Waste Mail and Waste Oil

No, I’m not talking about all the coupons and advertising and solicitations and other unwanted crud that helps keep the otherwise excellent United States Postal Service in business. Nor am I talking about the stuff coming out of cars that’s gone from tan to black because it wasn’t changed often enough, and then some people proceed to pour onto the street so it flows into the planet’s water systems and fouls our streams and seas.

Actually the problem is e-mail and its injudicious, indiscriminate, and over–use. Everybody wants to get into the act. Jokes, health advice, wisdom, tearjerkers, titillating pictures, serious discussions, data conveyance, and on goes the list of what flickers on our screens.

Some of it is easy to delete, or, if you’ve got that much time, enjoy. But mostly it’s time consuming. People, especially the first generation to espouse this mode of communication that thinks it is the panacea for all things at all times in all places and contexts, send out a missive with no thought to grammar, spelling, and much worse, content. And the recklessness is bilateral. Recipients treat the message with the same lack of seriousness, often replying or sending out a new line of discussion before even reading, at least not so as to understand, the sender’s thoughts. Just because we can, we do-send an e-mail that is. This alleged time saver has become a huge time sink.

Most people fear and loathe meetings. Many people avoid human interaction. Perfect! E-mail avoids both. It also avoids resolving the matter at hand. What can be addressed, discussed, and decided in 15-20 minutes of meeting face-to-face, consumes easily triple (I’m being very generous) that amount of time. And, it is less complete because not everyone is reading and writing simultaneously. Thoughts and conclusions cannot evolve because one person is sending a message replying to the first one, while another is replying to the third and yet another has read none, while still another has come to a conclusion and "voted" on the matter at hand. Even when a decision is made, there’s often some queasiness among participants, some uncertainty because no one has clearly stated and everyone else agreed to the final, formulated conclusion.

If distance/travel constraints exist; if large amounts of data/information must be conveyed; if the same material must be sent to many recipients; then e-mail is good. Otherwise it’s a cop-out and further alienates us from one another by decreasing the amount of real human communication–in person or by (video) phone. Intonation, subtlety, sarcasm- are lost to the pixels.

The other theme is oil. You’ve probably heard of the notion of "peak oil"–that we are at, or soon will be at, the point where the amount of petroleum we pull from the ground is equal to, then exceeds, the amount that is newly discovered and recoverable. This means, simply, that the beginning of the end is here. We’re running out of "black gold". What will make our cars run, our factories produce, our homes warm, and generally–enable modern civilization? The answer, though long known, yet much avoided by those in a position to take the necessary steps, is the development and use of sustainable energy sources. This means oil, atoms, and coal won’t cut it. Once they’re used, it’s over. But wind and sun and tide are essentially eternal. (I don’t even like the idea of tapping Earth’s inner heat- geothermal energy. The idea of spewing added energy onto the planet’s surface, furthering the global warming problem, while simultaneously reducing the energy and pressures supporting the planet’s crust, makes me uncomfortable.)

We’ve waited far too long to initiate the transition from consumable, finite to sustainable sources of energy, so we’re now living the consequences, mostly in the form of skyrocketing energy, food, and other costs. So the "Idiots’ Chorus" has found its voice again. The chants deifying coal and nuclear power as our saviors, or the tapping of ever less desirable sources of petroleum, are getting louder and more frequently heard. Can’t these people think? What’s that old saying? When you realize you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. Nuclear power? What do we do with deadly wastes that retain their lethality for tens of thousands of years. No one has yet satisfactorily solved that problem. Coal is incredibly polluting and a huge contributor, even worse than oil per unit of energy generated, to the global warming problem, and its burning emits other substances that contribute to environmental degradation on a cast scale. Plus, mining that stuff destroys vast swaths of the landscape, communities, and peoples’ lives. As to drilling for more oil, maybe we’ll add a few years’ supply, but at tremendous other planetary costs.

Just stop. The money poured into drilling, digging, storing, cleaning, remediating, and settling suits from those damaged by our unwise energy sourcing is much better spent developing the inescapable way of the future. It’s going to have to be done. Why not sooner than later?

Let’s be wise for a change in our communication and energy decisions. We as Armenia’s must play an integral role in implementing this wisdom.

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