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Two Sticks or a Lighter?

Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” raises questions to the negative effects of internet usage. Carr claims the amount of information we are able to process is changing the way we have traditionally learned, read, and analyzed information. This is leaving us unable to concentrate on texts, and therefore making us stupid. The internet grants access to massive amounts of information which wouldn’t otherwise be readily available. Carr even agrees, “Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes” (Carr). The internet is actually helping scientists, researchers, and students’ process greater amounts of information faster, which leads to an improved intellectual society.

The World Wide Web allows for information to be shared, debated, and accepted at a quicker pace than any time in the past. Mankind has innovated ways to learn throughout history, and there have been doomsayers with each new innovation.  Socrates questioned the effects of the written word and the circulation of books. The printing press, typewriter, radio and television have raised similar questions in the past, but each are considered major progress points in human history. Today, unparalleled information is available to anyone with access to the computer and the internet. Information that is readily available is a good thing, even according to Carr, “The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer.” (Carr). The Web is allowing us to research, learn, and progress faster than any other time throughout human history. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, educational attainment of the population is growing faster than any other time in U.S. history. Academic achievement in the form of a Bachelor degree has increased by twenty seven percent between the years of 1960 to 2003 (Stoops 2). This number continues to grow in correlation with the growth of the internet.  The internet is allowing people to complete degree programs faster than before by reducing the work load. A degree program can be completed in the comfort of home for the first time in history. Turning to another indicator we see similar evidence of a smarter society. Patent applications were increasing a substantial amount during the same time period.  According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, an average of 4 million applications in the 1990s has increased to over 6 million applications filed in 2002 (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office 6).  Are the increased innovations and higher education degrees just a coincidence of the internet age?

According to Pew Research Center, “people’s use of internet has enhanced human intelligence; as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information they become smarter… Nicholas Carr was wrong: Google does not make us stupid.” (Anderson 2). Humans have evolved from hunting and gathering for survival 12,000 years ago, to the current industrialized civilization. Each step being made with gained knowledge and progressive innovation. Advances in science, medicine and technology are increasing at the fastest rate ever recorded, with most of the progress happening within the last thirty years. History clearly shows humans have naturally learned through oral interactions and group discussion, even before the invention of the written words, books and the printing press. According to Dr. Trent Batson a Senior Contributing Editor for Campus Technology, “… [the web is] helping us re-claim our human legacy of learning through a rapid exchange of ideas in a social setting… making us smarter as we re-discover new ways to learn.”(Batson). He further states, “It is easy to criticize a new technology; it is much harder to understand how the new technology can help create new abilities in humans.”(Batson).

According to the Pew Research Center study “The resources of the internet and search engines will shift cognitive capacities. We won’t have to remember as much, but we’ll have to think harder and have better critical thinking.” (Anderson 7). Indeed, just having access to the information doesn’t do us any good unless the reader puts thought into the article. When we are searching for specific information, we browse the web and often are able to quickly find the information we seek, and through that discover other facets of information that we did not expect.  It is up to the reader to decide which bits of information to acknowledge and analyze. The internet is also opening up forums of communications for people to share, debate and comment on ideas, current events, and scientific theories from all over the world. Open dialogues allow people to learn from one another and compare ideas, and this form of learning is deeply rooted in human evolution.

 Can Carr keep up with the changing technology?  The US Census Bureau states that “The younger population is more educated than the older population” (Stoops 2). If we break down society into two groups we can gain a glimpse of enlightenment on this subject. Those who were born before the 1980s have had to adapt to a new form of technology in the information age. This group would have spent countless hours in the library poring over a limited stack of texts available, to find the same information that we can find on the internet in minutes on the internet. The younger generation never had to utilize the traditional methods, and instead focused on using the Web.  This difference has created an obvious gap in technological savvy between the two generations.

