The Viridian Design Movement

Viridian Note 00303: Steffen's Wild Sloth Chase

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts: Viridian Curia, Alex Steffen,
journalism, travel book, Viridians, green trendspotting, urban design, eco-activism

Attention Conservation Notice: May cause Alex Steffen, a member of the Viridian Curia, to show up on your doorstep, notebook in hand.

"The Wild Sloth Chase"

by Alex Steffen <>

"My fellow Viridianistas,

"When the future arrived, most people weren't paying attention.

"Most journalists are like me: easily distracted by loud and shiny things. Few things in our recent history have been as bright and well-hyped as the e-commerce bubble. Now that it's over, it's easier to see that the real heroes weren't building online bookstores or virtual pet food empires.

"The 'Internet Boom' was a decidedly late-Twentieth Century affair, with salesmen anxious to replace craptacular brick-n'-mortar businesses with cyber-analogs. For all their talk about building the world of tomorrow, their most inspired idea for the Net was to make it just like TV. Meanwhile, a whole 'nother group of people were building structures that eat TV: think Napster, think Slashdot, think blogs.

"If TV sucks, then global climate change truly blows. So does the whole model of how we design and build the places we live and the systems that power them. I want to find the people who are inventing something to eat that model of urban living.

"You must know who they are. Viridianismos is about replacing the drab, ruined future we've been handed with something dynamically sustainable, enticing and weirdly brilliant. I want to find that shiny, new-green future. I'm not exactly sure what it looks like, but I'm going to spend the next half-year traveling the United States, hunting it down. And I want your help.

"Bruce Chatwin starts his travel book, 'In Patagonia,' by describing the piece of dark and hairy dried-out giant sloth hide that sat in his grandmother's cabinet. Dreams of finding a giant sloth drew him to South America. 'In Patagonia' is not about giant sloths. But the giant sloth pulls Chatwin along == sloth-sightings and rumors of sloths drive the book. In searching for the giant sloth, he finds the real Patagonia.

"Here's what I ask of you: send me your giant sloths. 'The future is here,' as William Gibson says, 'it's just not well-distributed yet.' Tell me where in your city (or any city you know well) the Viridian future can be found.

"What has the stink of the new on it? What art, what architecture, which community groups, what design innovations fill you with hope, awe you, give you shivers? Where's the party? I have some great leads, enough to convince a publisher to pay me to take this trip. But I also know that 1,800 heads are better than one. Tracking the future is a team sport.

"This book may well become the world's first network-supported travelogue. It's an experiment == and you get to play. Email me Viridian sloth sightings at <giantsloth(at)>. Anyone whose story is used in this book will get an author's copy, handsomely personalized, directly out of my little stash.

"And, of course, you can follow my progress on this little blog:


"The sloth is afoot!
Alex Steffen"

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