I’ll admit that I love my technological conveniences: this shiny, fairly-new laptop; my car and its ability to take me anywhere to buy anything in just a few minutes; clean, perpetually-running water and frozen, mass-produced cuisines that I can pop in the microwave at any moment. But very few consumers actually question the origins and hidden costs of these conveniences: how is my MacBook made—are the copper conductors hauled out of the Earth by the enslaved Congolese, then exported to China and labelled blood-free by corrupt suppliers before Apple and then I, the customer, blissfully buy into the lies? How much pollution does my 'clean' electric car really produce—if not at the tailpipe, at the coal-fired power plant miles away, out of sight and out of mind? What are the ethics of the factory-farmed chicken in my TV-dinner fettuccini alfredo—live animals packed into a barn darker and dirtier than the box my food was shipped in?
So many questions, so few solutions. Redirecting the focus of engineering in school and American industry from gadgets to necessities is essential to ensure equitable global progress: Instead of building a cheaper robot vacuum cleaner for Americans, what about a low-cost water purification device for the impoverished of Guatemala? The first step is education for everyone with Internet access: That’s why I created changerize.org, which uses social networking and gamification (earning points for reading, sharing, etc.) to inform everybody about oft-ignored issues, conflicts, and the many people denied the fruits of modern capitalism. A sustainable buying, living, and eating guide with user-added content gives concrete steps for how everybody can play a part. This is a one-stop shop for education and action, my start at tackling our biggest problem—the Achilles’ heel of ignorance that is leading to our environmental and humanitarian downfall.
So what are you waiting for? Contribute, share, learn! We’re in the first alpha release right now, so everything isn’t perfect, but soon the world will have a new way to ensure fundamental rights for all.