The internet is a tool that allows us to have information at our fingertips, but it is up the reader and our educational system to teach people how to analyze that information. Less memorization allows us to harness the analytical skills, which can lead to a smarter society. According to the Pew Research Center, “[by] 2020 it will be clear that the internet has enhanced and improved reading, writing and rendering knowledge.” (Anderson 2). Carr’s claim that we are suffering from power browsing through articles has removed our ability to put deep thought into texts, is untrue.  Carr says the internet is a distraction, a sea of endless notifications and hyperlinks. “Immersing myself in a book or lengthy article use to be easy… I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore.” (Carr). I doubt the accuracy of this statement, Carr may be suffering from an attention span, but he has recently completed two books in a short time period, all possible thanks to the internet and Google. According to Jamais Cascio who is considered one of the top one hundred global thinkers:

As the digital systems we rely upon become faster, more sophisticated and more capable, were becoming more sophisticated and capable too. It’s a form of co-evolution: we learn to adapt our thinking and expectations to these digital systems, even as the system designs become more complex and powerful to meet more of our needs-and eventually come to adapt to us (Cascio).

The evidence says we are evolving into a society of higher intelligence is largely due to unprecedented amounts of accessible information coupled with open sourced dialogue. The next step is enhancing the human brain to handle this more efficiently by continued innovation. Speeding up the process may be leaving traditions behind, but it is a natural step in human evolution. When was the last time you started a fire with two sticks?

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Inspirational Advertising: The Importance of Direct Actions and Civil Disobedience

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The largest international environmental nonprofit group on the planet has taken marketing to an entirely new level. Greenpeace is best known for successful campaigns to save whales, rainforests and wildlife with provocative tactics that captivate audiences around the globe. Controversial law bending and peaceful strategies allow the group to innovate marketing tactics.  In 2009, highly trained Greenpeace activists hung a banner on Mount Rushmore National Monument. The banner was positioned in line, to the right of the sculptured faces. The banner depicted President Obama in the backdrop essentially placing him on Mt. Rushmore, a significant national monument.  The white banner was straightforward with a bland but beneficial color scheme that contained lettering in red, white, black and green. The message was clear, “America Honors Leaders, not politicians. Stop Global Warming.”. Creative communication and audacious demonstrations of provide Greenpeace and advantage in mass marketing and direct messaging.

On the day of the event the Greenpeace activists brilliantly coordinated a live video stream, the media, and utilized social networks to gain attention to the MT. Rushmore demonstration. Audaciously trespassing in a restricted area the activists, were successful obtaining free publicity to boost awareness of their message. The spectacular act could not be ignored by international media outlets, social or radio networks. Political and controversial issues have been largely ignored and spun by network pundits, but this valiant action by Greenpeace was successful in reaching millions of people around the world captivating their targeted audience.  Greenpeace also showed impeccable timing with this protest. This particular demonstration was synchronized with the G8 summit, a meeting of the world leaders putting an emphasis on the message.

The clear and concise image circulated mass media outlets for weeks after the incident demanding attention to the issue of climate change. On the bottom of the banner, the contrast between the white lettering and the black background presented the words “Stop Global Warming” a conspicuously powerful, and thought provoking message.  Climate change is a sensitive issue which many politicians and world leaders have notoriously avoided despite public concern and the scientific community’s uproar.

Americans largely distrust politicians, a majority of whom are known to break campaign promises and flop on major issues due to political pressure.  The word, “politician” carries negative connotations, often conjuring up feelings of deceit and dishonesty and often brings into question their integrity.  Highlighted in bold red “Not Politicians”, clearly stands out from the dull grey artistic sculpture. It is obvious that the primary target in the message is President Obama, personalized by his face on the banner. This can also be considered a ploy to open a direct line of communication with the president and hold him accountable for lack of action and leadership on the politically controversial issue.  It is apparent that American voters are the secondary target by stating on the banner “America Honors Leaders”. The tertiary target is aimed towards climate change sympathizers. The message is clever, direct and daring. It also provokes the observer to consider the difference between a leader and a politician. This comparison also adds a sense of importance by depicting President Obama next to President Lincoln. Mount Rushmore National Monument contains the glorified sculptured faces of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln who are arguably four of the most influential presidents in America’s history.  They are each known for making historic, popular and essential decisions.  The banner’s image of President Obama placed perfectly to the right of President Lincoln invites the observer to compare the current president to the former presidents, not just the difference between a leader and a politician. 

