Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged, Either

In _Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed_, Jared Diamond observes that the vast majority of technologies create more problems then they solve, and in the aggregate, technology virtually always fails to keep up with the unintended consequences it generates. The more we're able to do, the more net damage we do. He observes about people who advocate one or many technical solutions to our environmental problems all seem to be making the same basic error in reasoning,

"All of our current problems are unintended negative consequences of our existing technology. The rapid advances in technology during the 20th century have been creating difficult new problems faster than they have been solving old problems: that's why we're in the situation in which we now find oursleves. What makes you think that, as of January 1 2006, for the first time in human history, technology will miraculously stop causing new unanticipated problems while it just solves the problems it previously produced?" (Diamond, 505)

To me, this query of Diamond's is an important reminder that we have blinders on when it comes to the real feasibility of our solutions. For example, let us consider one commonly discussed solution to global warming - telecommuting. If only we could just get all those workers out of the office, we wouldn't have to heat those offices, we wouldn't have people sitting in traffic, etc... And that might even be true. Now it is worth noting that this is a solution heavily weighted to the benefit of rich folk - the person who cleans your toilet, the person who builds your house, the person who cooks the dinner you normally get by take out, those folks aren't going to be permitted to telecommute - in fact, some will lose their jobs. But that in itself isn't an argument against widespread telecommuting.

But the problem is that all those telecommuters would be buying more and better technology for their homes in order to be able to do the work they normally do at the office, and spending more time overnighting documents, heating their own homes, and doing all sorts of other things. Now it might well turn into a net gain - you never know. But it is worth noting, for example that recent evidence suggests that all of us on our computers are a huge global warming problem http://environment.independent.co.uk/climate_change/article2640428.ece - as bad as flying all over the planet. All those new computers would be built and shipped, as would all that new software, and those extra laptops and fax machines, and the old ones would go leak mercury into the groundwater in Lagos (I bet you didn't know that when your computer dies, it gets to take a long vacation to a poor nation to be disposed of - lucky it!).

Now I'm not opposed to telecommuting solutions per se, but I think it is worth noting, for example that the miracles of computer technology have not come with the environmental miracles we were already promised. Remember how we were supposed to all go paperless, and it would save a billion trees a year or more? Didn't happen - worldwide paper usage rose by 4%, and it rose faster in the developing world. Remember how we were supposed to be getting greater efficiency from lower energy use - it turns out that between 2000 and 2004, worldwide energy emissios rose by 3 times what had been expected, and much of that was in the US, Europe and Australia, so we can't blame China. Oh, and I bet you remember all the extra free time we were told we'd have, in a new "leisure society" - that didn't happen either, as we all know.

Now I'm a Luddite by nature, inclination and political persuasion. For those who aren't familiar with them, the word "Luddite" does not actually mean, as it has come to in the popular parlance, "someone who hates or is afraid of technology for no particular reason." The original Luddites were those who were angered at the notion that they ought to sacrifice their livelihoods and starve to death in order to serve "progress." They resisted and demanded that technology be bounded by recognition of human needs. Now they lost the battle (did you notice?) despite the leadership of the mythical "Ned Ludd," and mostly were executed or starved. But they were right, and they weren't afraid of technology - they simply didn't think that they should be sacrificed for the greater economic good. Now we've gotten so used to the notion that that should happen we hardly notice it - but the simple fact is that economic systems are intended to serve us, not the other way around, and so is technology.

Modern Luddism is very simple - it merely observes that technology has consequences, and technologies shouldn't be adopted without a clear eyed analysis of their net benefits and consequences, and a real assurance that the technology is improving lives (on a wholistic scale) more than it is harming them). The preference is for less dependence, rather than more, simpler rather than harder, things you can fix rather than things you have to throw away, human or animal power rather than fossil power or even "renewable" energy power.

