A Blog Post Suspicious of Blog Posts (Matthew Shedd)
I read an article in The Huffington Post in which Bill McKibben urges us (yes, us: the bloggers!) to keep up the good work. Despite more and more disturbing reports from the science world about our precarious state, McKibben is optimistic because of the global impact that blogging has had on awareness and participation in the ecological crisis. There is a level of involvement that he believes would have been unthinkable two years ago. With continued online organization, he believes that we can give our representatives the nudge necessary to get meaningful reform in Copenhagen.
I thought this article provides interesting opportunity for us to think about the role of the internet in helping us in our current ecological state. McKibben’s point is well made. Undoubtedly, blogs have informed many people about human negligence regarding the environment and spurred on activism in very important ways. However, I cannot help but feel slightly uneasy when I hear unqualified praise for technological advances like blogging and the use of the internet. Although I agree with McKibben that blogs have indeed been helpful in organizing political action, I believe that there needs to be careful consideration of the deficiencies of blogging and the internet in information dispersal and how they are symptomatic of the way of thinking that have caused our current crisis. My concerns about blogging may seem obvious enough, and for this reason, I will try to be as brief as possible. We all know, in many cases, that blog posts are less thoughtful and not edited as carefully as a magazine or newspaper article would be. There are also not the same standards of factual accountability as there are in the classic standards of print news media. Also, for all the blogs that have provided responsible and reflective writings on the environment, I am certain that there are many who have caused damage and speciously misrepresented information.
More substantively, I believe that receiving information from the internet has lead us further away from slow and careful thinking and decision making as well as other qualities necessary for reconciling human beings with the environment. If we are going to negotiate our way around further species extinction (of animals and of humans), we will need the capacity for careful thinking that blogs and the internet do not usually encourage. Also, by heightening our dependence on instant information and entertainment, I think that the internet has further helped to create a very impatient modern culture. If we are to find a way to live with earth again, I believe it will require us to break with our obsession with “newness” the internet has further helped to create. This obsession is detrimental because it is so often dependent on mechanical reproduction and energy expensive activities. In light of the immeasurable harm caused by air travel, land travel, a globalized economy, and all other symptoms of our cult of newness, we need a rebirth in our appreciation for the ordinary, the local, which the internet always seems to be combating.
All this being said, I am not completely against blogging and the use of the internet for information dispersal and activist purposes. Given our current state, I think the internet is necessary in order to make things happen, so to speak. I agree with McKibben that it has been helpful beyond measure in organizational capacities. However, it is not recognizing the internet’s coexistent dangers that calls for concern. I think it is also important to remember the dangers of blogging and internet use that are potentially incompatible with lasting reform in order to rethink our relationship to them.