Counterspill: The renewable energy communications war room

With the 2010 BP oil spill in the Golf of Mexico and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, environmental disasters have gotten big coverage in the mass media over last months. However, when the biggest shock and public outrage has passed the aftermath of such disasters tends to be less newsworthy to traditional media outlets.

Enters Counterspill.

“Big Energy has their communications war room. Counterspill.org is ours.”

This is the claim of Counterspill whose assumed mission is to “promote awareness about the impact of non-renewable energy disasters through a living archive that combines best-in-class reporting, research, social media and community engagement.” Basically, the idea behind Counterspill is to provide on a one-stop portal a counter-narrative to the non-renewable energy industry’s narrative. Counterspill has been launched in April 2011. Its sponsors and partners are primarily philanthropic and environmental organisations as well as NGOs.

The information in the disasters rubric on Counterspill’s website can be accessed directly from the front page. It features an interactive world map and timeline mapping accidents including gas, oil, nuclear and coal in space and time. The timeline can be dragged to select a time window. Using filters one can include only accidents of a certain kind, with a defined size of cleanup costs or involving certain companies. (I assume said cleanup costs also control the size of the circles on the world map, though, this is not explained anywhere)

Counterspill world map

Through clicking on one of the disasters in the world map, or directly in the disasters rubric, one can get information about individual accidents. The section is very well designed: The central element is an interactive timeline.

Counterspill BP oil spill timeline

By clicking on a key date, one can access short texts, photo or (embedded) video footage about the accident and its aftermath. If one is less interested in the temporal succession of events, the footage can also be accessed independently.

Photo and video footage

Possibly the strongest point about the devastating effects of big non-renewable energy accidents is made by an infographic, tailored to each of the disasters covered. You can see the infographics for the 2010 BP oil spill and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident below.

Infographic on the 2010 BP oil spill

Infographic on the 2011 Fukushima accident

I think by providing the comparative numbers, Counterspill manages to put the dimensions of an accident’s implications into a frame of reference which is better understandable than the raw numbers with many zeroes followed by a dollar sign. And it also doesn’t fail to point out what exactly could have been achieved in the field of renewable energy resources, if only one could have invested the resources which were employed to clean up after non-renewable energy disasters.

Besides chronicling non-renewable energy disasters and their aftermath, Counterspill is also about including you and me in its bottom-up mission. They are looking for thinkers, artists, communities and anybody who can contribute in the form of citizen journalism or research, professional reporting or artistic expression to help challenging non-renewable energy. If you are interested, you can join the intervention or check out Counterspill on Facebook.

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