Which brings me back to the computer. I am fond of mine. I make part of my living as a writer, and as a blogger, a notable irony. The internet is bringing a lot of people together who might never have been aware of environmentalism. And yet, all this time we spend blogging, and reading other blogs, and emailing each other has consequences. Some of them are the technological ones - when the computers break down, we replace them. We buy new software and games and update our stuff, and all that good stuff, along with all the time we spend talking about our sustainability goals is warming up the planet. It is so easy and so compelling to let the computers off the hook - after all, aren't we changing the world? Don't we need all this information at our fingertips? We don't stop to count the costs of the infrastructure very often.

Well, it turns out that all this information isn't making us better informed. We're about as stupid as we used to be, according to a recent poll. And it isn't changing the world, either. Our energy usage is going up, while we all sit around and talk about how to get it down - and while the climate warms faster and faster and faster. And just as some elements of the internet have saved us some energy and made some people's lives better, it looks like the net harm is probably greater than the net savings. I know none of us like to hear this, of course. A lot of us derive a lot of satisfaction from the internet. But overwhelmingly, it isn't making us smarter, or know more, saving us energy or changing the world. It is just another technology, doing some good and some bad, and probably a little more bad than good.

A recent Ohio educational study suggests that the average American 10th grader runs educationally behind the average Amish 15 year old - and the Amish kid left school two years before and no only doesn't have a computer in her classroom, she doesn't have electric lights. Poor adults in Kerala who get their news not by television or computer (don't have 'em) but by weekly newspaper are overwhelmingly better informed than average American adults, according to Bill McKibben. An political research firm in the Netherlands found that Brazilian 10 year olds in favelas had a slightly better understanding of globalization than middle class Americans with computers.

What about community? After all, that's what the internet gives us, right, the chance to bond with people like us. Well I love that too - don't get me wrong - but I hear more and more from people who say they can't get along with the people they actually live near, who are on an endless quest for people just like them, to spend their post-peak time with the mythical community of perfectly like-minded people. I hear more and more that someone can't have a relationship with their neighbors and the people near them, and need to move somewhere else. Now that can be true - there are places that are just disheartening after a while. But the sheer number of people I hear from in those places suggest to me that there's more too it. Perhaps that's an unintended consequence of the internet, no? Now that we've experienced the joy of little clubs filled entirely with people focused on X or Y shared thing, we're less able to get along with the people whose common connection to us is a place, or a history or a more formal relationship? Certainly we're more alienated from our families, more likely to be divorced or live far away from kids and loved ones. The internet may be bringing us together, but it seems as though it is also enabling us to be apart.

What we do see is that people are less happy now than they were two decades ago. We have fewer social ties, and fewer emotional connections. Screen time is associated with mental illness and depression in both adults and children, and overwhelmingly, adults rate their screen time as less pleasurable than time they spend with other people - even when they are nominally "connecting" with others. It may be that the internet creates some of the problems it also relieves. Don't get me wrong - I love the internet, and I've been its beneficiary in many ways. But our computers aren't doing for us what they are purported to do, and it is worth being clear about this. I'm not suggesting we turn them all off - but perhaps more of us could spend less time on the computer, or share them more. Perhaps your household only needs one, or none - perhaps you could use the library computer a few times a week.

The thing is, it isn't just that X technology won't save us (insert preferred technofantasy where "X" is - hydrogen, desert sized solar panels, electric cars, etc...), it is that all of them won't save us. There's simply no way, as Diamond points out, of only producing "good" technologies - that's not how it works. Pouring billions of dollars into R and D for how to make a better solar panel or wind generator isn't going to fix the problem - and at some point, we aren't going to have billions.

The only way we can fix the problem is to back up. We have spent several centuries asking "can we do it." And often enough the answer was a resounding "yes we can!" But instead, what we need to ask is this - should we do it? We need to switch away from the engineering mode and towards the ethical. We could, if we chose, begin from the assumption that in most areas (some exceptions perhaps exist) we have done all the R and D we ever need to do.

