Monday, April 29, 2013

Knapsack 5-2-13

Notes from my Knapsack 5-2-13

Jeff Gill


Beyond the screen in the big wide open



Turning off your screens can be an admirable decision.


The balance needed to keep them on, candidly, keeps me thinking about this subject. I have nothing but admiration for Julia Walden at the Granville Public Library and Lesa Miller at the Granville Rec Commission for their intentions, but I also remember how many of us are doing much or all of our work these days on the aforementioned screeny-things.


So when a few commentators enjoy the angst over hints of academic studies that repeated or prolonged (or both kinds) of exposure to screen glow and twitchy images can cause ADHD or impetigo or a third arm to grow from our foreheads, I lean back just a little.


In general terms, I think a) a Turn Off Your Screens week once a year is an excellent idea, but also that b) there should be moments in every day when we ask ourselves as our forebearers did during World War II, "Is this Log-on necessary?"


(Or "When you surf the internet unnecessarily, you surf with Hitler.")


Seriously, the whole "Is this trip necessary?" campaign during wartime fuel & rubber rationing became a community wide cause, with stickers and posters and newspaper filler blocks, so that the question was all around you: "Is this trip necessary?"


It wasn't just about economics or personal connections, because there was a black market on fuel coupons and a little counterfeiting of the chits, but basically everyone realized there was only so much gasoline around, and if you used it for a pleasure trip to Sausalito or West Jefferson, you were potentially taking fuel away from one of Patton's tanks (and Patton wouldn't like that, but Hitler would, hence . . .).


Now we think we're back to cheap unlimited energy, and yes, even at three bucks plus a gallon, we've got cheap energy. And with coal and now gas-fired power plants, we don't think a minute about leaving our screens running for hours. The cost, as far as we know, between wear on the device turning it on and off versus the energy cost to run it means it seems like a good idea.


Slowly, we're starting to hear, and think, about the energy costs of charger plugs left in the wall between uses, and to see the value of an Energy Star rating. But the fact of the matter is that if we had to lay down a $5 every time we logged onto our computer, or juiced up an internet enabled device, we'd probably do it less. That's basic economics, where price and psychology meet.


It may be, however, that there is almost that sort of expense incurred in our screen time, and the cost, that $5, is being deferred to future generations, who will wish they had the energy sources we used up, or have to clean up the environment from the impact we made, or live in an ecosystem powerfully affected by our choices now.


There are many reasons to go out and take a walk, and shut down and cool off our neurons with some nature therapy. This week, and for many weeks to come.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's burned his share of carbon-releasing energy into the environment. Tell him how you ease up on usage, ironically, at or @Knapsack on Twitter.

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