Can YouTube Save the Planet?

Pooling videos can provide instant evidence of global environmental problems.

By | September 1, 2007

<figcaption> Credit: Courtesy of Navjot Sodhi</figcaption>
Credit: Courtesy of Navjot Sodhi

It is disheartening that the population at large still remains indifferent to the planet's environmental problems. Part of the reason can be attributed to the public's perceptions on issues such as climate change. An Ipsos MORI poll in the United Kingdom this year found that 56% of people surveyed believed scientists are still questioning climate change.1 Another reason is the continued reluctance of government policy makers to commit to measures that would help create real change. The failure of the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is perhaps the most widely publicized example of this.

There is clearly a pressing need for environmental problems such as global warming to be heard, understood, and acted on worldwide. Traditional media has a significant role in educating people about environmental issues, but dynamic and interactive forms of online content such as blogs may provide more effective means of communicating such messages.2 However, the overly descriptive and esoteric nature of some environmental blogs may reduce their efficacy as public outreach tools. The success of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth," on the other hand, suggests that the visual appeal of videos might be more successful at increasing environmental awareness.

Scientists are only just beginning to tap into the power of videos. For example, one online scientific journal was recently set up to host video clips that demonstrate molecular biology protocols.3 The public, however, has already developed a huge passion for posting and viewing videos. YouTube (, arguably the world's most popular online free video-sharing Web site, hosts more than 70 million video clips and is viewed by around 20 million people monthly.

Proponents of environmental conservation should therefore consider broadcasting their findings and messages through YouTube. This platform will allow them to connect and communicate with an audience that primarily consists of 12-17 year olds, the future custodians of the planet. The video commentary function on YouTube even allows scientists to contribute informed opinions on causes of environmental disasters.

How can environmental awareness best be communicated through this medium? We think a wisdom-of-crowds approach will create the most effective message, so we want to propose an experiment. We are calling on scientists around the globe to register with YouTube and post one or more video clips depicting species and habitat loss, regional effects of climate change, or environmentally unfriendly activities that people continue to commit despite repeated warnings.

We, together with the editors of The Scientist, have created a dedicated channel on YouTube to host these videos: As an example, we have uploaded a video documenting deforestation within Lore Lindu National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia ( We are asking scientists and environmental commentators to post videos, comment on others, and embed videos in Web sites or blogs to inform the public about this video channel.

In response to the question: What is the one thing, the most urgent thing, that everyone can do to tackle global warming? Al Gore replied: "Well, first of all, learn about it."4 Gathering a series of local videos will create a global lesson of the damage being caused by climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances in a way that would not be possible with one or a few groups of scientists. Providing visual evidence of environmental woes worldwide through YouTube will create a compelling message for the public and governments alike that will be difficult to ignore any longer.

Reuben Clements, David Bickford, and David J. Lohman are at the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.


1. "'Scepticism' over climate claims," BBC News Online, July 3, 2007. 2. A. Ashlin, R.J. Ladle, "Environmental science adrift in the blogosphere," Science, 312:201, 2006. 3. Journal of Visualized Experiments ( 4. "So, Al Gore, what's the one thing we can all do to tackle climate change?" The Independent, July 7, 2007.


Avatar of: Jaana Koverola

Jaana Koverola

Posts: 1

September 11, 2007

In the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat there was a news article in 17th July 2007 about the English researcher Mike Lockwood, from Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory and about his conclusion, that the radiation of the Sun does not explain the climate warming. I agree.\n\nOn my website \nI hope to show that there are two reasons for the climate warming:\n\n1) The w h o l e solar system till the farthest Kuiper Belt object \n\nand\n\n2) Man with his greenhouse gases.\n\nProf. Tim Flannery writes in his fine book The Weather Makers about the inexplicable leaps in the average level of temperature: (page 84) "Climatologist Julia Cole refers to the leaps made by climate as 'magic gates', and she argues that since temperatures began rising rapidly in the 1970s our planet has seen two such events - in 1976 and 1998. These dates are important, for again and again they mark the onset of remarkable phenomena." \n\nIn the diagram on my website\n \nwe can see, that about 1976 two Kuiper Belt objects - Sedna and 2005 FY9 that travel very slowly in the space - moved from the 'etheric area of the element Water' (blue) to the 'etheric area of the element Warmth' (red). \n\nAbout 1998 the Kuiper Belt object Orcus moved to the etheric area of the element Warmth as well, and this transition is remarkable, because Orcus itself represents the element Warmth thus creating a double effect to the warming. In addition to the effect caused by Orcus, Sedna and FY9 were both still staying in the area of Warmth. It should be added that on the etheric level the effect the more distant heavenly bodies have on our climate does not diminish with the distance.\n\nAfter that point the different heavenly bodies have wandered on to the different elemental areas, but all the time the element Warmth has been very well represented, which we can feel in our climate. \n\nIn the diagram \nwe can see, that the element Earth (violet) is also increasing, and the elements of Warmth and Earth together are causing storms. \n\nHow long will this cosmic warm period continue? In these diagrams we can see that it will continue until about the year 2030. After that the cosmic situation will change into a much colder one for about 35 years. But what the mankind does with its greenhouse gases we cannot yet know. My opinion is, that these two factors together ? including, ofcourse, the radiation from the sun - are causing the climate warming. \n\nAnother question is what the combined influence of these two factors will be to the climate after the year 2030? Snow storms and continuous cold rains? This is a very important question that the scientist should clear up very soon.\n\nYou can read more on my website \n\n \n\n\n
Avatar of: S.C. Agarwal

S.C. Agarwal

Posts: 3

September 14, 2007 is arguably a very popular website, being visited by a large number of viewers. Therefore, it is a very good idea to try and create awareness about our environment, by putting up video clips on this website, as suggested in this article. We must not forget, however, that most of the youtube viewers are basically interested in entertainment, and are therefore unlikely to view these environment videos, just because they are there. We should find a way to induce them to see them. One such solution that comes to my mind (perhaps not the best), is to request youtube to show short environment video clips, before each video, requested by the viewer. One may give the viewer an option to answer a simple question about the environment correctly and get out of watching the required environment clip. This may sound too demanding for youtube, but given their popularity, they could afford this risk for this important cause, at try it out on an experimental basis, at least for a while.

September 14, 2007

This article states that 58% of the people in the UK polled think scientist still debate global warming. Oh how misleading! \n\n\n\nIf you are going to talk about global warming, at least be truthful and don't use cowardly misleading tactics. Don't sink as low as you say the deniers do. \n\nIf you do a web search you will find that of those who say Global Warming is reality, some of them disagree as to whether this will cause an ice age or a heat age. How scientifically accurate can a house divided against itself be?\n\nMy opinion? People used to farm in greenland, according to archeologists. People are just now farming in greenland on account of global warming. I'd rather trust the archeolists and geologists who are constantly critisized for there beliefs.\n\nAs for Al Gore - even if you support global warming - don't elect him. The Kyoto Protocol? It states that a country is penalized if it doesn't reduce emissions to below where it was 20 years ago. Unfortunetaly some countries had almost no emmissions 20 years ago, so the unequality in what each country would have to accomplish to avoid a fine puts Japan at a suspicious advantage. Please look at what each side says on a given issue before you pick a side.

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