What a radical concept that is, and how alien from the notion that we will always be able to make things better by simply taking the next step. I'm not trying to hinder science - I have no objection to tinkerers tinking away. But instead of devoting our economy to technical research, and to funding it with our government or with our personal dollars, spent on R and D after we buy stuff they've already developed, what if we tried to optimize what we already have?

What if instead of turning vast resources to making more things and different ones, we backed up and started asking "what is the best way for us to get what we need." What if we took a look back at intermediate technologies, and considered how we might improve them. Someone once observed that if we'd put the same energies and money into breeding open pollinated corn as we have into hybrids and GMO, there's no telling what we'd have. The same is true about a technological society that thinks that the next step is already better. What would happen if we backed up, and thought about how we could improve the wood cookstove, the solar oven or the hand washer?

Luddism may be the only answer. Unless we are willing to ask "is this really good for us, now and forever" we are likely to be trapped in the assumption that the next thing will magically set us free. And it won't. The next thing will further invest us, and move us a little closer not to a solution, but to a collapse. What we want is to step away from the collapse - and the answer there is simple. Need less. Use less. Substitute human power and human scale tools for fossil based power and industrial scale tools. Back up. Slow down. Remember, the price isn't what we think it is.

As a practical solution, I'm trying to turn my computer on only four days a week. I've always kept a sabbath, now I'm cutting back further. If I have to write my book and these posts in longhand and type them out quickly afterwards, perhaps it will be salutary to my writing (it could only improve my editing ;-). It isn't that I don't love the speed of composition, the relationships, the research at my fingertips. It is simply that I don't love them enough to pay the price, or to ask other people to pay it.

Sharon

25 comments:

Mike Lorenz said...

Great post. I think the concept of convenience fits in with this as well. So many of the gadgets that we have exist solely to make this or that task easier or faster. If we would factor in the time and effort required to puchase and maintain thses gadgets, we'd realize that they don't make our lives all that much better. And yet when I've suggested some small lifestyle changes (washing dishes by hand, using cloth grocery bags, not using paper plates at every freaking meal)the main response is always that doing so would be such a hassle. I think that it is important for us to gently show others that there are some things that are worth doing the "hard way". Eric Brende wrote an excellent book about this called "Better Off". It's a chronicle of the 18 months that he and his wife spent living with an Amish group after he graduated from MIT. He's got some fantastic insights about the role that technology plays in our lives.

http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9780060570040-1

- Mike Lorenz

Michelle in Ga said...

Some good points. Balance is
so important.

Kiashu said...

A good post, I think. I was a bit worried when you started with "technology causes more problems than it solves", but was happy to see you moderate this as you went on.

It's true that technology causes problems, but it's often under-appreciated how many it solves, and how much richer our lives become. Mike Lorenz's comment here about "convenience" is also relevant, but I'd take it a step further and note "taken for granted." For example, being able to listen to music on my computer or CD player, music from a hundred different cultures - I take it for granted. And so I don't enjoy it as much as I might if to get music I had to sit down and play it, or invite musician friends around for dinner.

When we try to be mindful of the technolgy we use, we not only avoid some of their dangers, but we also enjoy them to their fullest. If we're going to take them for granted we might as well not have them. So I should either sit down and really listen to the music on my CD player, or else turn it off.

So I guess I'm just expanding a bit on what Sharon said, but taking her "precautionary principle" bit and turning it around a bit. As well as deciding what we really need or want, if we do decide to have something, we should enjoy it to the fullest. You may be rich enough to own an antique car you never drive, or a holiday home you never visit, but in fact that's quite a poor life you're living - you don't enjoy what you have, may as well not have it, let someone have it who'll enjoy it.

sushil yadav said...

Sharon,

Two things that have destroyed all ecosystems are - Overpopulation and Overconsumerism.

