Plan B 4.0

It's Blog Action Day, and 2009's topic is climate change. With the most enlightening read on my 2008 list being Earth Policy Institute's Plan B 3.0, I was really glad to see Plan B 4.0 released a while ago -- it is available in its entirety in both HTML and PDF formats online, which happily means we can augment the material using tools like Greasemonkey and MashLogic (I am one of the developers and maintainers of both extensions).

Both extensions, in different ways, allow us to easily improve our reading experience by running code that someone else already wrote once, for material that was published by yet another unrelated person or organization, without any sort of organized cooperation among either of us. I find that notion incredibly powerful, and an uplifting thought about where decentralized cooperation is taking us online.

When I read Plan B 3.0 (the paper copy I bought at the release party of the Swedish translation, as it were), I found myself wishing I could more effortlessly look up the many high quality source references that are strewn about the book for the immense amount of facts about recent macro events affecting our planet, on all sorts of levels, instead of flicking back and forth as soon as I got curious. Footnotes work really well in hypertext. The online versions actually don't yet do that for footnotes.

So I wrote a handy user script that not only adds bidirectional footnote hyperlinks, but also pulls them into the end of the paragraph that references them, the first time you click them. Try it (direct install link); it's a very comfortable reading style.

If you run MashLogic too, you get essentially the same feature for bringing in content from Wikipedia (and sometimes references to people from LinkedIn), without losing more focus on the material than you find you want to, getting up to date about relevant data about, say, the World Food Programme's operations, or where the Xinjiang Province is. I find it a rather rich and low-effort way of broadening your general knowledge about everything.

It would be delightful if Google Books would export an index of their entire repository of books, and provide a linking scheme so we could turn those book and page references in the footnotes into actual hyperlinks too, the way we currently do with Wikipedia article names. Take the first reference in the introductory chapter, for instance (full precision of the deep-linkage only available after you install the above mentioned Greasemonkey script :-) -- with a catalog of all book titles to book id:s available, we could turn that into a link like "[1] Sandra Postel, Pillar of Sand (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999), pp. 13–21.]" -- just like that.

The web is a very exciting medium, only just starting to show its potential. And as for Plan B 4.0, I can warmly recommend sinking into it, letting yourself fascinate with richer understanding of where we're heading, and all the fascinatingly intricate ways our global economy and ecology connect, affect each other, consequences and solutions.

There's even a good number of tips for ways we can all join in making the world a better place on the Earth Policy Institute's site. Happy Blog Action Day, and do spread the word!