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Yesterday in New York City, I had the chance to speak at a conference sponsored by The Rainforest Alliance on "Sustainability And Social Media." It was a remarkable gathering of people from all around the world -- all dedicated to the power and need for a sustainable future.

A couple of things struck me during the day. It's remarkable the reaction one gets when you take a step back and look at how rapidly our world has changed. This conference first launched in 2004 and as I showed everyone yesterday there was no YouTube, no Huffington Post (happy 5th anniversary everyone), no public Facebook, no iPhone, no iPad of course, no Twitter back then. It wasn't so long ago, but it was an eternity ago as well.

For these companies, all of whom are trying to share fairly complex stories of production of products, these tools are a god send because they give companies the opportunity to share information in digestible bits time and time again and over time, those small bits tell a remarkable story.

The issue is also that in this arena the answers aren't always clear. For example, corks in wine bottles. Well, they come from cork trees, so it must be bad to have corks right? Well, yesterday I learned that actually using cork is good for the environment and biodiversity of the world.

Cork trees are manually peeled of their cork every nine to twelve years; so the cork forests are massive areas of biodiversity that essentially are only really touched by man once a decade. In the interim, they are natural habitats to hundreds of species.

The process of harvesting cork is simple and not harmful to the cork trees. But if we all go to metal and plastic tops, guess what? Cork farmers are screwed because too many screw tops means no cork.

No cork means no market for their product.

No market for their product means no need for cork trees.

No cork trees, means no cork forests.

No cork forests means the loss of millions of acres of virtually protected natural habitat.

Our choices in the future are complex. Sharing knowledge through new tools and platforms will help clarify those choices. And also help us keep the cork forests alive and thriving.

Originally posted to jamesboyce on Thu May 13, 2010 at 09:35 AM PDT.

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