Science, Technology and Industrialization are responsible for both. World population was only 1 billion in the year 1800. Nature had its way of controlling population through disease and death caused by bacteria and virus. When man made medicines/ antibiotics he created disaster. In the absence of Science, Technology, Industrialization/ Industrial Revolution the problems of overpopulation and overconsumerism would not exist.

The human race has been destroying/ killing animals, trees, air, water, land and people from the very beginning of civilization. Science and Technology has increased this destructive capacity millions of times.

Every man is a serial-killer. The per-capita destruction of Environment - per capita destruction of Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land in Industrial Society is thousands of times greater than what it was 1000 years ago - 500 years ago - 200 years ago.

Before Industrialization humans killed Environment primarily for Food. After industrialization humans are killing environment for Food and [unnecessary]Consumer Goods.

Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things[Consumer Goods].

In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of Speed, Overstimulation, Consumerism and Industrialization on our Minds and environment. Please read.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.


A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.


Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links :
PlanetSave
FreeInfoSociety
ePhilosopher
Corrupt

sushil_yadav

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Sharon! Jane Kolles over at simpleliberation is talking about the same thing this morning, but on a slightly more pesonal level--how she's trying to wean herself off of the internet. So this is what the Zeitgeist is turning to! I have to admit that just thinking about unplugging makes my skin feel itchy from the inside. I suppose that's proof right there of how hooked I am.

I can remember instances when I was annoyed that the phone rang (real contact with people)while I was online (virtual contact with people). I think that speaks volumes about how some of us are isolating ourselves to a greater or lesser degree on the Internet. Please don't stop blogging yet, though! ;) Connie

Anonymous said...

I was recently thinking how the internet has changed our lives. Twenty years ago Riot for Austerity would never have taken place, except as Sharon or Pat's individual effort.

If the internet is morally impure, how are we supposed to make connections and get information on subjects our neighbors are not interested in, such as peak oil or herbal medicine? TV is hopeless, radio is pretty limited. Books, magazines, and newspapers kill trees and require expensive delivery.

Some of us, the superstars, the brilliant, the experienced, can make these changes by ourselves, and drag along our immediate neighbors, perhaps. The rest of us need some help and encouragement.

Certainly we need balance in our lives, we need human connections, we need time to think, time to do. We can get paralyzed just collecting endless information from the internet and not doing anything real.

I think of the internet as interim technology; if we are to survive energy descent as a livable community, we need to share all the ideas we can.
It won't be the "internet" that saves us, but the human connections we make. The internet makes new ideas contagious over a much wider society than our individual circle of friends. So let's use it while we have it, not feeling guilty.

Also, let's not feel guilty because impoverished people might think that the sight of rich people giving up their refrigerators is ridiculous. The perfect is the enemy of the good here too. We can't give enough up to make them think we're wonderful. We need to lead our own lives, changing as we can, and modeling a new and less wasteful way of life for those around us. We need to not exclude the less advantaged, certainly, and to welcome all. But we can't drag them into our movement, and we shouldn't expect instant forgiveness after all these years of excess.

Lynnet from the Rockies

Patrice said...

This post definitely hits close to home with the cyber world for me. I have also been trying to wean myself off of the computer one or two days a week. It seems that I have become addicted to surfing the net for the purpose of seeking out information to better the family. It however has taken away from the "family time", thus creating a whole new set of issues. I am happy that I decided to get involved with this project because it has opened my eyes to some things that needed to be changed in our home. Things that I took for granted such as drying clothes in the dryer have led us back to the way we did them when I was growing up~~~line drying. My son is facinated by some of the things that I have recently started doing to better our home life and the planet. Some things are difficult for my husband to accept, but eventually I'll wear him down and he'll just go along with whatever I am doing. One example is paper plates, he loves them. I have been weaning us off of them for a while, but I know I still have to keep a few on hand for the time being until he is ready to accept that we will eventually stop using them all together(hopefully someday soon). He is not committed to this project, but I'm hoping to change that. My son is all about whatever is good for the family and the planet. He helps out with persuading dad into doing more things leading to conservation. I see a definite need to return to doing things the way they were done in the "old days" as much as possible. It will lead to better health and richer lives for all of us involved. A less sedentary lifestyle will greatly reduce the chronic problems plaguing our health community. I see a need to change the way we do things in my own household as far as activity goes~~~more activity will definitely help my own health as well as keep my son from going down the road I am currently on. I am truly excited about participating to the fullest extent that I possibly can, and reaping the rewards for my family. Showing my son that hard work pays off and you don't need technology to survive in this world. Yes there is a place for technology but it doesn't have to take center stage in your life to make you happy. That you can be happier without all of the gadgets and gizmos that they are pushing you to buy to simplify your life. Your own happiness depends on what you define happiness as and what you plan to do to achieve it.

