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Our Changing Times: Communication

This is the fifth in the series “Our Changing Times”. It is about how we are starting to alter our way of living in response to global climate change.Last time we talked about how there is a tread away from centralization and towards a more distributed system of supply and consumption. While this may seem to increase dollar and carbon costs to the supplier it greatly reduces the same costs to the consumer. This is because alternative forms of transportation are used under this system like bicycles and walking. Overall, both costs are reduced thus providing for a smaller carbon footprint. One other change that is accelerating due to global warming is how we communicate.Many of us grew up in the day when there were no cell phones and no Internet. Dialup was the rotary telephone we used and mail something we waited to be place in the box outside our front door.If we wanted something we drove to the mall and looked around. There was always the Sears catalog and later a host of others that we could use to mail order.Whether we know it or not all of these ways of doing our business used up a lot of fossil fuel. Mail order is a good example. Trees have to be cut and then processed into paper. The catalogs have to be printed, transported, mailed out and delivered. Our order forms are picked up and transported with the products being returned by the same means.Communication using the Internet has started to eliminate but the last delivery step. People no longer have to drive an hour to the mega-mall or the big-box store to hunt around for the one thing that they need. We can signup for email advertisements from our favorite retail stores and stop them when we no longer want them. Nationwide and global searches can be easily done to find the least expensive price for the item we want.A place like www.Ebay.com, which is basically the world’s biggest yard sale, is open to anyone who wants to sell or buy nearly anything. In the scenario just mentioned the vast majority of the carbon produced is in the final transportation of the item. This method relays completely on communication.Cell phones have done the same thing as the Internet only in a different way. Our activities both personal and business are coordinated in a timely if not immediate manner. As an example, we don’t have to drive somewhere only to find that the store is closed or that the person we wanted to talk to is not there. That flat tire on a dark country road is only a nuisance not a scary five-mile walk to a phone.While changes in the way we communicate have not done away with catalogs or newspapers, they have been significantly impacted. The death of the printed media has been predicted in the next ten to twenty years – we’ll see.These changes are and will result in a reduction in our carbon footprint and help to reduce the impact of global warming.

Think Global – Act Local!

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