The passionate people who are willing to stretch the bounds of the first amendment are also incorporated in the image. The sheer consequences of their actions give the observer a heightened sense of importance to this issue. We see them in the image, bravely hanging from thin ropes from a world famous monument. The dedicated peaceful protesters are evidently inspiring others to bring attention to the issue. It is considered a social norm to admire the brave and courageous people in our society. We honor those who put themselves in harm’s way for a just cause, and often refer to them as heroes. A tradition that is traceable throughout human history, and we often attempt to mimic their behavior. The activists in this image are clearly trespassing on a national monument which is unlawful, although in this image the majority of the targeted audience will consider them heroes. They could have fled, at the expense of the image being less potent, allowing the observer to excuse the minor mischief.

Greenpeace is a major leader in the environmental movement.  Their campaigning tactics are continually being innovated to suit their needs of specific campaigns. Their creative communication techniques and the precise demographic targeting help to enhance their unique form of marketing. Greenpeace is not selling us a product; they are promoting their organization, advertising their message with the use of free publicity.  Attention that any business would handsomely pay for. They have an exceptional and provocative way to accomplish their marketing objectives. We must respect and admire their successful techniques and recognize the nonprofit group as a marketing genius, regardless if we agree with nonprofit’s use of civil disobedience. Observers of this image will forever associate Greenpeace with the greatest leaders of America’s short history. Any American should be thankful that McDonalds didn’t think of it first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bus Isn’t Always On Time

 

Ex 3 233

I wasn’t able to comprehend the sacrifice involved in cutting carbon emissions until I applied it to my own lifestyle.  I’m an active American college student living in the suburbs of a city with less than adequate public transportation and, to top it off the rain in this is relentless. I also have strong convictions and passion to seek and promote a sustainable lifestyle due to an overwhelming concern of a future energy crisis. After learning about the devastation of carbon emissions on the environment I was motivated to incorporate changes into my lifestyle in order to reduce my footprint on this planet. Instead of just preaching about the issues, it was my turn to apply my own action in an attempt to lessen the problematic situation. According to Michael C. Slattery, who wrote Contemporary Environmental Issues, “oil is the world’s predominant energy source, accounting for about 40 percent of energy consumption” (Slattery 35). According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s report on the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory, “ The Transportation accounts for approximately 33 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions… nearly 60 percent of emissions resulted from gasoline consumption” (U.S. Greenhouse). The really scary figure according to Slattery is that fossil fuels “account for almost 90 percent of commercial energy production worldwide” (Slattery 25). This figure includes natural gas, coal and oil consumption. Majority of the items that we utilize and consume on a daily basis are transported to us from another part of the world. Most of the transportation requires the use of dirty fossil fuels. This also includes foreign oil and, America is one of the leading oil importers on the planet making it one of the most crucial countries that need to take a step towards localization. In order to reduce my own footprint I decided my project needed to reduce my carbon miles in so I can move closer to a sustainable lifestyle. As an active American I decided to leave my keys on my dresser, and take up a sustainable commuting practice. My project demanded that I would specifically to utilize sustainable modes of transportation either by, bicycle or the use of the local public transportation system to commute to school.

In order to track my progress I decided to do some research in order to estimate my carbon footprint before and, after.  In May after the start of my project I was asked to fill out a form during week five that allowed me to estimate my greenhouse and transportation costs. I concluded that this particular worksheet allowed a solid platform so that I could accurately estimate my progress. According to my estimates and the mathematic equations my Subaru Outback station wagon runs at twenty two miles per gallon with a fourteen gallon tank. I would usually drive two weeks between refuels which estimated that I provide the planet with 7,884 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere alone by driving 8700 miles annually. This number frightened me which led to continued motivation for this project. I was under the impression that my car a twenty-two miles per gallon wagon would have been much more environmentally friendly. I was completely baffled, and overwhelmed by the own emission output. A closer look at the cost was also shocking. Driving an average of 24.38 miles per day costs according to the mathematical calculations of the chart cost $4.14 per day. This price may not seem like very much at first glance but, I assure you as a college student the cost adds up to an annual price of over $1500. Personally this is more than a months’ worth of living expenses in my situation. I was looking forward to adding the savings to my bank account balance. Frequent trips to the gas station would be a thing of the past! The monetary cost and the carbon emissions were eye openings and, it was time to incorporate changes. I am a full time student and, my only obligation has been commuting to school and back every weekday. Google Maps estimated my distance from the school as 3.6 miles. According to the C-Tran web site the estimated commute by bus this would take 16 minutes each direction. My commute to school required that I would travel an estimated 36 miles per week. Over the course of 55 days I could easily save over 400 miles. Not to mention the hassle of a community college parking lot that can last nearly forty five minutes every morning and hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide.

