As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

In November 2022, many people watched Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover with fascination. Some of us also watched with horror.

Here was the richest person in the world, who assembled most of his wealth by building the world’s largest electric vehicle automaker, pivoting to being what appears to be the sole overseer of the world’s most important organizing platform with a renewed penchant for climate denialism — what could go wrong?

As is now abundantly clear, we are in a climate emergency.

The systems that created the climate emergency are built on extraction, colonialism, racism, and white supremacy — the same forces that are now powering Elon Musk’s Twitter. These systems — including policing, capitalism, and borders — are designed to separate us, commodify our lives, and concentrate power in people that are using fascism to keep it.

Every aspect of climate change is intertwined with the dangerous desire to abuse the natural world — and marginalized people — to extract wealth for personal gain. There is no justice without climate justice, and there is no climate justice without the climate movement aligning itself with all other justice-seeking movements.

In fact, according to the IPCC, these systems must be transformed. Achieving our collective goals of limiting climate change requires: “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

The good news is that none of those systems that are accelerating the climate emergency are inevitable or permanent. And what’s more, none of the systems that were designed to harm us are needed to foster a thriving planet where everyone’s lives matter and have meaning.

My prediction is that in 2023, social media will fragment — spurred by Twitter’s ongoing collapse as a left-leaning organizing space — and the social media platforms that emerge will accelerate the rise of the political power of marginalized people in U.S. politics.

I founded Project Mushroom to amplify the voices of marginalized people to achieve climate justice — and our work was just made about 100x easier because of Twitter’s ongoing collapse.

In just four weeks, starting from scratch, Project Mushroom was able to assemble a waitlist of more than 30,000 people, fully fund a $200,000 Kickstarter, and land tens of thousands of dollars in advertising deals from organizations perfectly aligned with our audience — people working for climate justice and willing to partner to make it happen. We were able to charge advertising rates at 3x the national average because of that alignment.

In short, Elon Musk just created a new era of social media: Niche verticals of like-minded people that can charge premium advertising rates and accelerate the interests of their communities.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen what happens when the richest person on Earth brings his personal brand of fascism to what was previously one of the most powerful organizing spaces ever created. Almost overnight, Twitter has lost a vast amount of its usefulness for people wanting to make the world a better place, and our feeds have been flooded with climate denial and climate accelerationism.

Project Mushroom is built as a comprehensive creator platform of like-minded folks and is intended to increase people’s ability to collaborate on meaningful projects that help change the world. This platform is being built to fit creators’ and communities’ broad needs for safety and community — not just as a replacement for Twitter.

Project Mushroom will offer at least four types of creator services: Newsletter hosting/publishing (including setup, maintenance, discoverability, and easy-to-use creator tools via Ghost), live events hosting (audio, video, in person, and creator support), a curated Mastodon-based social media network with paid moderators (that’s already live), and onboarding assistance for your followers to join you (that’s also already live).

All of these services are intended to be free for creators. Not only that, we’ll do our best to support Project Mushroom creators with sustainable funding streams that aren’t evil.

Project Mushroom will be constantly shaped by our creators and subscribers and we are aiming for a horizontal organizational structure that puts the voices of BIPOC folks at the center of everything we do.

This isn’t a typical approach for an organization focused on climate. But then again, typical climate organizations haven’t worked very well so far in limiting the impacts of climate change on marginalized people.

This is a welcome change, because it aligns platforms with their target audiences. Despite Elon Musk’s best intentions otherwise.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist and the founder of Project Mushroom.

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