So what's your opinion of crowdfunding for environmental projects? —Art, in Kalamazoo, Michigan
It’s, um, fairly negative, and not just because I’m an ancient crank who dismisses much Internet traffic as the product of people infatuated with their own banality. And of course I warmly encourage readers to send me whatever they can afford for my own invaluable environmental research.
Eric Sofge perhaps put it best in the Wall Street Journal, when he wrote of the crowdfunder Kickstarter: “Blockbuster projects aside, much of Kickstarter can be shrill and desperate modern-day panhandling by entitled go-getters. For every legitimately exciting pitch . . . there are dozens of musicians, filmmakers and designers pleading for funds to complete ill-conceived projects."
So crowdfunding, green or otherwise, is basically like any other investment: You’d darn well better do your homework and know the topic thoroughly before you lay down any cash for some stranger’s proposal. An example: I came across a crowdfunding appeal for a media and publishing project on honey bees that, as a beekeeper, I found sketchy, but that might easily appeal to the non-apiarist. The pitch was about the “plight” of the honey bee—which indeed there is—but it showed little knowledge of bees and their functions, while being loaded with apocalyptic exaggerations that were obviously contrived to attract funding.