Public Transportation requires patience.  Commuting in a personal vehicle allows certain freedoms. The most important step in using transportations is accepting a loss of those freedoms. For instance, the bus drivers usually are very helpful and kind but, they are not running a taxi service and, they stick to the route regardless of any attempt at coercing. Any spontaneous stop on the way requires careful planning to avoid being late to my scheduled obligations. I had to plan my trips if, I wanted to stop by the grocery store or post office.  I had to plan ahead and check bus schedules and routes. This was expected although it took some getting used to. Spontaneity checked out of my lifestyle. The first two weeks I experienced the most amount of frustration while adjusting to the project and, I was slightly bummed. I felt a little lost at first as I noticed the loss of my freedom.  I missed my Outback and I felt awkward. The frustration set in shortly after I realized that this project wasn’t going to be as easy as I first anticipated. I continued the project with a certain level of frustration because; I felt that a small sacrifice of my personal freedoms was important for the commonwealth of the planet and future generations not to mention my grade.  I also have lived in several cities with efficient means of public transportation. Vancouver is not such a place. The inconvenience forced me to question my own convictions on modern day environmental issues. How could feel so passionate about the issues, yet frustrated at the application of better choices? I continued on the path of being a suburban bus commuter. I wondered if my sacrifice of convenience would really make much of a difference. After all, I am just one suburban college student.

When I conceived this project idea I had planned on commuting by bicycle several times a week. That’s when I also noticed that spring in the Pacific North West is not a favorable place to commute by bicycle due to the overwhelming about of liquid sunshine. I had hopes using a bicycle would have health benefits as well .I was wrong because, my motivation to ride a bicycle in a rain left me when I was awarded a drivers license at sixteen.  From my trial and error experience through the first few days I had decided that the bus was a better alternative. I didn’t have to pay the bus fare thanks to a student Identification and a bus pass that cost less than twenty dollars for the term.  Riding my bicycle 3.6 miles either left me drenched from the rain, or perspiration from the work out. The commute generally would last about twenty minutes each way by bus. This was actually a faster commute than driving the 3.6 miles because; I no longer had to deal with the parking issues at the school and the commute time by bus was less than by car.  My commute by bicycle was respectively the same. I was happy with the situation; although I did have several occasions where the bus took longer than expected and sometimes wait became major inconvenience.

I started to enjoy other aspects of the new lifestyle. It also added several perks that I grew to enjoy. For instance I grew accustomed to the reading time, and relaxing before class. I also learned that public transportation is entertaining if people watching. There is a strange man in his late seventies named Herb on the bus every other day who talks on his cell phone so loud that I know all about his grandchildren and, toe nail fungus. More importantly I was able to enjoy the time because I had little responsibility on the bus. It was a new concept which when driving a vehicle, one does not have. I became more observant, and felt I was making a difference.

I was accustomed to filling my fuel tank every two weeks and, during the project I was able to extend it to every four weeks. This was saving me money right off the bat and reduced my cost on gas in half. More importantly I was able to reduce my carbon miles by at least 36 miles per week. I did adhere strictly to my original goal of commuting to and from school during the week with sustainable means. My total reduction for my project had reduced my carbon miles by at least 360 miles. This equals the average amount of miles I get on one full tank. During the project I did miss the bus on a four occasions which hindered me from my goal of 400 miles. In order to make up for those days, I used the public transportation system on many occasions for grocery shopping, errands and, visiting friends. Unfortunately I did not document those trips nor add them to my estimated reduction because my goal was to commute to and from school and, not from other activities. According to the emissions chart, total emissions can be calculated by “Emissions per Mile = 20lbs / MPG”, which calculates to 0.9 CO2 per mile in my case. The total amount of carbon dioxide reduced during this project calculates to 324 pounds of carbon dioxide that I otherwise would have emitted into the atmosphere while commuting to school and back.