Patrice

HRDeane said...

Hi Sharon, I think this is quite a brave blog considering you are criticising the very thing that is allowing you your expression. It is amazing how many of the things we use as a means of conveying positive messages are also part of the problem. I am lucky in that my family relationships are very close and despite us all being pretty tech savvy and regularly immersed on the net we don't lose sight of each other. It is a difficult balance to strike, I am blogging about these issues myself in Australia and find the constant contradictions difficult to justify at times, but I suppose a lot of us are new to this level of awareness and it is a constant process of pulling back and slowing down. Thanks for being brave, I often find myself re-writing my blogs to be more positive so i don't depress or alienate my audience...it is good to read someones writing that does not hold back from the hard truths.
http://www.stoplaughing.com.au/wordpress

Ailsa said...

You really made me think. I have a lot of bad habits where the computer is concerned, so today I am trying shutting the computer down when I am not using it, rather than leaving it playing music all day, and using it only when I take a break for lunch and after dinner.

Yeah, *wry grin* I signed up for 90% reduction and I have trouble shutting off my computer. It's an addiction, but I'm fighting it.

Wendy said...

This addresses two thoughts that have been running around in my mind recently (neither of which I felt like addressing). A) I spend too much time online writing and reading about what I want to do instead of doing it (though I am trapped at work 9 hours a day); and B) It's much easier to get along with Internet compatriots than deal with real people and the personality clashes and petty disputes that sometimes arise among "progressives" in my community. You are right on, Sharon.

jewishfarmer said...

Lynnette, I do want to say that I think that the Riot for Austerity would still have happened before the internet - if it wouldn't have, we'd never have had any movements before this, and of course, we did. The 1970s back to the land movement happened without the internet. The *1870s* back to the land movement happened without the internet. People have always found ways of disseminating information - the internet moves it faster, and allows more people to get in touch in some ways. It also excludes some people - older people who don't know how to use computers, people with limited access, etc...

I'm not saying computers are bad - lord knows, I'm dependent on mine. But our transitional technologies have permanent effects, and while we're using the internet to build our virtual communities, often we aren't building our literal ones.

You gain some, you lose some. I think the number of testimonies to the sheer pleasure of the internet, and its addictive qualities suggest to me that it is both a wonderful thing and a troubling one.

To take Kiashu's use of music as an example, it is worth noting that the sheer pleasure of accessing lots of professional music all the time has reduced the quantity of amateur music, made people less willing to sing or play pubically if their skills are limited, and reduced incentives for music as a collective activity. That's not to say that recorded music also hasn't brought music to a much wider audience, that it doesn't give a great deal of pleasure - I have a huge CD collection, and the very last electronic device I would ever give up is my CD player - and that probably over my dead body. But that doesn't change the fact that we need to look really carefully at all the effects of a technology on the society.

Mike, thanks for bringing up _Better Off_ - a terrific book. My husband knew Brende slightly at MIT - he keeps meaning to get in touch with him and create an MIT Luddite society ;-).

Sharon

Anonymous said...

