copy editor's time to check it and Open's time to design the book and the poster, as well as printing, shipping and supply costs.


The book will be short (no more than 100 pages - something you can read in one rainy afternoon), nicely illustrated and designed to be accessible and compelling. It'll be available in PDF and possibly for Kindle; if there's enough demand, we'll pursue a print edition as well.

My intention is also to make the whole thing available in a slightly shorter Creative Commons licensed version, so that it can be freely shared by community groups, in classrooms and with civic leaders.


You can follow me on Twitter at @AlexSteffen

My website is

Open's work can be seen at


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    120 backers

    Get a digital edition of the book, a thank you on and an invitation to an Earth Day Happy Hour in Seattle.

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    98 backers

    Get a special annotated digital edition of the book, a thank you both in the book and on and an invitation to the Earth Day Happy Hour in Seattle.

  • You selected
    Pledge $60 or more

    29 backers Limited (121 left of 150)

    An annotated copy of the ebook, a happy hour invitation, a special thank you on the acknowledgments page of the book PLUS a special limited edition print -- an original design by Open, suitable for framing.

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    52 backers Limited (98 left of 150)

    All of the above (annotated ebook, special limited edition print, happy hour invitation) PLUS a signed copy of the new Worldchanging 2.0 book, and a special thank you on the title page of the book.

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    4 backers Limited (1 left of 5)

    You get all of the benefits of the $100 level, plus a one-on-one lunch (or brownbag lunch with a group) with Alex (in person, if geography allows, or on Skype).

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    You'll receive all the benefits of the $500 level, except instead of a lunch, you and Alex can enjoy a leisurely dinner (or a dinner with a group of friends - your choice). In person, in Seattle or a nearby city (other locations negotiable, with expenses, depending on scheduling).

  • You selected
    Pledge $2,000 or more

    2 backers All gone!

    Project sponsor: your logo prominently displayed as sponsor on the ebook and web promotions; plus all the benefits of the $500 level.

  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Alex Steffen delivers a custom-crafted talk for your work, school or community audience (mutually agreeable date; in Seattle or you pay travel expenses; a $15,000 value).

Funding period

- (28 days)