Digital life : let us make it sustainable; minimise carbon footprints

`Digital life’ demands a digital mindset. That does not mean you have to shed all your traditional thoughts and tools. This reasoning has resulted in many `thoughtful’ IT tools.

I am one among those fortunate journalist, who entered the world of internet, even when my contemporaries were blinking as to what it was. I have seen journalists who confused Hard disk space with cupboard space ; they even tried inserting floppy disk in a CD drive! Those were the golden days of emerging IT era.

Now, we are drinking, eating and driving Digital Life. Google has rolled out driverless cars, while Tesla is ready with state-of-the-art energy friendly cars. Pranav Mistry’s virtual tools are making waves. Graphene based touch screens may graciously hide in your walls.

But to understand what really is a Digital life, read on.

I have found one Dave Hakkens, who is fascinating me since the day I wrote him. I read a news item about his Phoneblocks, which can alter the way the mobile handsets are made. He has now produced world’s first modular smartwatch. But that is not all. He is a real digital era inventor. He recycles plastic, produces eatable pencil and what not. When he is given a bonus of free air travel, he chose a place which is termed as world’s dirtiest place. He has launched Story – Hopper series of videos, which are short, witty, thought provoking message driven documentaries made by himself. (Read my earlier article on him here, for which he permitted me to steal his images). His worldview is simple, but make profound impact. His small video on how we can save tons of plastic by just reducing the length of a toothbrush is an instance.

So, digital life is not just playing with smartphones or monitoring FaceBook comments. It is not just limited to the creation of smart facilities in cities and villages, or not limited to offering free internet. It involves a paradigm shift in our thoughts and actions, and the way we live. It also includes climate change, ecological cost of urbanisation, deforestastion, m-sands, waste management and so on. Digital life demands you to behave as a new age responsible citizen. Attending international seminar with Tablets and other gadgets, but repeatedly using paper cups and disposable bottles throughout the workshop are contradictory. Changing the handsets frequently adds to the filthy lakes of China. The disaster is same when you decide to change an IPad by Apple. Read a report here.

As narrated earlier, I was thrilled to be a digital journalist, but later I too realised many pitfalls of being so. By that time, I had stacked dozens of useless gadgets. That does not mean I have stopped using gadgets. My awakening has just begun! I am trying to follow a Green Life to the extent possible. I pity those science journalists have turned out to be mere gadget critics, appeasing smartphone manufacturers.

Thus Digital life also means a daily life with reduced / minimal a carbon footprint. Let us not forget that online media has given us an opportunity to discuss about conserving the natural resources, as we cannot eat computers! In fact, I doubt whether gadgets will yield any significant amount of fossil fuel, at least after few thousands of years.

But then, can we have a checklist of how to lead a `sustainable’ digital life? I am attempting one here:

Minimise taking print outs for proofing. You can have proof reading in MS Word with TRACK CHANGES on (for Libre Office – the open source word processing, click here , of you can do the corrections on a PDF file with ballons and highlights. If somebody has sent you a corrected version and you need to know the differences, then use docdiff, a open source tool which compares the two and highlights the changes / differences.

Use emails effectively, even for official clearances and agreements. Email is a legal document in the Indian Courts. If you are more particular, have your own digital signature and use it for more important documents. Take only one original print for documentation purposes. Remember, every A4 paper sheet costs us 24 litres of water!

Stop using sticky notes. Instead use similar notes on smartphones. Google Keep is a better tool for such scribbles. Use one Diary per year. Don’t accept note pads provided at meetings, which actually make your life miserable, as these books may be lost. Typing huge documents in Indian Languages in smartphones may be a thrill, but it is still a health hazard.; this rule can be applied to English too.

Don’t change mobiles (for that matter laptops, tablets and other gadgets) every now and then. Mobiles are primarily for oral communication and then for text messaging. All other services could be availaed on desktop PCs. Using mobiles on road, travel, leisure is actually diverting us from life outside. Each such gadget has already guzzled up a huge natural resource. Capitalistic marketing promotes `use – throw – purchase’ policy. Don’t fall in this trap.

Use Google Drive and its components (G form, Docs, spreadsheets OCR etc.,) to document your important documents (not passwords!). It is better to have faith in Google, than doubting all such MNCs, when it come to the issue of privacy. If you are really serious about privacy, then throw your mobile like Free Software Saint Richard Stallman!

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