Key concepts: World Wide Web, alternative energy sources, propaganda

Attention Conservation Notice: It's another design contest.

We Viridians spend a lot of time on the net. Unfortunately, the design of the net is very much part of civilization's worst design problem. The net runs on electricity, and most of this electricity is generated by spewing carbon dioxide.

Think how lovely it would be if we had a clean web. We could chatter and ship our ones-and-zeros, knowing we were part of the solution rather than the problem. We would have taken a valiant step out of the mire. Even *part* of a clean web would be a major start.

It would help if vile, reprehensible, twentieth- century, fossil-fuel websites were forced to place environmental health-warnings on themselves. This is only justice, because their sources of power are cheap, ugly, and bad for us. Pejorative web-site disclaimers such as "dinosaur-powered, " "runs on greasy kid-stuff" and "power-smoker" are in order. "WARNING: DOWNLOADS HERE WILL INCREASE YOUR INSURANCE RATES." We are open to suggestion.

No doubt there are Danish websites running on North Sea windpower right now, but who's to know? Their wondrous virtue is not properly trumpeted, so they go unrewarded. There aren't any attractive, delightful labels for clean-powered websites.

The time has come to invent some banners to meet these obvious needs.

First, we need constructive, forward-looking banners for clean websites. We're not particular about their chosen source of energy, except that we despise CO2, and we're not real big on nuclear fission. We prefer sustainable, non-brittle forms of power, that can't evaporate cities full of civilians in one big flash. So, the net requires new banners for inventive, novel websites that choose to use wind, solar, hydro, tides, biomass, alcohol fuel-cells, ocean thermal-energy conversion, geothermal, and, who knows, maybe even cold fusion and quantum sonoluminescence.

If you're in a darker mood, we'd love to see you create a sinister, hideous, reprehensible banner for websites that still insist on burning the smashed juice and crust of long-dead organisms. After all, the vast majority of us are still using this vile, nasty form of power, and we are therefore required to commit acts we know to be evil, whether we like it or not. If you're just one little user of, for instance, AOL or Geocities, your personal websites will be spewing dirty power for quite a while. However, if we had the proper kind of nasty banners, we could load them up as a personal protest at this unbearable status-quo.

The point here is not to create a graphic image that is particularly "Viridian-looking," but to create a work of effective propaganda. So, create your banner and upload it to an accessible site. Tell me where you've put it, and I will distribute the address to the list. Everyone making a banner (or banners) for us will receive a valuable star * for their log-in name.

The winner of the contest will receive a very attractive prize: a wind-up powered "Freeplay" Radio. This is the first actual, real-life, designed consumer object that we have given away, and I'm proud to say that this gizmo, although it's real, is still mighty Viridian. I've bought you the totally translucent model, so that you can enjoy watching its intricate innards at work. "JUST WIND IT AND IT PLAYS! Battery Free! Automatic Solar Power! Environmentally Friendly! Perfect for Power Failures! Works Anywhere, Anytime! Pays for Itself!" It has a crank and a little solar panel. And it comes in a nice big box!

We'll be paying a lot of attention in future to the Freeplay company. Let me frankly remark that this is not the world's best radio. It whirs as it works, and the speaker is somewhat feeble and crackly. It is, however, the perfect radio to have if you have suffered a ghastly, all-encompassing weather disaster, or if you have had your infrastructure destroyed by NATO. It even has a little plug if you insist on sticking it into the grid.

And it looks unbelievably cool. Trust me on this one: your friends will gape. When you say you won it in a design contest, they'll fall all over themselves.

I look forward to seeing your efforts. This contest expires on May 31, 01999.

Bruce Sterling (