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Saving the world... One gadget at a time

Posted by: GeraldineKent


“In the real world, we do have hydrocarbons and other finite resources, and most of our current welfare, technology, and population size depends on that fact. Slowly running out of these resources will be painful enough. Running out abruptly and being ill-prepared would be disastrous.” Let that thought sink in for a while... Perhaps that’s a bit harder without fully understanding what this statement could mean.


Hydrocarbons are substances that are a mix of carbon and hydrogen, often used to describe fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are coal, natural gas, and petroleum that are energy sources obtained from deposits of ancient organic remains.

So, we need ‘organic remains’ - compost, in order to have important things like coal (for manufacturing purposes) and petroleum (for use in motor vehicles). And these fossil fuels are made up of ‘hydrocarbons’. And hydrocarbons are the essential items that are quickly becoming expendable as resources. These hydrocarbons are no longer infinite resources; in fact we are at a real risk of making them completely finite and extinct. If we were to reach this stage, it would threaten all subsequent resources such as coal, petroleum, wood, clean water, clean air and so much more.

How can we consider new media technologies in the fight to save these finite resources, and our world as we have come to know it and understand our basic way of living?

Well let’s consider first the polar bears and iPads. Polar bears are powerful animals that escape the depth of human knowledge as a result of them inhabitating the harsh areas of the Arctic region. Their instincts lead them to the packed ice of this region, so when the summer season arrives they swim for miles in order to find more ice on which to live. If you’ve been paying attention to the world at all the past couple of years, you’ll know that a major concern of global warming is the melting of the polar ice regions – the home of the polar bears. If the earth continues to warm up, the ice at the North and South poles will melt progressively, the polar bears will lose the only environment they’re adapted to survive in, and the world could lose the entire line of these animals – as we lost the Dodo bird of Mauritius. How can iPads help?

Well for starters – using an iPad or any other electronic tablet to receive all your news updates, breaking stories and multimedia packages means that you aren’t supporting the printing press factories that emit carbon emission fuels that pollute our atmosphere, accelerating global warming, melting the glacier homes of the polar bears. Relying on mobile computer tablets to serve as replacements for newspapers, magazines, books and games does threaten the ‘traditional’ sense of these elements but at least it adds to the fight against global warming.

Next let’s look at the ice bergs and Blackberry’s. If you have a Blackberry device you have access to the Blackberry Messaging service (BBM) which is instant messaging offered on very affordable cell phone package tariffs. Imagine that for every text message sent by the people in your group of friends 1 km3 (1 cubic metre) of a glacier broke off and began melting slowly. That could mean on a Friday afternoon, when a group of people are furiously making plans for the weekend and thousands of free BBM texts could be sent thousands of km3 of glaciers are melting away. The cyberspace nature of new media could indeed save the environment. The more instant messages sent, the less paper needed from trees to send letters with snail mail, the less global warming melting the glaciers.

Lastly, let’s consider forests worth of trees and Twitter. This one should be pretty obvious – the more time spent online ‘tweeting’ about your life, the less time spent writing letters on paper, reading magazines, books and newspapers. I am not denying the importance of engaging with these media types in a physical manner. But if there were interests to read a 90-page newspaper, wouldn’t it be better for the environment if that were done online, without needing 90 pieces of paper, manufactured from the precious resource of trees?

I realise that I sound like the worst type of hippie with that last statement – let me assure you I'm not going to chain myself to any trees in the name of endorsing Twitter as a solution to global warming, deforestation and melting glaciers.  I merely want to suggest that people of the ‘old school era’ need to consider the huge benefits that the ‘new media landscape’ could offer our environment.

We need fossil fuels in order to maintain a balance between the earth’s resources and our means of survival, but if we use all of those resources up, we will be left with the challenge of re-creating a way of living off an earth that cannot adequately provide for us.

 Think about my propositions and let me know what you think?

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Laurenvdv, May 11, 2011
As a future writing journalist, I'll have to be realistic about using iPads and electronic 'paper' - its effective and I'll feel like I'm helping out the critters who live in the trees. Newspapers are a dying tradition and it makes sense for the world to initiate electronic mediums for daily news and features. In South Africa, though, it'll be a while before Twitter and electronic tablets can really be a substitute...Technology does have the oomph to change the state of the environment but we can only tell with time.
written by Polar bears and iPads, May 13, 2011
Your argument, while valid though simplistic. It neglects any mention of the problems of e-waste. Do you know how much energy is consumed in the production of a disposable consumer technology like a tablet computer? What happens when devices like tablets, laptops, computers, iPhones etc break or become redundant and need to be junked? What happens when it is NOT commercially viable to plant forests of trees for paper and the land is used for something else?
written by Jawellnofine, May 14, 2011
What about the disposal of the batteries that drives these gadgets?

Humans tend to develop things without much thought for the consequences thereoff; and mostly by trial and error.

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