Like my comrade here at The L, Mark Asch , I’m starting to have issues with the internet [see thelmagazine.com for his “I Hate the Internet”]. Sure, there’s a lot of good stuff out there, and it’s been an important tool for raising environmental awareness, but El Web-o has a few serious flaws, from an environmental standpoint (and no, this isn’t about power consumption by PCs, though that’s a problem too).
I was just reading an article online when a sidebar ad with seductive graphics caught my eye: over a misty picture of giant redwoods (a recent obsession of mine, thanks to Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory) floated the word “Earthkeepers.” Naturally, I clicked.
Of course, the first problem here is that I allowed myself to be steered off course so easily. In informal surveys of friends, I’ve found that most of us, with some regularity, click off the pages we’ve gone to without finishing our reading. So much for the limitless information available to us on the internet: if we don’t read it, what good is it?
Having left my edited, vetted article, I tumbled into the Earthkeepers YouTube channel. One of those marketing I-don’t-know-what-to-call-its, it features chatty videos starring Timberland shoe execs talking about the environment. The first sentence of the intro, “So, the Timberland company, what gives the right for this bootmaker to talk about something called earthkeeping?” immediately got my hackles up. Trying to convey a “real” message, and sell millions of boots, they couldn’t come up with a grammatically correct opening sentence?
The second issue I had was when I tried the “Get your own Green Index” quiz, which, based on your answers to a series of questions, gives you a graphic of your own eco footprint that looks like a nutrition information panel, only with your “impact” in various areas taking the place of nutrient content. Fair enough: these things can be useful, no?
No. The questions, all multiple choice, offer answers from the banal (“My dog likes to have the TV on”) to the belligerently yahoo (“Processes? Chemicals? If the USDA says they can sell it, I’ll eat it”). Under the head “Low eco-impact food” the answers available are “I’m a vegan,” “I eat a little meat here and there,” and “Burgers for breakfast.” Now, I know this is edutainment, but jeez. Veganism is a noble thing, but far more Americans are vegetarian than vegan, and no one taking this survey is going to be a breakfast-burger eater.
If Timberland cares about the environment, why are they loading their site with pointless content, unnecessarily polarizing answers (either you’re a freak, err vegan, or you eat burgers for breakfast) and couching it all in lowest-common-denominator fratboy-speak? The time wasted producing this site, and then wasted by those visiting it and imagining they’re “addressing environmental issues” would be far better spent in reading something “real” on the subject. Or picking one’s nose. Advertising schlock like this is a sinister encroachment on the time we could all be spending calling our congresspeople, growing our own food or volunteering for an animal rescue group (BAFN.org — they need YOU).
At another site I visited recently, in search of substantive information on population control, a reasonable article gave way to a comment thread that yielded some of the most idiotic ideas I’ve ever seen. Why worry about overpopulation when “We can get around the carrying limit for the earth by harvesting extraterrestrial materials”? Seriously?
It’s bad enough that there are people who are this dumb, but the fact that they’ve been given a venue to spread this piffle is verging on the criminal. Will every other idiot who stumbles onto this thread leave content that we needn’t do anything, ‘cause soon we‘ll be eating moon rocks, and building with Venutian lumber?
I know I sound like Grandpa here, but maybe it’s time we chilled out on the electro info. Stop reading comment threads — they’re a waste of time. Try to get more information from experts, and less from yahoos, and encourage others to do the same. Discrimination isn’t always a bad thing.