In all honesty I am still disappointed with the figure because at first glance it seems like it wouldn’t make a difference. However, if this project is going to continue I have estimated that during a period of one year of commuting by bus that I could reduce at least 1684.8 pounds of carbon from my annual estimate of 7884 pounds of Co2 emissions. By continuing the project I could reduce my emissions by as much as 19 percent over the course of a year just by commuting to school with public transportation! This is good for the environment, my pocketbook and conscience. Although is it enough? Could I do more?

Future generations are facing unprecedented problems largely thanks to global emissions and the burning of dirty fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas and coal consumption is continuing to grow in India, China and other developing countries around the globe. Expansion to find oil and natural gas is becoming dangerous, and unlimited resources are not available. Oil drilling expansion in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico could prove to have long term dangerous consequences. Even if unlimited resources were available our atmosphere wouldn’t harbor the pollution from those dirty resources. The United States is one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gases that are emitted globally each year. Greenhouse gas emissions are growing at an unprecedented rate and, unless action is taken to reduce the amount of pollution that is emitted into the atmosphere we will be looking at a much different planet in the near future. Recent reports claim that 2010 had reached the highest carbon emission output ever recorded.  It is important to start making an impact today in order to slow those changes from happening.  Slattery says “People tend to believe that scientists will give us all the facts we need to know about nature and the environment and that technology will somehow save the planet and all humanity” (Slattery 252). This project and the information we covered in class make me wonder if others will be willing to sacrifice some of their own conveniences for a greater common good.  Being a person with strong political and environmental convictions made this project a much easier than it would for others who are not concerned about the future of the planet.

The problems that we are facing are also disputed by a side with political corporatist agenda motivated by faith in capitalist society.  The republican controlled congress recently discussed the issues of climate change and voted against acknowledging it as an issue despite scientific evidence. Corporations are remaining largely unchecked for environmental hazards, and our legislatures have recently attempted to remove power from those who can hold the corporations accountable. This leaves a burden on responsible individuals to accept the reality that we are in and, make better choices for a brighter future. This leads me to believe that much of the future depends on the sacrifices that responsible individuals take now to reduce their own footprints in order to curb the many issues facing the planet. This could be difficult in rural areas, where people have longer commutes. Once upon a time I lived in the California San Joaquin Valley, and had a two hour commute to work in the bay area in one direction. I’m thankful this is no longer the case because; here I can utilize public transportation. Sadly, millions of Americans are in areas where public transportation is not a viable option. Public transportation in America is not as efficient as many other places in the world that I have visited. In Sweden, many locals claim that the rail has never been late. Many places in Europe may not be as efficient as Sweden but, the infrastructure has created much more efficient systems than the US in general. In fact, our high-speed rail system is virtually non-existent in the US.

Many experts argue that the best step forward would be to rearrange the economic structure and increase prices for oil in order to create a demand for localization in an economy. Transportation costs would then be increased, which in turn would increase the prices for consumer goods including food. Demand for local food and, consumer goods could greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are expelled into the atmosphere if done on a wide scale. This theory could also have major economic consequences for billions of people around the globe, especially considering food costs are already on the rise.

In order to reduce my own carbon footprint, I can easily change my own transportation options. I cannot change others means of transportation. However, I can make conscientious decisions to reduce my own footprint even further by choosing where I shop. In the Northwest, we have options to shop at local markets for food, and other item consumer goods which can be a major step forward. Local, simple living is another important step that can help reduce my carbon emissions and global emissions. My project has left me with a desire to continue to look for better options to reduce my energy consumption. Energy is an expensive necessity, but every individual has the ability to reduce their energy consumption. It only takes a little will power, and education.

Works Cited

United States. Environmental Protection Agency. US Emission Inventory Report. EPA 1990-2009. N.D. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html Web. 06. June. 2011

Slattery, Michael C.. “Contemporary Environmental Issues.” Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2008. Print.

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