The Nature of College by James Farrell



In The Nature of College, I suggest that a new “Placebook” might helps students understand their ecological connections and responsibilities better than Facebook does. So I decided to try it out in my Campus Ecology class. Here’s a look at the Placebook categories:

Placebook Profile




College home:

Distance between the homeplace and college place:




Favorite Flora and Fauna

Favorite trees:

Favorite native plants:

Favorite animals:




Threats to favorite animals:




Favorite decomposers:

Favorite Places




Favorite place within 50 miles of homeplace:



Threats to favorite places:



3) What I’m doing about threats to places I love:

Places I loved that are gone:

Favorite season:

Favorite environmentalists:




Ecological footprint:


Largest carbon consumers in my diet:

Getting Around

Mode of transportation:

Make and model of car:

Embodied energy in car:

EPA mpg for car:

Miles traveled per pound of carbon dioxide emitted:

Relationship status

Closest relationship:

Best friends (in the classical sense):

Friends I can talk to about environmental issues:

Youngest living relative:

Year in which that relative will be 70

Threats to that child’s future:

What I’m doing about it:

Green Consumption

Organic products:

Local purchasing:

Companies I buy into because of their environmental values:

Companies that I wish would develop some environmental values to match their greenwashing:

My Electrocution

Electrical appliances in my dorm room:

Total wattage:

Kilowatt hours used per day:

Negawatts generated by conservation:

Deepest values




Books that reflect my deepest values:

Poetry that reflects my idea(l)s:


Music that reflects my deepest values:

Music that expresses my values and hopes for my earthly home:

Institutionalization of environmental values

Environmental organizations I belong too (even as student member):

Organizations that aren’t environmental that I could influence as a member:

Political causes I work for:

Political issues I write my representatives about:

Community organizing I do:

Facebook/Placebook groups (“green”) I belong to:

Environmental websites I have bookmarked:

Environmental newsfeeds I get:

Students generally found this profile (which is, in some ways, more three-dimensional than a profile) difficult. As one student said, “Yikes… this was embarrassingly illuminating!” Another student noted that “Hmmm, I feel slightly troubled by how long it took me to come up with these answers, and how many things I didn’t like my answers for.” Yet another commented with dismay, “I thought that I would only spend about a half an hour on this document, but I’ve been staring at it for the past hour and a half, struggling to find things in my life that prove I’m trying to make a difference. Needless to say, I came up short. This activity is pretty enlightening in the way it makes us realize how ignorant we are of our lack of contribution and basic knowledge of our general environmental impact.” In today’s world, our remoteness from nature and environmentalism isn’t happy news, but it’s a starting point for more engagement.

One student was really pleased; in her journal she wrote:

I liked creating a Placebook profile more than I enjoyed creating a Facebook profile because Placebook actually made me think. When I created my Facebook page I am pretty sure that it took me less than 5 minutes and I know that I was not all too concerned about people judging my profile page because in reality everyone’s profile page is more similar than different. I think that Facebook originally fed off of our American consumption culture, and since by and large we consume the same products, Facebook in a way takes away people’s unique identities. Facebook is another place where people seem to seek conformity instead of celebrating differences.

In contrast, I think the idea of Placebook is a less passive activity than Facebook because it forces people to acknowledge place, the environment, and the future. Also, Placebook more than Facebook makes us more aware of where we come from, and thus seems to encourage people to show and be proud of how they are different.

Another important difference between Placebook and Facebook is that Facebook rarely causes people to worry about being judged or embarrassed by news feeds or comments they make. Thus Facebook has created another careless environment. On the other hand, Placebook is a space where I think people would judge one another, especially about people’s carbon footprints and peoples’ activites to create a better future. Thus, Placebook creates a caring and thoughtful environment when compared to Facebook.

I do not think that people would latch onto Placebook like they have with Facebook, especially Americans, because Placebook does not leave room for complaining and bitching about life, and these are two activities that Americans are more than addicted to.

It’s possible that Placebook might be for you. Give it a try and let me know what you think.