Monday, 20 July 2009

Is Technology Sustainable?

By Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

by robhawke on Flickr

This past week I have been hopelessly trying to catch up with the technological side of my life: my blog, my online calendar, my online research for work, my web and social media design for work...

I took two weekends off in the past month, and my technological world seems to have surpassed me!

How did that happen?!

This week, I've begun walking to work 2 miles each way, stopping by my community garden patch on the way home. It's wonderful - I feel my body rejuvenating. My brain has the time to relax, and I end up having incredibly productive ideas along my walk. My body feels alive and burning needed calories to get back down to the weight I'd like. My senses love the walk to the garden, love picking the weeds and feeling the dirt, and talking with my neighbors as I water.

But every time I go through a period of adjustment like this, where I simplify my life to make it more sustainable, I find I struggle with the other half of today's existence: technology.

I would imagine I am not alone in this struggle between technology and simplicity.

First, does living a simple life mean living without technology?

Are technology and simplicity mutually exclusive? That would mean that, by nature of being an online community builder - with One Green Generation and with my own business at Re-Vision Labs - I am never going to live simply. Or if I live simply, this would mean I cannot live a technologically-infused existence.

There are certainly ways in which technology has helped us live more simply. We learn from one another here - sharing recipes, ideas, and patterns. We find out where our local farms and markets are located (we could probably do that without being online, but it would take more time and likely wouldn't be as informative). So maybe it's ok to participate in online communities, if it gives us more knowledge and willpower to live more simply and sustainably. But where is the line? How do we find the balance?

Secondly, is technology sustainable - or can it become sustainable?

I do wonder at times if technology is personally sustainable. For instance, when I first began reading and writing online about sustainability, I soaked in more information that my mind could hold. I actively participated in forums, blogs, and anywhere I could. But as I learned and grew and began doing, I felt I needed less information online, and I felt I had less time to learn. Now I participate in forums, blogs, and other places far less - and I feel I miss some of that online community. But I don't know how to put more hours in my day!

Also, I often wonder if technology is environmentally sustainable. I believe very strongly in the power of community to change the world. Here in the blogosphere, we have the power to traverse amazing distances in order to learn and grow and create real, lasting change.

Of course participating online alone isn't enough - I firmly believe in the power and synergy created when online and offline communities work together. But the technology that drives the online communities is driven by non-renewable resources, and made with materials that when created contribute to global warming and environmental destruction. This struggle with personal and environmental non-renewable energy makes for a love-hate relationship with technology, doesn't it?

How do we make the technology in our lives more incorporated into our values of simplicity and sustainability?

Is there a way?

How do you find the time to participate in your online and offline communities?

I've asked more questions than I've answered here - but this is something I am struggling with today, so I would love to hear your thoughts!