3 minute read

I enjoy activities that put the 'b" in subtle. This Greasemonkey script for FireFox translates dollar figures in webpages you view into Oil Barrels:

Oil Standard is a Greasemonkey plug-in for Firefox that translates prices from dollars to barrels of oil equivalent, based on current spot prices; this means that the oil equivalent price fluctuates daily. “Networked Performance” art website Turbulence created the script, which works exactly as promised. Hit any web page that shows prices in dollars – Amazon.com, the New York Times stock pages, even your bank account info – and Oil Standard will show you how many barrels of oil it would take to match that amount of money.

I think that's ingenious. But I think there's room for improvement and expansion. I think there are tons of further currencies to look into, based on this idea. Easily (temptation to dive into this and hack it out.... increasing), you could not just the oil barrel cost, but the number of terrorist agency recruitments and/or the human loss of life per barrel of oil, calculated on per-annum rates in Iraq, Nigeria, etc. conflicts ... e.g. This iPod costs 6.4 barrels of oil, which translates into .5 terrorist recruitments and the loss of one human life.

Looking at CheapGas would certainly be interesting, to say the least.

With sometimes significantly more difficulty in calculation, you could also try to expose other externalities, such as:

  • Environmental impact of materials / Carbon footprint for imported or non-local food
  • Free trade impact of labor costs
  • Sweatshop labor hours
  • Meals per gallon of ethanol

One of the biggest problems in development is having people understand the impact of their decisions and the policies of their government in the first world/OECD nations. Most American citizens guess that the US spends up to 15% of its budget on foreign aid -- the reality is that it's less than 1%, so it's no surprise when they then presume that it's not doing any good and should be cut back.

This plugin is a good example of how the geekier development professionals can use ICTs as information sharing, and teaching tools to engender support on the home front for development projects abroad.

I wrote this a few years back but never finished it, so today I finally got around to pressing the publih button