Crowdfunding Goes Where No Government Has Gone Before: Caring about the Environment

by Hannah Brown

Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Governments and organizations across the globe have made efforts to ameliorate, or at least, modify, the consequences of climate change but not always at the pace that scientists urge. Reports such as those conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show us that the earth is in a dire state, that climate change has been definitively caused through human action, and that intervention is of the utmost importance. However, while this might be a red flag for most, places like Australia where the Climate Commission was abolished and only resurrected through community fundraising, are examples of a misdirection of attention. But, as Australia’s Climate Commission shows, where large organizing bodies are failing, individuals and innovators are rising.

Cue the armchair activists and their armchair investing. Crowdfunding sites, such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, have become unique platforms for people who have potentially successful environment minded ideas but lack funding. There’s even a handout on how to do it (

The types of projects are varied and intriguing. Established researchers such as Ralph Keeling, the heir to CO2 research in the US, used crowdfunding when his grants from the National Science Fund were cut. Other researchers proposed more far out, but not entirely implausible projects, such as the Solar Roadways. This project, which had been publicly funded by the Department of Transportation, raised more than $2.2 million dollars to continue their work developing roadways created out of solar panels and LED lights.

There are projects that find a happy medium – where they attract the individual, and promise moderate, but successful, change. A quick Google search will lead to a number of potential projects – from supporting rainforests in tropical Queensland, to helping fund community gardens to building communities through solar campaigns. There is a project that everyone can get behind.

However, some have pointed out that while there are benefits to crowdfunding, there are drawbacks as well. Questions like: how can the public know which ones are truly worth supporting, and which ones just have a good video and media presence? are relevant. Additionally, journalists such as Alice Bell, ask if it takes the responsibility of solving climate change issues unduly away from of the government, letting them off the hook when it should be one of their greatest priorities.

Regardless of the problems, crowdfunding does engage in the individual in climate change more than most other options as it can spur curiosity and lead to education. It also gives people an opportunity to make an impact and realize their stance and value in fighting climate change.

Leonard, Andrew. “Climate change madness: The fate of the planet now depends on Kickstarter.” January 10, 2014.

Lacey, Stephen. “Would Solar Roadways Work? A Government Engineer Discusses the Controversial Technology.” August 29, 2014.

Von Ritter, Konrad and Black-Layne, Diann. “Climate Change: A new source of finance for climate action at the local level?” European Capacity Building Initiative. May 2013.

North End Organic Nursery. “Bring the Garden back to Garden City.”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Findings of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change Science”

Flannery, Tim. “Climate Council raises $1m through its Obama-style fundraising drive” The Guardian. October 5, 2013.


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