We are living through a climate emergency. While we understand that the impacts of this crisis will not be evenly distributed, they will be felt by all.
For the past two years, the Mozilla Technology Fund has funded research and development in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems; specifically, we have supported open source projects that have increased transparency and mitigated bias in the AI ecosystem. Increasingly, we are learning about the effects that the growing use of AI will have on ecosystems and the people who live in them. What steps might we take to reduce the environmental and climate impacts of AI adoption? And is there a role AI systems can play in addressing topics like environmental degradation, climate change, indigenous justice, food justice and energy justice? This year, the Mozilla Technology Fund seeks to fund open source projects at the intersection of environmental justice and AI which are making a positive impact in ecosystems and human communities.
Mozilla is interested in convening technical projects that have a firm grounding in environmental and climate justice, sustainability, and ecology. We understand that the effects of climate change will be felt disproportionately by the global south, especially people of color, indigenous and traditional peoples, local communities, and specific ethnic-racial groups. We are particularly interested in projects which can address the health, economic and social impacts of climate change on these groups (e.g. the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA)) and which are built by these groups or in close partnership with affected communities.
Generally, the Mozilla Technology Fund supports open source projects which already have some momentum: a working prototype, a community of contributors and a user base. Given the early stage of research in the AI + environmental justice space, for this round of funding, we are also willing to consider earlier-stage and more experimental projects, provided they will be built by a team with a past track record of success.
Some categories of projects we are interested in funding during this round:
- Projects which expose or mitigate the climate impacts of AI systems: We are beginning to see research that reveals the large footprint that AI systems have in terms of carbon emissions, water and electricity use, as well as the environmental impacts of extracting lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements and conflict minerals for use in batteries and hardware. Furthermore, machine learning and remote sensing are now being used by oil and mining companies to accelerate the speed at which natural resources can be extracted. We are excited to consider any projects which help illuminate or take steps to mitigate the environmental impacts of AI technologies, including those mentioned above.
- Projects which utilize AI to conduct environmental impact assessments: Could AI technologies be used to catalog and analyze environmental degradation, land and water use, pollution and other environmental impacts? Could these systems be used to monitor the ways in which specific industries—large agribusinesses, the timber industry, mining and coal—are impacting the environment and climate? Are there insights which could be gleaned that could help affected communities advocate for a safer environment or more responsible use of resources? Are there frameworks that could help evaluate the effectiveness of AI as a tool for environmental assessment and the tradeoffs involved with regards to broader environmental justice concerns? Could these frameworks provide activists with data that could help them resist harmful AI solutions?
- Projects that prototype Grassroots AI systems for ecological management: Are there AI systems which could be built and maintained by or in deep partnership with communities to help them better manage the use of their resources and the safety of their land, water, air and food systems? Could these systems help communities achieve goals like responsible forest and wildfire management, promoting biodiversity, or traceability of agricultural products? Are there new types of intelligent systems—non-human intelligence or “natural intelligence”—which could be leveraged in such systems? Data sources for such projects might include satellite imagery, remote sensing data, socio-biodiversity records, climate data, historical land-use data, and local ecological knowledge contributed by communities and groups impacted.
- Projects which combat climate disinformation: A great deal of climate disinformation (false and misleading content on climate, ecology, land, and territorial rights) flows through social media and other media channels. What AI-based tools might we provide citizens to help identify and combat the spread of climate information which is verifiably untrue? How might we push back against “greenwashing” and disingenuous “climate solutions” by providing data and analysis that shows the true ecological impacts of industry, commerce and other human activities?
What to expect
The Mozilla Technology Fund will provide awards of up to $50,000 each and one year of mentorship and support to open source projects which meet the criteria listed below. Our goal is to provide projects in the MTF: AI and Environmental Justice cohort with the resources needed to unlock their full potential and to make them more sustainable in the long term.
Awardees will be expected to join monthly cohort calls for the duration of their project (12 months, beginning in January 2023) in order to share their progress, ask questions, and offer peer support to other project teams. Awardees will also have access to Mozilla Fellows with relevant subject matter expertise, who will serve as mentors to members of the MTF cohort. All MTF awardees past and present will have access to the MTF Slack/Discord Community for asynchronous discussion and updates.
Cohort calls will be scheduled during U.S. Pacific Time (UTC-7) hours based on the results of a group survey, and all meetings will be conducted in English. We understand that when English is not your native language, speaking can be more difficult than writing. If you feel that support from an interpreter would allow you to fully participate in meetings, please note this in your application. We will do our best to accommodate this on a case-by-case basis. All written output will still need to be produced in English, including your application and final report.
What are we looking for?
We imagine that the MTF: AI and Environmental Justice Awards will support a variety of hardware and software projects (including utilities and frameworks), datasets, tools, and design concepts. We will not consider applications for policy or research projects (though software projects which leverage, support, or amplify policy and research initiatives will be considered—for example, software which is built to support an ecological study that can be leveraged by other researchers).
All applicants should:
- Have a product or working prototype in hand (we will also consider projects at the idea stage if the project team can demonstrate a track record of success in launching and building community around similar projects in the past)
- Already have a core team in place to support the development of the project (this team might include software developers working in close collaboration with ecologists, AI researchers, designers, product/project managers, and subject matter experts)
- Embrace openness, transparency, and community stewardship as methodology
- Make their work available under an open-source license
Who should apply?
These awards are open to all applicants regardless of geographic location or institutional affiliation, except where legally prohibited. However, Mozilla is especially interested in receiving applications from Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA); members of the Global Majority or Global South; Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color; women, transgender, non-binary, and/or gender-diverse applicants; migrant and diasporic communities; and/or persons coming from climate displaced/impacted communities, etc. We strongly encourage all such applicants to apply.
Applications will be accepted for a period of four weeks and will then be reviewed by a committee of experts, which will make final funding decisions and allocate awards out of a total pool of $300,000.
Applicants can expect to hear back within six weeks of submitting an application; Please email [email protected] with any questions.
Applications will be open from September 7th to October 5th, 2023 at 11:59pm Eastern Time.
Applicants must meet the following requirements
- Be legally able to receive funds in the form of a grant from the Mozilla Foundation (a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization)
- Be working towards solving a public interest problem or issue related to the focus of this Call for Proposals
- Meet the criteria outlined in the ‘What are we looking for?' section above
An information session for interested applicants was held on September 25, 2023 at 9am Pacific Time (4pm UTC) via Zoom. This was an opportunity to learn more about the Mozilla Technology Fund and this year’s call for proposals. This info session was recorded for anyone who is unable to attend.
- All registrations and submissions must be in English. However, we encourage applicants to use free translation services. Applications will be reviewed based on their conceptual strength, not quality of language.
- No responsibility is assumed for lost, late, incomplete, invalid, illegible, incorrect, inaccurate, or misdirected registrations or submissions; or for any error, human, technical, or otherwise, that may occur in the processing of submissions.
- With applicant permission, submitted applications may be shared with other projects within Mozilla, other foundations, and partner organizations.
- Grantees are responsible to pay their own taxes on the grants. Mozilla reserves the right to withhold taxes as it believes necessary under applicable laws, and to reduce the net grant provided to the grantee accordingly.
Thank you to the following Mozillians and friends of Mozilla for their helpful feedback on this call for proposals: Lisa Gutermuth, Bogdana Rakova, Lorena Regattieri, Maya Richman (Ariadne), Michelle Thorne (Green Web Foundation), Jenny Wong, Carolina Zambrano (Climate and Land Use Alliance) and the members of the the Green Screen Coalition.