This is basically one of the reasons I have respect for the Amish. Before they adopt a technology they consider what it's impact will be on the community and if it will be detrimental, they don't allow it to be adopted. We here in the US, and I'd say Canada, Europe, etc. tend to adopt all new technologies just because we can. There is no consideration of what their eventual impact will be at all with sometimes serious consequences.

The internet is interesting. It has many faces to it. While it can allow for the disemination of news and materials very quickly- and especially allow those in rural locales to access info they couldn't otherwise- I can even read a lot of the NY Times up here on the mountain for instance, it also has other issues such as addiction, substitution of the net for the company of the real people living near you, etc. That said, so does TV- people spend countless hours watching the tube and even would prefer to spend their time with characters on TV instead of those nearby as they find the TV characters funnier, sexier, etc....kind of sad but true.

Geoff Trowbridge said...

Hi, Sharon, another very thoughtful and insightful post. I would like to make a few comments though. I think that a lot of technology does seperate us from our neighbors and our real, living breathing world, and it doesn't really do much good for anybody. I also think though, at least for the time being, there is some that is exceedingly useful, and even necessary to build a future sustainable society. I think it is very important to understand that if we are to have an environmentally sustainable future, ours must be socially sustainable as well. Growing our own food, building farms and Permaculture gardens, using far less electricity and what electricity we do get to come from renewable sources- all of this is necessary. But I don't think it's going to be enough to maintain peace and security in a time of oil shortages; just because the oil starts going away doesn't mean the greed, fear, and prejudices that are part of any human society dissipear. And in fact they might be accentuated, if we fail to create a sense of Civitas, or spirit of community, and 'We-ness', so to speak, in the future. As Sharon very aptly pointed out, only communicating with 'like-minded' people in far away places, who are coming from the same perspective as us, is not only misguided, but could be downright dangerous. BUT using appropiate and localized media to create a public discussion and indeed a public culture of planning on sustainability AND working together to get there is something that I think will serve us very well. I think there has been something of a real revolution in media formats in the past decade or so, where the old, hierarchial corporate controlled media like traditional print media and television has given way to far more Democratic and grassroots-oriented media that is the Internet. This has made a real difference, and will only grow to be a larger part of the scene as time goes on. If you don't think so, just look at what's happenned with YouTube, or Craig's List, or political mobilization sites like MoveOn.org. Places like The Relocalization Network and Gaia University and even Energy Bulletin, where we can all gain access to such wonderful blogs like Sharon's, would not have been possible ten years ago, and I think a lot of the very vital discussion about Peak Oil, and sustainable future scenarios has taken place through the Internet. Also important to this picture is the rise of low-wattage, community radio stations. This is something I'm personally interested in starting up where I live. In places like Africa and rural Asia, where people's use of technology is much more limited than ours, most people still have a radio, and community-run radio stations that are trying to give a voice to people and create a discussion about all the various problems and issues going on, have proven to be extremely useful. Local radio media can also be very vile and destructive, as that famous radio station during the Rwandan genocide encouraging people to "kill those Tutsi cockroaches" proved. And that sort of dual-possibility with decentralized media to me shows just why creating not just physical, tangible, touchable models of sustainability is important, but in "Selling" this sustainable future, in spreading the word about and getting a different story about how human beings can live out there enough of the time to start becoming part of the underlying culture. We can have all the CSAs and Permaculture gardens we want, but if certain areas of the town, city or area hate other parts, and we still have an unhealthy power structure, all of our "lifeboat-building" investment can go through the tubes very fast. For more on this sort of scenario I highly reccomend Starhawk's excellent novel "The Fifth Sacred Thing". We don't just need to change our relationship to the earth. We need to change our relationship with human beings at the same time. And I think some- not all, of course- forms of media will prove to be very vital in bringing about the changes that need to happen. Given a choice between a community radio station encouraging hate and stockpiling and some sort of "Mad Max" style villainy, in a future era of energy shortages, and a station urging people to remain calm and talk and cooperate with their neighbors, and a daily show about organic gardening and a show about how to insulate your house with earth plaster, I'd definitely take the second one. My point is that media, through various forms of technology is going to exist for a very long time. So we might as well face up to that and figure out how we're going to make those cultural media messages out there the right ones. It could go either way here. It depends on what we do.

