ecotrack: taking back control of sustainability

2008 brought us the Obama campaign’s digital revolution. 2011 brought us the cell phone-enabled Arab Spring. But for the impact that technology can have on politics, 2016 was a year like no other. Email hacks, fake news, echo chambers, Twitter spats, you name it — all of these phenomena and many more emerged in an election cycle that saw the internet take centre stage like never before.

Many people out there — including me — will conclude that on balance, these digital disruptions did more to harm than to help the cause of progressive politics last year. Certainly, the days when the internet felt like an unalloyed asset in the pursuit of democracy and human rights are long gone.

But the fact that the internet can prevent progress as much it can promote it should be treated more as a challenge than a threat. On one level this is obvious. Technology is made by and for people — that is, citizens — who want to see society move in many different directions. Yet it’s important not to let the dystopian possibilities that the internet opens up obscure the possibility for radical, positive change in the devices we carry around every day.

2017, in other words, represents the opportunity for something new, inspiring, and different. Donald Trump’s victory, some suggest, may have set the prospects of preventing climate change back a generation — and according to most scientists, we no longer have a generation to spare. But in reality, Trump’s win pushes the onus on… us. You only have to look at the aggressive climate control measures taken by states like California to realize that America’s federal system allows a great deal of latitude to individual states. And in much the same way, the devices we carry around every day offer us, as individual citizens, the ability to harness our own decision-making power.

The aim of ecotrack, the startup for whom I serve as Growth Manager, is to take advantage of the devices already in use and the datasets already being generated to tackle the enormous political, social and economic challenges posed by climate change. Much of our mission involves ‘nudging’ individuals to change their behavior. Anyone who has used a fitbit will appreciate how getting to 10,000 steps each day suddenly takes on great importance when you’re wearing a device encouraging you to step up. A wealth of other apps — from Mint, which tracks your spending, to Lifesum, which helps you analyze your diet — similarly combine smart data collection with an elegant user interface to encourage positive change.

It’s important not to get ahead of ourselves here. Climate change is an enormously complicated issue — even more so following the events of last year. But with the stakes so high, and with leadership at the national level sorely lacking, we need to take matters into our own hands — in this case, quite literally. When we release the ecotrack app later this year, we hope it will inspire and empower our users to make the sorts of changes which will, taken together, put this planet on a more sustainable footing. Visit the new ecotrack website to keep up to date with our progress.