Friday, December 23, 2011

Save the planet, surf the web


I know, it sounds just a little too convenient and ridiculously easy to think we can save the planet by surfing the web. But hear me out. Your great big brain added to all the other human brains pondering our collective fate and interconnecting with each other on Climate Change could be one of our most effective Climate Change strategies. For without a wholesale understanding of the Climate Change crisis by the public, all the other stuff—Climate Change talks, Climate Change actions plans, specific Climate Change Action (Tar Sands Action), and all those little things we do to limit our carbon footprints--are just are not going to happen at the speed and across-the board changes that will matter. Climate Change cannot be solved by doing little things here and there. (This is the bottom-up approach.)

Climate Change is a world-wide phenomenon that is happening right now and no matter how inglorious this issue many seem and how annoying the increasing natter about denial gets, we have to address it. For a zillion reasons, the public (especially the American public whose per capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) out produces all other nations in warming up the planet) doesn’t want to hear about Climate Change. They doubt it, or they believe it all too well and it makes them feel helpless, or they don’t understand how Climate Change is affecting them right now, or how it will increasingly do so. Or, they think the Climate Change folks want to take their gas-guzzling pick-up trucks away from them. Whatever. The Climate Change crisis, however slow some may think it is occurring, is a kind of disaster like nothing our species has experienced.

While there are a lot of Climate Change studies around, including one of the most comprehensive studies called Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) that was funded by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), there is little possibility of accomplishing what needs to be done in the study’s recommendations without the public onboard. The study suggests actions like moving our transportation and telecommunications modes away from low-lying coastal areas, and moving waste water treatment plants away from flood plains. Also, we need to change most of our waste water treatment plants so they aren’t overwhelmed by frequent and heavy rain falls that will create combined sewer overflows and despoil our Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and rivers. Just these actions alone (there are a lot more) will cost billions. They are expensive, inconvenient, and might possibly help us survive the future. (You really ought to challenge your Climate Change denier friends to read ClimAID, which was funded by your government, not rich, whacky political pundits who make zillions lying to the public.)

Climate Change denial is stupid. And sure, crying in your beer about how the previous generations screwed up your generation is morbid fun, but think for a moment about the Giant Killer Pigs From Hell. They were 600 pound pig-like predators who ruled prehistoric American for 10 million years. They were crazy mad, ferocious, and had only a teeny weenie brain. But they didn’t destroy their environment and every living being in it. Though ugly, their way of life worked for a long, long time. They had their fun and we got a chance to take over. But our brainy species has only been around (in the form we are today) about 200,000 years. Yet we, allegedly the most incredibly smart creature who ever lived, are not only cooking ourselves because of the way we use energy (burning greenhouse gases) but all the other creatures who might want a chance to evolve and play computer games on this planet too.

Ok, back to the surfing the web idea. The Internet has and is increasingly making it possible to garner information about the state of our environment from all over the world. It allows us to turn our great big brains into one big world-wide brain for gathering useful information about Climate Change. It increases our vision to view the world from one place, noodling over it, and connecting those observations with others by multitude of factors never before imagined. And, this was true years ago. Now there are some more useful web features that environmentalists (that’s every human on the planet wishing to have a habitable planet) can use which will vastly increase our information gathering and connectivity.

Without promoting one particular product, I’d just like to use Google Currents as one of the best examples of an enhanced resource for finding out about your environment. I’m sure there are many more. With this web-based aggregator app you can read any news service or a web site with a feed as if it were a professional online magazine. Doesn’t sound like more than a slick piece of software until you think about these new apps on your Smartphone or tablet as a way of making every feed (web site, magazine, or news service) look and operate as smoothly and easily as the major online magazines. This democratization of information (which, I can assure you drives the major media moguls nuts, because they want the new media all to themselves) will make the public more inclined to look for more alternative news sources—instead of the usual mainstream stuff, much of which is corporate-based propaganda bent on keeping you addicted to fossil fuels.

That’s not all. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tried to promote the use of the Internet as a way to engage the public on learning about and acting for our environment. Check out some of these environmental apps:

11/08/2011: EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its Apps for the Environment challenge, which encouraged new and innovative uses of EPA’s data to create apps that address environmental and public health issues. Developers from across the country created apps with information about everything from energy efficient light bulbs to local air quality. A few even developed games to help people learn environmental facts. (November 8, 2011) U.S. EPA Newsroom - News Releases

This is all important because the biggest dilemma on Climate Change is how to get the majority of the public around the world to understand and act in concert on Climate Change. Governments don’t know how to do it; businesses don’t know, and politicians—forgetaboutit. Even environmental groups are spinning their wheels trying to get folks to take action on Climate Change without saying ‘Climate Change.’ Right now we think pandering to people’s self-interests, not the full implications of Climate Change, is the way to convince those you don’t want to hear about it to act. This keep-your-eye-off-the ball approach isn’t working and I don’t think it’s a good strategy. It infantilizes the public and ignores the top-down approach that needs to be done to adequately address this issue.

Ultimately, we need seven billion souls turning their attention to the most significant problem of our century in order to have even a remote chance of surviving it. Of course, buying products that are green from birth to grave, recycling, re-using, and donating stuff, using less energy, bicycling and walking for short distances, and turning down the thermostat (you really should use a programmable thermostat) are all critical. But too little is being done by too few to affect something as incredibly big as our climate.

You, with your Internet connection, can learn about the ramifications of Climate Change as the world gathers more and more evidence of what’s going on. You can find ways to convince others of the science and urgency behind Climate Change. Climate Change, a rapid rise in Earth’s atmosphere in a very short time due to our own machinations, is unlike anything our species has ever confronted before. And, when you think about it, the Internet is a tool unparalleled in human communications. We can connect the dots and act in our own collective self-interests.

Whether or not you think environmental issues are your thing—they are. I could go on but the great scientists and science communicator, Carl Sagan, summed it up best:

Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.

You see, the dirty little secret about addressing Climate Change is that in order to save yourself, your going to have to save everyone—even if they don’t have a lot of money.

1 comment:

Tommy said...

Recycling is crucial, we can recycle and re use anything. By recycling we can make sure we use less resources and not depend as much on other countries when it comes to importing stuff into the USA (China)

Computers should be properly recycled so they do not contaminate the soil and the under water streams.

No one should pay for something that should be free. Many places will charge to dispose of your old desktops, laptops, Apple Mac computers and then turn around and ship them to third world countries (China India) where kids burn the components on the street in order to extract the metals from the circuit boards.

A local computer store in Rochester NY (Aware Bear Computers Rochester NY) offers free computer recycling.

For more information please visit or