Anonymous said...

This has been one of my pet peeves for ages - particularly the unthinking waste of resources by those who use their computers constantly while simultaneously berating others for wasting energy and polluting via other means.

I get my news from the net, and would be delighted to mix more with people around me, except I have almost nothing in common with my neighbors and associates. Sure, I know we all have the future in common, but as a loner by nature, I prefer solitude and the occasional company of net friends. Frankly, Kansas City is not exactly a hotbed of creative, free-thinking, progressive intellects; I wish it were.

I'm the 'poor/disabled' person who ranted at you the other day - I'm here today to apologize. My words were too harsh, and you didn't deserve that kind of beratement. I almost never say things like that -I guess your post touched a few raw nerves that have been bothering me for a long time.

I'm very sorry.

Stuart said...

great article, I really enjoyed it, but can we have reference for the 3 studies mentioned in the para beginning "A recent Ohio educational study ..."?

Please reference any facts, it makes your case stronger

Geoff Trowbridge said...

To Anonymous in Kansas city and others: I am still very wary of the idea of the Internet as a sort of virtual community REPLACING our actual, geographical communities, and where we only associate with a sort of 'online tribe' of people just like us, instead of the wide diversity of real human beings around us. Look, I live in Knoxville Tennessee, and plan to stay there the rest of my life, but its hardly a "hotbed of progressive, free-thinking individuals" either. But what does that statement even mean? Are we so close-minded to the idea of any of the so called 'unenlightened' people who are our neighbors ever changing that we just dismiss them as fools and idiots, and hope for some kind of mass die-off of those people during some future oil-crash scenario while we remain cozy in our ecovillages and intentional communities or something? Isn't that in of itself a close-minded view? That kind of dismissive attitude isn't only unethical and immoral, its also downright dangerous I believe for the future. In the future we are ALL going to have to learn to be more cooperative and friendly with the people we live with, wherever we happen to be, because our very lives may depend on the quality of the relationships we have. In this sense building 'Social Capital', as the sociologist Robert Putnam has termed it, is as important if not more in the long run as creating seed banks and alternative energy grids. I propose what may be a useful way to think about the value and necessariness of a technology, by always asking ourselves this question: "Does this technology encourage cooperation and better relationships with my Whole community (human and non-human alike), or does it discourage it?" If it encourages that, then we should consider its use, at least for the time being. If it discourages it, then screw it.

RAS said...

geoff, it depends on your neighbors. If, like many (though not all of course) of mine, they are bible-thumping, chest-pounding, religious nuts* who think anyone different than them should be driven away or done away with, you've got problems. If it should happen that TSHTF, I fully expect many of the religious nuts to go looking for a scapegoat. The most common will be those of the wrong color, wrong religion, wrong political party, and wrong sexual orientation.

*please note that I am not calling all religious folks nuts (I am highly religious myself) or saying that all of my neighbors are religious nuts. but it is a substanial number.

jewishfarmer said...

Hi Stuart - I'm glad to offer citations when requested, no matter how condescending the request, however, these are opinion pieces, and done in the idiom of that style. I write research essays as well, and document every claim, but I can't produce 4-6 pieces a week with footnotes.

The three citations you request come from May Bulletin of Higher Education Studies, Bill McKibben's book _Hope, Human and Wild_ in the first few pages of the Kerala section (I'm not at home so can't provide the exact page), and is quoted in translation (I don't speak Norwegian) in Jonathan Moses's _International Migration:Globalization's Last Frontier" p 132. The study itself is from 2005.

Sharon

jewishfarmer said...

Anonymous, it was very kind of you to apologize, but you don't have anything to apologize for. I don't expect everyone to agree with me - and I appreciate the critique.

Pax,

Sharon

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